What would I do without the Pope to liven things up? | WHIDBEY RECIPES

Heaven scent.

There’s something new in the air, something that smells of new-mown grass, with overtones of tree blossoms, and just a hint of holiness.

What is it? Why, it’s the hot new fragrance created for, are you ready for this, Pope Benedict XVI. That’s right; the popular leader of the Catholic Church commissioned a well known perfume maker to create a new fragrance, specifically and only for him. It will never be marketed, and will be available to, and worn only by, Pope Benedict XVI.

It’s not that unusual; many famous people have their own “custom fragrance” and many thousands of men and women pay a great deal of money per ounce to wear one of their prestigious scents. If what

I read is correct, however, no matter how much you might be willing to pay, no one else in the world will be allowed to wear the Pope’s custom-made fragrance.

I have to admit that I was more than a bit taken aback (actually, I was shocked) to read in a brief article in Time magazine, that Silvana Casoli — noted perfumer — has been asked to create a “personal cologne filled with tree-blossom and grass notes,” a scent to remind Benedict of his native Germany. Sorry, but I immediately found myself wondering what the Pope smells like now, as he passes among his devotees. And why does he feel he suddenly needs a “personal” scent, one that no one else may have?

What a daunting task, to create an aroma consistent with holiness, piety, godliness, a scent that everyone near the Pope will come to associate with his presence. I’m confident, of course, that Pope Benedict is aware that millions of people in this world, presumably many of them Catholic, are allergic to perfumes, holy or otherwise, and that many places where large numbers of people gather (such as cathedrals?) ban the wearing of perfumes because of the distress they cause to those with allergies. But, perhaps cologne worn by the Pope is automatically expurgated of any possible offending elements.

How, I wonder, do you come up with a name for the Pope’s unique scent? Eau de Pope certainly doesn’t do it, nor does Attar of Saintliness, nor L’Air du Benedict. Perhaps, after all, it will simply be “Heavenly Scent.” Not that it matters, because even if we wanted to, we couldn’t go into any shop anywhere in the world and ask to buy a bottle of the Pope’s cologne, whatever it’s called.

I hope the “noted perfumer” is donating her services, which are not inexpensive, to the Pope. Were I Catholic, it would really rankle to learn that the tithes faithfully sent to the Vatican from around the world are being used to pay for a cologne with which the Pope can splash himself to remind him of his native Germany, but which no other member of his worldwide flock will be permitted to enjoy.



Besides wearing a cologne unique unto himself, there are other interesting tidbits I learned about Benedict as I delved a bit further into his background. Not that you may care, but his favorite color is magenta, favorite music for listening is Mozart and Bach, and he plays the piano. Of more interest, personally, is the fact that even though his homeland is Germany, his favorite of all food is Italian, in particular, potato ravioli. And that, dear readers, is something in which we can all share. Try these, next time you, like the Pope, feel like eating Italian.

Note: Making your own ravioli pasta at home is not that difficult, but if you’d rather cut the prep time down, use purchased wonton wrappers, as in these recipes.


2 large (1 lb.) red-skinned sweet potatoes (a.k.a. yams in most supermarkets)

2 T. (packed) golden brown sugar

2 T. butter, room temp.

1 pkg. (12 oz.) wonton wrappers

1 large egg, beaten to blend

For sauce: 1 cup vegetable oil

4 large shallots, cut crosswise into thin rounds and separated into rings

6 T. butter

8 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced

½ t. dried crushed red pepper

1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees; lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. Cut sweet potatoes in half lengthwise and place cut side down on the baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 30 minutes. Cool. Scoop potato out of skins into a small bowl. Spoon 1 1/3 cups of the potato pulp into another medium bowl, reserving remaining pulp for another use. Add sugar and butter to the potato in medium bowl and mash well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place wonton wrappers on a work surface and use a pastry brush to brush wrappers with beaten egg. Place a half tablespoon of the filling in the center of each wrapper.

Fold each wrapper diagonally over the filling, making a triangle. Seal edges either with your fingers or gently with a fork or pastry wheel with scalloped edge. Transfer the ravioli to the parchment lined sheet and let stand at room temperature while making the shallot sauce.

To make fried shallot sauce: Heat veg. oil in a heavy small saucepan over med.-high heat. Working in batches, fry shallots until crisp and dark brown, about

two minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer shallots to paper towels to drain. Cook the butter in a large pot over medium heat until beginning to brown, 2-3 minutes; remove from heat and add sage and red pepper.

Working in batches, cook ravioli in a pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Don’t overcook or they’ll turn to mush. Drain well; add ravioli to the pot of butter sauce and toss gently to coat. Transfer to plates, drizzling any sauce from the pot over the ravioli. Top with fried shallots and pine nuts; serve immediately. Serves 4.


Another version, even quicker, equally delicious:


16-18 oz. sweet potato, red or yellow, peeled and chopped

2 t. lemon juice

7 oz. butter

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 T. chopped chives

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 packet (9 oz.) wonton wrappers

2 T. sage, torn

2 T. chopped walnuts

In a large saucepan of boiling water, cook the sweet potato and lemon juice until tender, about 15 min. Drain and pat dry with paper towels; allow to cool for 5 min.

Blend the sweet potato and 1 ounce of the butter in a food processor until smooth. Add the Parmesan cheese, chives and half of the beaten egg. Season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside.

Place half of the wonton wrappers on a work surface and brush a little of the egg mixture around the edges. Put 2 teaspoons of the potato mixture in the center of the wrappers then cover with the remaining wrappers. Press the edges firmly together. Using a ravioli cutter (2 -inch round, preferably with scalloped edge), cut the ravioli into circles. (If you’re pressed for time or don’t care about shape, don’t cut them.)

Melt the remaining butter in a small pan over low heat and cook until just a golden brown. Turn off heat. Cook the ravioli in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente (still a bit firm); remove with a slotted spoon and drain well. Serve immediately, drizzled with the butter and sprinkled with sage and walnuts. Serves 4.


I have no idea whether the perfumed Pope prefers white or sweet potato ravioli (I much prefer the above two sweet potato type), but in the event some of you might not like sweet potatoes, you can make the above ravioli with white potatoes. Here is the filling recipe; follow the instructions in the recipe above for making and cooking the ravioli, and for the sauce, use your favorite tomato or marinara sauce.


½ lb. boiling potatoes (don’t use new potatoes)

6-7 sprigs Italian parsley (leaves only)

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 egg, lightly beaten

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste


In a medium saucepan, place water just to cover, salt, and unpeeled potatoes; cook over medium heat 30 to 40 minutes, depending on size, or until potatoes are soft. Remove potatoes, peel them, and put them through a ricer into a bowl.

Finely chop the parsley and garlic together, then add to the potatoes and mix well with a wooden spoon. When the potatoes are cool, add the egg, cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste. Mix well and refrigerate, covered, until ready to make the raviolis. Makes enough filling for four servings of ravioli, following the recipe given previously.

Margaret Walton can be reached by email at


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