Pumpkin ravioli recipe wins million dollar prize in Pillsbury Bake-Off
March 27th, 2012
01:45 PM ET
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Think your signature recipe is worth a million bucks? Christina Verrelli of Devon, Pennsylvania, learned today that her Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream isn't just a crowd-pleaser; it's a cash cow.

Verrelli bested 94 women and five men ranging in age from 25 to 77, both new and veteran Pillsbury Bake-Off finalists to earn a prize of $1 million in the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. Her victory was announced today on a live broadcast of "The Martha Stewart Show," at the Peabody Orlando Hotel in Florida.

The annual contest received tens of thousands of entries in the categories of Breakfast and Brunches, Entertaining Appetizers, Dinner Made Easy as well as Sweet Treats, which Verrelli entered. She claims her recipe was inspired by a local favorite of hers, sweet donuts with three dipping sauces.

In a press release, Jeff Houck, food editor at the Tampa Tribune said, “This recipe really pushed the boundaries on the definition of a ravioli.” He also praised the recipe's seasonal versatility.

Martha Stewart concurred, saying, “Christina’s recipe is an innovative and sweet take on a traditional, savory favorite: it's not like any ravioli I've ever tasted."

“I can see how this winning recipe dazzled the judges, and I think it will inspire other home cooks around the country to make it for their family and friends,” Stewart continued.

In addition to Verrelli's grand prize, the three additional category winners - Terri Sherman of Palos Heights, Illinois, Maria Vasseur of Valencia, California, and Donna Wolfe of Hamilton, New Jersey - were awarded $5,000 and $3,000 worth of GE kitchen appliances.

Contestants, who must be amateurs, have been tossing their toques into the ring since the Bake-Off's inception in 1949. That year, Theodora Smafield of Rockford, Illinois, took home $50,000 for her No-Knead Water-Rising Twists recipe - a sum doubled from the advertised $25,000 pot by a promotional token that she'd run across two months before.

Though her initial win stirred a national obsession with the contest, it still took 44 years for a man - Kurt Wait - to rise to the top with a Macadamia Fudge Torte in 1996.

The finished dishes are judged on taste, appearance, creativity and consumer appeal. They must also use at least two qualifying ingredients from a product list, follow contest rules and fit into one of the assigned four categories.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream

Christina Verrelli
Devon, Pennsylvania

Prep Time: 1 Hr 10 Min
Total Time: 1 Hr 10 Min
Makes: 12 (2 ravioli each) servings

4 Tablespoons LAND O LAKES® Butter, melted
2 packages (3 oz each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 LAND O LAKES® Egg Yolk
1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup sugar
5 Tablespoons Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/3 cup Fisher® Chef’s Naturals® Chopped Pecans, finely chopped
2 cans Pillsbury® Crescent Recipe Creations® refrigerated seamless dough sheet
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons Hershey’s® caramel syrup
4 Tablespoons McCormick® Cinnamon Sugar

Heat oven to 375°F. Brush 2 large cookie sheets with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter. In large bowl, beat cream cheese and pumpkin with electric mixer on medium speed about 1 minute or until smooth. Add egg yolk, vanilla, sugar, 3 tablespoons of the flour and pumpkin pie spice; beat on low speed until blended. Reserve 4 teaspoons of the pecans; set aside. Stir remaining pecans into pumpkin mixture.

Lightly sprinkle work surface with 1 tablespoon of the flour. Unroll 1 can of dough on floured surface with 1 short side facing you. Press dough into 14×12-inch rectangle. With paring knife, lightly score the dough in half horizontally. Lightly score bottom half of dough into 12 squares (3×2 1/4-inch each). Spoon heaping tablespoon of the pumpkin filling onto center of each square.

Gently lift and position unscored half of dough over filling. Starting at the top folded edge, press handle of wooden spoon firmly between mounds and along edges of pumpkin filling to seal. Using toothpick, poke small hole in top of each ravioli. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut between each ravioli; place 1 inch apart on cookie sheets. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon flour, dough sheet and filling. Brush ravioli with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter.

Bake 9 to 14 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, in medium bowl, beat whipping cream and salt with electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Beat in 2 tablespoons of the caramel syrup until stiff peaks form. Transfer to serving bowl; cover and refrigerate.

Remove ravioli from oven. Sprinkle ravioli with 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar; turn. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar.

To serve, place 2 ravioli on each of 12 dessert plates. Drizzle each serving with scant teaspoon of the caramel syrup; sprinkle with reserved chopped pecans. With spoon, swirl remaining 1 tablespoon caramel syrup into bowl of whipped cream. Serve warm ravioli with whipped cream.

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Filed under: Baked Goods • Contests • Events • Make • Recipes

soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. TJ {Sugar Blossoms}

    Hi there! I wanted to let you know I featured you on Sugar Blossoms today. Stop by and check it out! http://sweetsugarblossoms.blogspot.com/2013/09/i-freakin-love-pumpkin.html

    September 2, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  2. bob

    Sounds more like an advertisement than a recipe...

    April 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  3. encinomomcom

    What a photo !! How can I go to sleep after seeing that? Maybe I'll do a batch of baked apples in the meantime . . .

    April 3, 2012 at 12:48 am |
  4. Joannie

    Tina was always in the home kitchen as a young girl–learning from her Mom & I was fortunate to live nearby getting together with my daughter to bake a batch– All the Best, Tina!!!!

    March 29, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  5. TDomer

    That doesn't even sound good ...

    March 28, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  6. JAh

    great advertising in the recipe

    March 28, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  7. Kandi

    My panties are wet! I want some. Imagine eating it blindfolded with your boyfriends brother.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Steve C.

      Wow! Try my chocolate chip cookies infused with THC...

      March 28, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
      • Jamal Kurt

        Shut it Steve. Kandi is mine. Girl, I'll definitely eat it with ya boyfriend's brother!!!

        March 28, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  8. Kim

    I have already made this and it was wonderful. I actually used the Silpoura to drizzle the caramel sauce and it not only looked fabulous it tasted great!

    March 28, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  9. Librarian

    I know the winner's mom! She is a volunteer where I work. She was so excited to tell everyone. So happy for her!

    March 28, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  10. Marie

    An interesting twist to the cappellacci (which I think originated from Ferrara, Italy – or so I was told when I stayed there). However, I prefer the more traditional approach – w/ butter and sage. Yet, this could be an interesting alternative for a desert. ... Congrats on the win!

    March 28, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Raviolli For Dessert

      Uhhhh.....this IS a dessert.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  11. jazzinwine

    Oh dear Heaven that looks delicious!

    March 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  12. Cinnamonnier

    Mmmmm, cinnamon. Second only to dark chocolate in my book! That looks awesome!

    March 28, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  13. Fiona

    Curious why these are called ravioli when they have nothing to do with those pasta pillows. These are more of a square turnover. And BTW, I think they look and sound disgusting.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Love Pumpkin

      So do you Fiona, so do you.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • annmartina

      More a Pop-Tart than a ravioli

      March 28, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  14. Cordeau Bleu Chef

    I used the recommended measure of Knockoff® [sarcasm] ingredients with outstanding results.

    Gettin' any kickbacks for free advertising? They'll never tell.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Fiona

      what's so hard to understand, CBC? It's Pillsbury's contest and part of the game is to incorporate as many of their products as possible in one recipe. Do you really need more explanation?

      March 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
      • Love Pumpkin

        Apparently you do. This has already been explained below that all of those prodcuts are NOT owned by the company that owns Pillsbury. There is this thing where food manufacturers work together to promote products, at a price.

        March 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  15. Springsgranny

    Gonna try this one. I'm not crazy about pumpkin, but the way it's incorporated, I think I'll like it. Good Job!

    March 28, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  16. catherine


    March 28, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  17. Wastrel

    These are not really "ravioli" as anyone can see. They are empanadas or mini-turnovers - baked, not simmered and served in a sauce as ravioli are. I suppose that is irrelevant, though, since the entire exercise is about product placement.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Kristin

      Yes, completely irrelevant. And I am sure the winner would agree seeing she is $1M richer than you and I. Either way, the recipe was shared for those of us that are interested in trying it out.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  18. twang

    That sounds really good.I hope she's a regular person. Like someones mom

    March 27, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  19. wowsemesesorua

    I wonder how much money it costs to get your name brand listed as the required ingredient. god forbid someone not use land o' lakes butter and Fischer's pecans–the meal would be ruined!!!!!!!!!!!!!! bwahaha.

    March 27, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Rick

      Gee, seeing as how this is the PILLSBURY bakeoff, you think maybe these branded ingredients just MIGHT be owned by Pillsbury's parent company? You're kind of in slow reading group, aren't you?

      March 28, 2012 at 2:28 am |
      • KMZ

        Nope, General MIlls does not own those brands. They are the sponsors of the Bake Off. Its on the Bake Off website, they paid top dollar for brand placement.

        Who's slow in the reading group now?


        March 28, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • AleeD®

      wowsem, it's one of the contest rules for entering. Check out the rules on the link below:
      Scroll down to
      "HOW DO I ENTER? Participants entered original recipes that used two or more different eligible products."
      Eligible products are listed below that rule.

      Interesting that one of the rules is, "No recipe may contain duck as an ingredient."

      March 28, 2012 at 8:01 am |
      • Wastrel

        Can "DUCK!" be an instruction to the cook, instead?

        March 28, 2012 at 10:06 am |
      • KMZ

        HA, that is an odd rule. Poor duck, getting the shaft. I wonder what the theory behind that rule was....

        March 28, 2012 at 10:56 am |
      • Fiona

        Awesome find, AleeD. Now someone should do a follow-up story on why duck is prohibited. Personal aversion of one of the original judges, or a sentimental protection for the duckies?

        March 28, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
        • AleeD@Fi

          Thanks. I've been watching this contest on the Food Network for years. It's great to see folks create new dishes from the Pillsbury products I grew up with.

          March 28, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
      • JHZimm

        Well, I know that duck eggs work best for baking as they are much better leaveners than regular store eggs. Always get a loftier, lighter rise out of cakes and things. Maybe that's why...

        March 28, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
      • TwoCat

        I think it has something to do with the Awards announcement being at the Peabody Hotel. They have ducks that live in the lobby or something and do a "Duck Walk" thing everyday.

        March 28, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  20. ecprep

    Tina Verelli of Devon...WOW...good for you and congratulations.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  21. Ronda

    Will try this receipt because it looks simple and bet it taste great. Congratulations!!

    March 27, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  22. jj

    Thank you CNN for finally gathering all the opinion pieces under the heading "Blogs."

    March 27, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  23. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    They keep shooting down my special brownie recipe.

    March 27, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • larlarme

      don't you ever shut up?

      March 27, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
      • Thread Defender

        What? Why!? He's funny and has rights just like you.

        March 28, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      No. I likes it like dat.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
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