Green Olive, Almond, and Orange Pesto for Cheese Ravioli

February 19, 2012

Cook’s Illustrated’s January article about pesto excited me into trying some non-basil pesto. Of the four variations (the main recipe was red roasted peppers with pistachio), I made the Green Olive, Almond, and Orange Pesto for Cheese Ravioli because I though my kids would prefer the almonds and oranges. Unfortunately, I could barely taste anything other than strong sharpness of the parsley and olives. The subtleties of the orange and almonds were lost in a sea of bitter saltiness; a complete disappointment. The kids ate just one ravioli each, and, despite my earlier excitement, I can only give these ravioli 2-1/2 stars. They were edible is the best thing that I can say about them. A standard basil-based pesto, highlighting the basil’s natural sweetness, would have greatly outshone this bitter dud.

The parsley and olives made the ravioli too bitter


  1. While my opening paragraph may seem too harsh for a 2-1/2 star recipe, I re-read it and cannot soften my disappointment. The 1-1/2 cups of parsley dominated the sauce, but it wasn’t until half way into making the recipe that I realized what a huge amount of parsley was being used. Of course, I have nothing against parsley per se; I love a good tabbouleh salad. But in the case of tabbouleh, the acid of the lemons and sweetness of the mint work well against the bitterness of the parsley. But today’s recipe seems ill-conceived. Really, the only other flavor you thought to add to bitter parsley was saltiness from olives?
  2. Sorry Chris, I normally love your recipes. I never would have guessed that my harshest review in 2 years would be for cheese ravioli. I think 2 of the 2-1/2 stars are because cheese ravioli are inherently delectable.
  3. I couldn’t find the Rosetto Cheese Ravioli that Chris Kimball recommends, so I ended up using his second choice Celentano Cheese Ravioli. Fortunately, Celentano products were on sale for 50% off this week, so the 1-1/2 pound bag only cost $3.75. My regular grocery store only sells the bottom of the barrel; Gina Italian Village and Mama Rosie’s Ravioli ; which were panned quite harshly in the CI taste test.
  4. Slivered almonds are generally blanched, but I was able to find some that were not. The recipe as published didn’t really make clear if I should use blanched or un-blanched, pre-toasted or if I was supposed to toast them myself. I bought un-blanched, but did not toast them myself. I think that they would have had more flavor has I toasted them.
  5. Chris Kimball says that my 1-1/2 ounces of grated Parmesan cheese would yield 3/4-cup. In fact, using his recommended microplane I got twice that; 1-1/2 cups.

Rating: 2-1/2 stars.
Cost: $9.75.
How much work? Very Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Started: 5:30pm. Ready: 6:00pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  In case I have not scared everybody off with such a harsh review, the descriptions of how I prepared them today are given below:

2 garlic cloves, do not peel.
1-1/2 pounds cheese ravioli
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup pitted green olives
1-1/2cups fresh parsley
1-1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Add 4 quarts of cold water to a large pot. Bring to boil over high heat; about 15 minutes. Boil un-peeled garlic cloves for 1 minute. Remove using a slotted spoon and rinse under a cold tap to stop the cooking. Peel and roughly mince the garlic.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to boiling water. Add ravioli and cook for 5 to 7 minutes al dente according to the instructions on your ravioli package, stirring frequently. Set aside 1/2 cup the cooking water, then drain ravioli in a colander and return the pasta to the pot (off the burner).
  3. While the pasta cooks, add garlic, olives, parsley, Parmesan cheese, slivered almonds, orange zest, and orange juice to a food processor. Pulse 25 times until finely ground, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula after every 10 pulses. Then slowly add the olive oil with the food processor running, and process until it becomes incorporated. Season with salt (I didn’t feel any was needed because of the olives) and pepper according to your taste.
  4. Combine 1 cup pesto and the cooked ravioli. Carefully toss toss to combine, and adjust the sauce’s consistency as desired by adding 1 tablespoon of the reserved cooking water at a time. Serve, passing the remaining 1/2 cup of pesto separately.

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