Thursday, January 23, 2014

The World's Oldest Noodle and Cauliflower Ravioli with the Best Lime Butter Ever

A few weeks ago I saw a television piece on the oldest noodles in the world. They are so valuable they’re kept in a safe because their discovery turned noodle history on its ear. Before the discovery, the noodle history clock started ticking when noodles were mentioned in a Chinese book written between AD25 to 220. Now we have physical evidence that there were noodles 4000 years ago.

The noodles were miraculously found in northwestern China under yards of dirt in an over-turned bowl.  When they were tested, it was revealed they were made from millet, not wheat.  Two varieties of millet, foxtail and broomcorn were grown in the area at the time –– evidently you needed the properties of both varieties to make a dough pliable and strong enough for pulling noodles (you can read about the find HERE).

The discovery settles the argument about who invented noodles first –– at least for now. The Italians can’t claim that title.

14th century Pasta making, Vienna

Italians can claim some fairly venerable pasta but Romans weren’t the only pasta lovers back in the day. Aside from a lasagna noodle-related boiled dough enjoyed in the Roman Empire and the well-documented ancient noodledom of China, Persia and other middle eastern countries as well as Africa and India had pasta in one form or another during the early part of the first millennium –– seen in the form of noodles or dumplings.

In the Middle Ages,  pasta cropped up in old French cookbooks, Sicily had pasta before Marco Polo came back from China and even England had pasta –– it appears in Richard II’s Forme of Cury (that I wrote about HERE) in a lovely recipe for ravioles full of cheese and butter. That fact was something of a surprise to me. I always thought noodles and even stuffed dumplings were universal but that ravioli was an Italian thing. It seems they were so good other cultures adopted them (probably passed through the Catholic Church).

I read that the earliest mention of ravioli comes from a merchant of Prato in Tuscany in the 14th century. A 14th century Venetian manuscript had a recipe for ravioli full of herbs and cheese simmered in broth. Master chef, Bartolomeo Scappi (I wrote about him HERE) served them with chicken in 1549 for the Papal Enclave. Some medieval ravioli were made with herbs, cheese and flour that were then boiled but not encased in pasta dough –– more like the northern European dumpling today (a lovely writer named Jen Lin-Liu has written a book, On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta if you want to find out more about noodle history).

The Creative Cooking Crew announced dumplings as the challenge this month and then Huffington Post put up a great list of 20 dumplings around the world. Suddenly I had a lot of choices from all over the world vying for my attention but decided on a ravioli flavored with a new favorite flavor combination. I was inspired when I found some lime compound butter in the freezer and put it on steamed cauliflower with a bit of cream –– wow. I thought putting a creamy cauliflower filling in pasta with lime butter sauce would be divine. It was, but you may want to make more of the butter –– it’s irresistible.   You can make it from scratch, with gyoza wrappers or even spread between lasagna noodles and warmed in the oven if you don't want to fuss.

Do visit Marie Telling's heroic piece in BUZZFEED about 44 Classic French Dishes to Try Before You Die HERE.There are 3 dishes from Lostpastremembered in the series, so I am pleased as punch!

Cauliflower Ravioli with Lime Cream

1 recipe Cauliflower filling
1 recipe pasta or a package of gyoza wrappers or 6 cooked lasagna noodles
1 recipe lime Cream
sautéed cauliflower slices and herbs for garnish

Lay out the pasta or gyoza wrappers.

If using homemade pasta, put a small amount of filling in piles along the pasta length (I like to make them in 2 sizes because I like the way it looks on the plate). Brush water on all the exposed pasta and lay another sheet of pasta over the top. Press along the exterior of the mounds of filling to seal then cut out the ravioli and place on a floured piece of film. Cover loosely and let rest.

OR, put the filling in the center of the gyoza and brush exposed pasta with water. Put another gyoza wrapper on top and seal. Cover loosely and let rest in the fridge for a bit.

If you want a no fuss method,  use lasagna noodles, lay half of them in a buttered dish, spoon the filling over them and top with the other noodles.  Cover with foil and  warm in the oven (350º for 15 minutes should do it).  Then put the lime butter on them to serve with the cauliflower slices

Boil the pasta for a few minutes. Toss the cooked ravioli in the butter or pour over the ravioli and serve, garnish with browned cauliflower slices and parsley.

Cauliflower Filling

1 c steamed cauliflower, roughly chopped
½ shallot, minced
clove of garlic, minced
2 T butter
1 T cognac
2 – 3 T cream
2 T chopped parsley
2 t chopped fresh marjoram
1/8 – ¼ t nutmeg (to taste)
1/8 – ¼ t cayenne (to taste)

Sauté the shallot, garlic and cauliflower in 1 T of the butter till nicely browned. Reserve a few of the best pieces for serving and add 1 cup of water to the pan. Cook till the pieces are very tender, add the cognac. Put the rest in a processor. Blend. Add the cream 1 T at a time till it forms a very thick texture like loose, mashed potatoes. Add the salt and pepper and spices to taste


1 egg
1 egg yolk
½ c flour
¼ c semolina
1 t oil

Mix together and knead for a few minutes. Let rest 1-2 hours then make sheets of pasta.

Use immediately to make ravioli.

Lime Butter

4 T butter
Zest of 1 lime (be careful not to get the white part of the peel… it will make the butter bitter. I used a zester for curls and did the rest using a microplane.
1 T lime juice
4 T cream
Pinch of sugar (some limes are quite sour, do this to taste –– you just want to take the edge off the lime)
Good pinch of salt
Pinch of coriander

Put the butter in a pan and add the zest and juice.  Turn on the heat just barely to melt the butter, stirring as it melts.  This should emulsify the mixture. You can even remove it from the heat as you stir.  Add the cream 1 T at a time putting the mixture on and off the heat.  This will make a beautiful, glossy sauce. Add the sugar and salt and coriander.  This is best made just before you serve it.

See the Creative Cooking Crew Pinterest Board HERE
and HERE for the roundup
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Barbara said...

Honestly, I'd almost not believe the pasta claim, after seeing that photo, if you hadn't backed it up. It looks photoshopped, doesn't it?
Anyway...I was amazed at how many of those classic French dishes I've either made or eaten. On the other hand, can't wait to try the others. Fun that your recipes appeared there...kudos to you, Deana!
And dumplings? (Why weren't my mother's listed? :) ) One of my favorite things to eat...all kinds. I broke my neck on a gyoza post a while back...the folding it the trick. Another fun read.
Love the dish you chose for the post and such a tempting photo too. Lime butter sounds marvelous. Can think of many applications there.
Thinking of you, freezing up there...although we were in the 30's here last night. Finally had to break down and turn the heat on for a while.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

nothing is more satisfying than pasta or a noodle in my book -especially in this cold weather. These sound really yummy!

La Table De Nana said...

I love dumplings and raviolis..:)

Ravioles stuffed with butter and cheese they said way back when?

I agree..and now this..cauliflower..a veggie I so enjoy..must tell you your dish is a thing of beauty..
The coloring ..on every ing.

Laura@Silkroadgourmet said...

Wonderful work - Deana!

The dish looks absolutely delicious!


Evelyne CulturEatz said...

Very cool recipe for this challenge and wow that is old pasta! Love reading on food origins like this. Cauliflower is quite an unusual stuffing. Looks great. Got to check out Huffington Post and Marie Telling's piece now lol.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a beautiful dish! I'm really obsessed with cauliflower and every week I buy at least one to cook (I'd buy more but my fridge isn't that big). Such an interesting discovery about the first noodles found too! Millet flour too!

Sarah said...

Beautiful dish! Sounds delicious. Lime and cauliflower is new for me.

Jonny said...

I'm wondering what the delta is between when pasta was "first invented" in a particular country and when it was first written about. You'd have to imagine that the literacy quotient and a particular preparation making it from the tables of the masses to those of the wealthy would have a disproportionate effect. Plus, might not the existence of records, or paucity thereof, kept about cooking habits reveal a great deal about the proclivities of a nation towards gastronomy? For example, is it possible that the chinese or persians wrote about their food earlier than other nations simply because they loved food more, or because literacy had reached the requisite level earlier on? Or is it more the case that nations had to become wealthy enough before the recording of subjects as mundane as dietary habits became important enough to consume precious paper?

Giorgia said...

Hello, you're right, we Italians are not the only ones who ate pasta over the centuries. But everyone has their own recipe of pasta. I read your recipe Ravioli Pasta, Italian pasta is not, so this work can not be called pasta, you have to find another name that identifies it, because if you say pasta is understood that both our pasta italiama. How if you say Parmigiano Reggiano is cheese ours and only our.
If you want the recipe pasta i send you but you know it already.
I'm sorry i don't speak english i translate this with google

Diane said...

Just the thought of the lime butter makes my mouth water. Have a good Sunday Diane

pam said...

Fascinating as always!

Frank said...

I always learn something fascinating when I read your blog, Deana! I hadn't read about this discovery—but what really caught my eye was the English eating ravioli way back in the day. Never thought of Merry Old England as a pasta-consuming sort of place...

Joan Nova said...

That's a very creative combination and beautiful presentation. Well done for the challenge! said...

I always look forward to your posts and never leave without learning something new. You used my favorite veggie and I really want to try this recipe.

Lazaro Cooks said...

Lime butter win! Lovely recipe.

Marjie said...

Lime cream sounds like a great topping for just about anything! You can turn plain old pasta into so much with a few extra ingredients.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

What an interesting discovery! I'm not totally surprised that the oldest noodles were found in China. So weird that I actually just posted a Chinese dish with noodles :)

The recipe sounds absolutely wonderful and easy to make which is always a bonus!

Unknown said...

Cauliflower is basically my favorite vegetable and I love seeing it in a dumpling. Thanks for this!

Victoria said...

Cauliflower rocks and I've never thought to use it in such a way. How brilliant. These looks so mouthwatering :)

lindaraxa said...

I have some steamed cauliflower leftover from last night's gratin. Was wondering what do do with it until now. How timely! I think I will roast it a bit and serve with the lime butter. Sounds divine!

Totally Heavenly said...

You know, I bet that lime butter would be absolutely scrumptious on some corn on the cob.
Have a fabulous weekend ahead daaaahling!
*kisses* H

Jennifer Kendall said...

fascinating Deana! I am in love with that lime butter, it sounds wonderful with the cauliflower ravioli!

LaDivaCucina said...

First of all, congrats on being included three times in the post about the French dishes to try! Can't wait to check them out. And also for the link to Huffpo's dumpling article. This looks so pretty and delicious, I'd like to try the "easy" way with the lasagna noodles. But I'm having trouble imagining the flavor of the lime sauce and such a strong cruciferous vegetable, though the lime flavor doesn't seem that strong. Thanks for the history lesson as always, Deana!

Unknown said...

I love that your posts offer more then food fluff. Congrats on your three recipes. Lime butter sounds amazing. I think I'll try it with steamed mussels. Thanks for the idea. I'll be sure to link back if it works and I post the recipe.

Vagabonde said...

I learned a lot about pasta reading your post. I had no idea that noodles were that old. I also looked at the site on the 44 French dishes to try – there are only 4 that I have not tried. Your last picture with the cauliflower really looks appetizing.