My heart is full of joy as I share the summer visit with my daughter and her two children. If you follow my blog you know I hold family close to my heart and value the times we spend together. My writing was put on the back burner for a couple of weeks to allow myself to direct my full attention to my visitors. One thing I looked forward to was fulfilling the request to make ravioli. This is an activity I shared with my mother and grandmother as a child and one we all looked forward to with great anticipation. I still smell the simmering tomato sauce on the stove and have a vision of the completed product laid out to dry on every available space in the house. This was a special occasion activity reserved for holidays and beloved visitors. When my grandmother tackled this project, she made literally hundreds of the little pillows which made it quite a daunting task. Now with our family smaller, we made about 5 dozen which was manageable and allowed for a couple of memorable meals. I too dressed them with my homemade tomato sauce as per my daughter’s request. There is something about the smell of that simmering sauce that really adds to the ambience.
The children, Marea, age 11 and Ezra, age 6, were both excited to get their hands in the dough and produce these little bundles of deliciousness but even more excited when they got to eat them. I was moved and honored to play the part of Nonna and pass on the tradition as it was given as a precious gift to me many years ago by my Nonna who is now long gone. These recipes and traditions are often lost over generations but I am determined to keep it alive.
I remember so vividly when my daughter gave me the pasta machine as a Christmas gift sixteen years ago. It was an exact replica of the one my grandmother used. We were expecting our families first grandchild and when I opened the gift I was overwhelmed by the passing of the torch and the realization that now I was the Nonna. I knew I had a responsibility to continue the traditions as they were formed many years before in Italy and later brought across the sea.
We varied some from the original by using a cheese/spinach filling instead of meat as my daughter is a vegetarian. Another variation was the use of a food processor to make the dough, something my grandmother didn’t have available to her but may have used as she was of modern thinking and never opposed to anything that might make kitchen tasks easier.
It went like this.
CHEESE RAVIOLI FILLING Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
Makes about 5 dozen
1- 15oz. carton ricotta cheese
1 c Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheese (½ c each)
2-3 T fresh basil (if available) or 2 t dried basil
1/2 lb. fresh spinach, wilted & chopped(make sure to squeeze out all of the liquid)
Combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
BASIC PASTA DOUGH Recipe by Pasquale Bruno, Jr.
3/4 c all- purpose flour, use the dip and sweep method for measuring
1 extra-large egg
These are the only two ingredients you need to make excellent pasta dough. It may be necessary on occasion to add a bit of warm water to form workable dough if the liquid content of the egg is low or the absorption balance of the flour is high.
To increase serving portions, increase the egg and flour in equal quantities—1 ½ c of flour, and two extra-large eggs, for example. The basic recipe will make about 7-8 ounces of pasta noodles.
The food processor is the most convenient tool for making pasta dough. The basic characteristics of the finished dough are slightly altered from the handmade type in that the dough is softer. This is an advantage since the dough is easier to work with during the rolling process.
- Use the steel blade when making the dough. Put the flour and the eggs into the work bowl. Start the machine and let it run fir about 30 seconds.
- If the eggs were not liquid enough, or if too much flour was used, the dough will not ball up and will look like corn meal.
- To get the dough to ball up, add a small amount of warm water through the feed tube while the machine is running. Use a light hand as you will need only a small amount of water.
- If you add too much water, the dough will ball up but will be too moist and parts of the dough will stick to the sides. In that case, add a bit more flour into the work bowl and turn on the machine.
- Let the machine run for 30-45 seconds. This will finish the actual kneading of the dough. Notice that the dough has formed a ball and the sides of the bowl are free of any excess dough.
Note: After you have made 2 or 3 batches of pasta dough in the processor, you will no doubt find it necessary to add additional water or flour to get your dough to ball up. When you retrieve the finished dough from the work bowl, it may feel a bit moist. Dust it with flour and knead it for a few seconds by hand. No further kneading is necessary before hand or machine rolling. One batch makes about 5 dozen.
The end product was delicious but more importantly we created memories and carried on the much prized tradition of homemade ravioli.
Whatever your heritage or traditions, make it a priority to pass it on to younger generations. Do not let those cherished memories die. Keep them alive for many years to come. I would love to hear about your prized family traditions and recipes.