When Pope Francis came to town, I confess, I craved bread. The call for dough grew so loud, I had to answer it.
To avoid papal crowds, I took a short Zipcar excursion to Arthur Avenue, in the Bronx. My friend Nick rode along and was my co-conspirator inside Madonia Bakery. We stood near the slicer and inhaled chunks of bread embedded with oily black olives. Filled with joy, we later perused markets for pecorino cheese and frozen ravioli. We couldn’t avoid Francis Fever, especially in such an Italian-Catholic neighborhood. By the end of the day, I just had to see this spiritual rockstar. So I turned in my car and got as close as I could: 77th and Central Park West. Standing on tiptoe, I viewed a geometric white figure—possibly the Popemobile—cross 72nd Street.
I was moved. The next day, I created a satiating feast for myself, a 41-year-old Protestant yogi who dabbles in Buddhism. I broke bread with my Jewish former roommate and Nick, who couldn't remember the Hail Mary. For us, I invented a delicious meal honoring love, regardless of religion. I offer you the same with Mushroom Pope-ioli and Holy Host Toast.
8 cheese raviolis
2 lbs of various mushrooms, including button, shitake, and maitake
1 shallot, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
White wine or sherry vinegar
½ cup pasta fluid, from the raviolis
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs chopped dill
Boil ravioli for 12 minutes in a pot of boiling salted water. Meanwhile, heat olive oil on a large pan. Saute shallots on medium heat for 3 minutes before adding garlic and a big handful of mushrooms, crumbled to look rustic. Stir occasionally for 4 minutes.
Chop remaining mushrooms in food processor. Add to pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Before draining pasta in strainer, pour ½ cup of pasta water into the pan for starch. Combine with white wine. Bring to a boil to reduce the fluid. Then simmer for 5-6 minutes while you set the table with Pope-elishments.
As guests arrive, stir in a tablespoon of butter.
Place three raviolis in a bowl. Top with mushroom sauce. Sprinkle with garnish. As a side, I included green beans and olive toast spread with pesto. (Can serve four.)