Pitiful Pumpkin Ravioli, or Mike’s Birthday Dinner Disaster

Every now and then I stumble on an ethereal recipe that melts on my tongue and makes me draw in deep, appreciative breaths between every bite. I post these recipes hastily and urge you all to run into your kitchens and get to mixing. I stamp little hearts next to their names on my Recipe Index. I bring them up in conversations with Mike long after the last morsel has been devoured. I even long to whip them up again — a significant sentiment, since I rarely make the same dish twice.

This is not one of those recipes.

Actually, this is one of those recipes where I, um, don’t post the recipe. Because I’m terrified someone will skip over all of these paragraphs where I reveal how awful it tasted and end up making it. I can only imagine the creative hate mail I’d receive after folks spent 3 or 4 hours in the kitchen prepping this disaster. It could get ugly.

Instead, I’ll just tell you the story. It all started at my desk at school, where I sat one day eating one of those low-calorie frozen meals. They’re typically flavorless concoctions of funky-textured “meat” and rubbery veggies, but at least they’re quick sustenance. This particular frozen meal was tasty, though: a slightly sweet pumpkin ravioli in a butter sage sauce with hunks of butternut squash and asparagus. I thought to myself (somewhat smugly), “I bet I could make this even better from scratch . . . .”

It turns out that I cannot make it better from scratch. It also turns out that I should not try risky, experimental recipes on Mike’s birthday. After hours of work (roasting the squash, making and kneading the pasta dough, rolling and filling the ravioli, cooking the asparagus, mixing the sauce and veggies and pasta, and photographing the whole thing), Mike and I took our first bites and made eye contact. In that one silent moment, our eyes said all there was to say. Mike’s eyes were panicking: “Oh crap, what can I say about this ravioli that isn’t insulting?!” and my eyes were remorseful: “Oh crap, I’ve ruined his birthday dinner, of all the dinners to ruin!”

What Mike actually said was, “It’s good,” while concentrating hard (a little too hard) on cutting the next bite. What I actually said was, “This stuff is disgusting. Maybe we should order pizza.” The sweet guy ended up eating every bite in his bowl (and, ahem, politely declining seconds) while I scarfed down the from-frozen garlic bread he had brought over. That’s right: the only edible part of the meal was the garlic bread I made MIKE buy on his way over for his own birthday dinner! Have I won the girlfriend of the year award yet?

In summary, do not make this pasta. The odd, bitter combination of pumpkin and parmesan in the filling was nauseating. The butter sage sauce was greasy and bland. The squash . . . well, okay, the squash was good. Go roast yourself a butternut squash and call it a day, y’all. I’m comforting myself with the fact that my homemade ravioli technique has improved (I rolled thinner, creating a better-textured pasta) and dessert was fantastic. Ah, dessert: a balm on dinner disaster wounds. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you all about it.

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30 responses to “Pitiful Pumpkin Ravioli, or Mike’s Birthday Dinner Disaster

  1. fabulous that you can still turn such a “disaster” into wonderful photos!

  2. Nikki

    It’s hard to believe something so disgusting could look that pretty!

  3. Disasters are never fun when they happen, but they make such good stories later!

  4. Sorry you had a disaster on Mike’s birthday. Glad I’m not the only one who has them though. I posted a disaster too last year in my endeavour to recreate thai volcano chicken & now everytime someone googles it, they end up on my blog (oh dear!)

    Photos look fab though LOL.

  5. aww he’s too sweet!

    not everything can be a winner, but it sure looked pretty!

  6. You couldn’t have known! The recipe sounds like it has such promise!

    Trust me. This is exactly the kind of thing that I would have attempted to make. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

  7. I hate when recipes don’t turn out right. At least Mike was sweet and ate it anyways. If you’re looking for a similar recipe, I made an amazing pumpkin pasta dish a couple years ago… it might be enough to redeem you! Or maybe you can take the ideas/ingredients from it and make a different pumpkin ravioli…


    Just ignore the bad pictures because I posted this before I knew much about blogging. 🙂

  8. Aww… That’s sad… But lok at it this way… atleast you tried…

    not a good day for an experiment to go all wrong though… but i’m sure you can make for for it with some of the lovely desserts you make…

    Cheer Up,
    The Variable, Crazy Over Desserts – Nachiketa
    Catch me on facebook @ Crazy Over Desserts

  9. What an awesome birthday meal… you are the best! It looks fantastic… really.. I would be SO excited if someone made this for me!

    You rock!


  10. Jamie

    I know the frozen dinner of which you speak! It’s pretty tasty! Hehe.

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  12. LOL well it looks great if that helps! I’m the same, sometimes I’ve said I haven’t enjoyed a restaurant and then people go there and they also don’t enjoy it and I want to say “But I said I didn’t!” but I think they might just skim it. Good call I say! 😉

  13. Sorry this meal didn’t turn out too tasty. Still gorgeous though!!

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  15. Gail Cooke

    You know what, I think that you’re bf realizes all the love that went into that meal…and what a sweetheart for sparing your feelings.

    Don’t beat yourself up…stuff happens 🙂

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  18. My mom’s corn pudding. I’ll say no more.


  19. Hanna

    Ha! I came here to check out a bad result in hopes that the ravioli I just made isn’t going to suck. I was hoping to compare your recipe to mine so that I could either be reassured or save time and just toss it all now. My filling is roasted tomato, roasted sweet red pepper, garlic, parmesan, black pepper, pumpkin, and puréed cottage cheese. I used spinach dumpling wrappers for the pasta. Cross your fingers for me!

    • Julie

      HA, here’s hoping, Hanna!! Let me know how it goes!

      • Hanna

        In the freezer now, but I’ll try to post back whenever we try them. Man, I really hope that they aren’t gross.

        • Julie

          LOL, I know the feeling! If it’s any reassurance, they cannot POSSIBLY taste as bad as MY pumpkin ravioli 😉

          • Hanna

            Okay, verdict is in: tried them plain, with a good grind of black pepper a bit of salt on top. Not too bad, but I can tell that the sweetness of roasted red pepper and roasted tomato is important. I think an addition of an aromatic or strong herb would be good, or an atypical sauce, like a pumpkinseed & basil purée. The creamy blandness of the cottage cheese added body and tempered the minced raw garlic… So, not perfect, but I suspect okay with a red sauce. I’ll make it better next time. So, there’s hope for a good pumpkin ravioli dish yet!

          • Hanna

            Silly me! A “three sisters” approach (sweet corn, black or pinto bean, and pumpkin) would also be smart here, perhaps with tomato chunks and cilantro.

            • Julie

              I love the way you think!

              How happy, btw, that your ravioli are, indeed, salvageable — not so for mine! It was CERTAINLY the lack of sweetness that did them in. They were just as bitter as can be (and here I was worried that the cinnamon in the sauce would be cloying).

              • Hanna

                Hmm, I tend to pass on the pumpkin pie spices and go more for red curry paste with pumpkin these days. However, try Saigon cinnamon. Flavor is less acidic/bitter than the cassia cinnamon. I luurve it.
                I feel your pain on culinary flops. I had a housemate that liked to cook too, but when we tried to cook together, it always ended in horrified laughter and a full trash can. I’ve cooked with many people without ever experiencing that level of nasty. He’s a fine cook on his own, but somehow, together, we were a disaster.

                I’m really enjoying this exchange!

                Btw, I saw a recipe for a savory pumpkin flan that might be something to try on a not-birthday. I’ve not tried it yet, so you can be the guinea pig. Interested?

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  21. Gotta love a blogger who will admit to disasters. Great post.

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