Cooking Our Favorite Restaurant Dishes at Home

Gothamist likes eating at the bar occasionally. OK, frequently.

Is it that we aren’t the type to plan reservations for weeks in advance? Or is it the spontaneous feeling of just walking into a packed restaurant and hoping for the best?

While we have a short list of favorite spots where we like to eat at the bar(what are yours?), ‘Cesca is one of the best options where excellent and comforting (if not expensive) Italian-style food can turn into a craving.

On a recent bar night at 'Cesca, Gothamist had a rich raviolini stuffed with shrimp and served with fresh corn and tomatoes in a buttery, parmigiano sauce. A few nights later, we needed to enjoy a version at home.

But making pasta can be a pain. Never fear – summer shortcuts are allowed. We’ve seen a few chefs make fresh pasta with fresh wonton skins that can be purchased at many grocery stores these days.

Simply prepare your filling and begin stuffing. Toss some fresh summer corn and tomatoes in butter and Parmigiano Reggiano and you’ll be someone’s hero for the night.

Gothamist Recipe


Wonton Tortelloni
lamb sausage, corn, basil, tomato parmigiano sauce

Tortelloni are one of the easiest pasta shapes to assemble. You can fill this pasta with anything that lends big flavors in just a few bites. Sausage, mushrooms, etc. Gothamist chose Merguez sausage, as it’s a bit spicy. The lamb, corn and cheese are a fantastic combo. Best of all, make as many as you can and they freeze perfectly for up to a month.

Ingredient Shopping List
Recipe serves four people. Make this recipe in full for only two and freeze the extra pasta.

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large clove garlic
1 lemon
1 ear corn
1 small wedge parmigiano reggiano
2 tblspoons butter
1 packet large or small wonton wrapper (can be found at Whole Foods)
1 bunch basil
1 medium sized tomato
About 1/2 lb merguez, lamb or pork sausage

Estimated cost of ingredients: $18-20 at Whole Foods

Make the Filling

Place your sausage on a cutting board and rough chop into small bite sized pieces.

Bring a pan to very high heat. Add a glug of olive oil to cover pan. Place the meat in the pan and let cook on one side for about 2-3 minutes. Shake the pan to flip the meat and cook only for another minute. Take out of the pan when just cooked (you don’t see any raw pieces) and reserve. After cooling, rough chop again to make the pieces a bit finer.

If you are eating this dish virtually right away, drain the fat from the dish and reserve pan for the sauce.


Stuff the Wonton Wrappers

Take out a stack of 15 or so pieces of the wontons and place on a cutting board. Place a small bowl with cold water and your lamb filling near by. If you have the large wontons, slice the wonton into quarters, creating 4 stacks that will be the size of your tortelloni.

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Lay out as many of the individual squares in a single layer as you can. Fill each with only a teaspoon or so of the lamb. Adding too much filling will make them hard to close without breaking. Dip your index finger into the water and run along the edges of a wonton square with filling in the middle. Fold each square in half, corner to corner, to form a triangle. Fold the other corners around to meet each other to form the finished tortelloni.

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Place it on a sheet tray and repeat until your filling is gone. Place the finished pasta you will eat right away in the fridge, allowing it set up a bit before cooking. Place the remainder in a zip lock bag and put in the freezer for a future quick meal.

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Make the Sauce

Take all of the corn kernels from the cob. Rough chop a whole tomato, leaving all the juices on the cutting board. Grate about ½ cup of parmigiano reggiano. Rough chop 1 clove of garlic. Rough chop basil leaves, you’ll need 1 heaping tablespoon.

Place a large pot of salted boiling water on high heat for pasta.

Take your pan that you made your lamb in (fat already drained) and place on medium heat. Add two tblspoons butter. After a few seconds, add the garlic. After a few seconds, add corn and then tomato quickly after. Season with salt and pepper. Let cook for about 2 minutes on medium heat until it just comes together. Reserve briefly while you make your pasta.

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Make the Pasta, Finish the Dish

If your water is boiling, turn it down to medium. You want the water very hot but not violently boiling, as this will break your tortelloni. Before you place your tortelloni in the pan, bring your sauce to low-medium heat. Add a couple tablespoons of water or stock to thin out if necessary. A touch of cream or wine is also fine. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. Add half of the cheese. Mix to incorporate.

Place your tortelloni in the water, but don’t put too many in at once. Best to do them in batches as they can be delicate. After only about :30, take them out (ideally fish them out with a spider or a slotted spoon) and place them right in your sauce. Season a bit with salt and pepper, then add the rest of the cheese to the pan as well as the basil. Carefully shake the pan, coating the tortelloni with the sauce and ingredients. Be gentle so not to break them. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve right away.