Annabelle’s Kitchen


If you have been following the process of my kitchen remodel, you know we went through quite an ordeal with the stove.  After ordering it far in advance and waiting months, it mysteriously never materialized.  We ended up canceling the original order and buying a floor model from another vendor.  That said, it finally arrived on July 17th, my mother’s birthday.  We took it as a sign she was looking down at us and I needed to welcome you all to “Annabelle’s Kitchen.”  I have officially christened it in honor of my mother, Annabelle Clawson Raffetto.  This room was the heartbeat of our daily lives growing up and she reigned as the queen.  It was because of the generosity of my parents that I was able to take on this project so I thought it was only fitting that it bear her name.  She spread the love daily with her delicious meals and became the holiday host for our immediate and large extended family.  This involved a massive amount of cooking, eating, laughter and general good cheer.  Wine was always involved, salad was a staple, the presence of crusty bread a must and of course, pasta (sometimes it was polenta, but mostly pasta), always dressed in a delicious sauce.  Other dishes were presented as well as dessert but the nature of those depended on the season and whim of the cook.

IMG_4472I held a small dinner party in honor of the christening and served one of my mother’s best creations, lasagna.  The story behind my mother’s signature dish began with my paternal grandmother, Jenny Raffetto (Mamaw), who had amazing culinary skills and took my mother as a young bride under her wing at the stove.  A good student, the result was amazing as her abilities as an Italian cook could rival the likes of famed, Lidia Bastanianich.  The much-anticipated holiday and special occasion dish of my early years was Mamaw’s ravioli.  The filling was a recipe handed down through the generations.  The team effort of the ravioli making was taken on by my mom and grandmother with the assistance of me and my sisters.  We would make hundreds of these little pillows covering every available surface of our home while the aroma of tomato sauce wafted throughout.  My mouth still waters at the thought of these little pockets filled with meat, spinach and cheese and made with loving hands.

Loving hands of Mom & Mamaw

Loving hands of Mom & Mamaw

But as years went by and we all aged the tedious task of making them became too much for my grandmother and somewhat burdensome for Mom.  It was then that she conceived the idea of converting the recipe into a lasagna.  One big dish, feeding many, the same great flavor profile with less fuss.  That was the ticket!  It soon became her signature and the much appreciated dish of family gatherings and holidays.  It seemed only fitting that this would be the dish of our first official dinner party, cooked in the new kitchen and served to friends.


Here was the menu:

Antipasto of mixed olives and almonds

First course-Garlic Soup w/ garlic croutons (I will be sharing this recipe at a later date)

Second course-Frisee salad with sun gold tomatoes and radishIMG_7543

Third course-Annabelle’s lasagna

Fourth course-Salted caramel sundaes with chocolate lace cookies

The filling recipe goes down like this:

Ravioli Filling

Passed to us by Jenny Bonini Raffetto, our beloved Mamaw

10 oz.  spinach ( I use frozen for this)

1 lb. ground round or chuck (I added an additional 1/2 lb. Hot Italian sausage as well)

6 cloves fresh garlic, crushed (or to taste)

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1 15 oz. carton of ricotta cheese

1 c Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheese (½ c each)

2 t dried basil or 2-3 T fresh (if available)

1-2 eggs, lightly beaten

Wilt spinach in small amount of water.  Drain, cool and chop. If using frozen, thaw and squeeze out all excess liquid.

Brown meat (if necessary use a small amount of olive oil), season with salt and pepper. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes.

Mix hot meat with cream cheese and blend thoroughly.  Add ricotta,  1/2 of the Parmigiano and Romano cheeses, reserve remaining for topping.  Mix thoroughly with spinach and dried and/or fresh herbs (or a combination of both).

Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary.

Add egg and mix well. If too dry, add additional egg.  Mixture should be wet but not sloppy.  It should hold together enough to be spooned into ravioli dough.

Refrigerate to cool slightly for easier handling.  Can be made a day ahead.

Use as filling in your favorite ravioli dough or as a filling for lasagna when time is short.


Note:  For the lasagna, I preheated oven to 375 degrees.  Soaked the noodles in hottest tap water for 20 minutes to soften.  I used the regular noodles not precooked. Grate or slice a large ball of fresh mozzarella, set aside.  I buttered a large baking dish and began layers starting and ending with the sauce (I used about 1 1/2 quarts tomato sauce, homemade).  So, sauce, noodles, generous amount of filling, mozzarella, sprinkling of parm/romano mixture, noodles, sauce, more filling, mozzarella, more parm/romano, noodles, sauce and top with remaining cheeses.  Cover with foil, bake for 30-45 minutes, covered, uncover for remaining 15 minutes or until it is bubbly and browned on top.  Allow to sit 15- 20 minutes before serving.IMG_7564

Although the food says love, nothing says it more than the gathering of good friends, sharing family stories and a salute to our Mom’s and everyone that made us who we are today.    IMG_7555

So thank you Mom and Dad for my beautiful new space and for teaching us to spread the love, one dish at a time.  Hope you will spread the love in your house by sharing my family’s recipe.  From my home to yours,  Jeanne

Mamaw's Fiestaware takes its place in the new kitchen.

Mamaw’s Fiestaware takes its place in the new kitchen.



25 responses to “Annabelle’s Kitchen

  1. Your subscribers would be appreciative if you identified the folks in this photo – ditto the New Orleans photos. Also, I make a darn good lasagna, but intend to give yours a try. The addition of cream cheese and spinach sounds tasty.

  2. Hi Donna, I believe the cream cheese was introduced as a substitute for a creamy cheese available in Italy but not found here in the US. Cream cheese was the closest they could find. It does add a creaminess and I have kept it in my recipes as well. I will consult with my friends to see how they feel about their names appearing in my blog. Thank you for your comments. Keep them coming. Jeanne

    • Just spoke w/ my close friend/neighbor Jean Raffetto. FYI – Get a copy of New Yorker (July 21, ’14) magazine. Article re Raffetto’s restaurant (est. 1916) on Houston St. and their noodle machine. Jean says you need to come down for a visit. We’ll show you what real Tex-Mex is made of and our Gulf Coast sea food is to die for. Also, I have been in the semi-professional food business, and as a Certified Texas Master Gardener (’96) for 12 years I taught classes on how to grow herbs on the Gulf Coast and how to cook w/them. I also write a monthly gardening column for our city. C’mon down…………

  3. Thanks for the invitation, Donna. I will see what I can do about coming down your way. I have family in Dallas as well. I will try to find a copy of the New Yorker. Thanks for the information. Tell my aunt hello for me. Jeanne

  4. I loved seeing the picture of your mom, Annabelle, and grandmother, Jenny. Both were wonderful cooks. I understand that Mamaw did not know one thing about cooking when she and Papaw, Fred, got married. Paul and I, Paul Jr. and Michael, got to eat lots of the raviolis and lasagna when we visited in the summer. All are really wonderful memories. I’m so glad you are carrying on the tradition, Jeanne. I talked with your aunt Frannie this afternoon. She will be 91 the end of the month. She seems to be doing well and sounds great on the phone.

    I wish you and Michael could come visit us in Texas. We would all love to have you. Sorry you couldn’t make it to Riverquest this past month. We really had a good time. Paul, Michael and Michael David were all there with their girlfriends.

    • Thanks for the sweet comments, Jean. I am so happy to be carrying on the family traditions. I guess Michael told you I had some more health issues to deal with and couldn’t make it up this summer but things seem good for now. I hope we can visit you sometime soon. It would be wonderful to have time to catch up. I am glad to hear Aunt Fran is doing well. She is the last remaining of my Dad’s nuclear family. Would love to see her too. I miss my Mom and grandmother. They were huge influences in my life, I credit them for my love of cooking. Take care and again I appreciate hearing from you. Sending love, Jeanne

  5. This was a wonderful update on your kitchen, Jeanne and I always love your family stories. I am anxious to find a copy of New Yorker to read about the restaurant. I hope all is well.

    • Hi Terri and thank you for your remarks, I am anxious for you to come to dinner and see the new digs. I hope to find a copy of the New Yorker as well. Hope all is well with you and your family. Jeanne

  6. How lucky your friends were to be present at your “christening”! Your space looks wonderful and the menu fantastic. A lovely tribute to the many cooks in your family who have passed down their recipes and talents. What an unbeatable gift. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, Sally. I really hoped to capture the spirit of my family and the rich heritage they passed to all of us. It seemed a fitting tribute to celebrate the new digs. Hope you are well and back in the groove in London. Jeanne

  7. What a great way to start the day reading your wonderful blog on Aunt Annabelle and Mamaw! I loved reading the lasagna receipe and pleased that 99% of it was what Mom passed down to me. You know how things get crossed in translation! I do not use the Italian sausage, but will definitely add to the filling and I use more frozen spinach. I think I need to gather family and friends and make lasagna! Love Becky

  8. Hi Becky. So glad you enjoyed the post. I added the sausage it was not part of the original. Sometimes I use more spinach as well. Everything else is the way Mamaw made it. The hot Italian sausage adds a nice depth of flavor so I decided to keep it in my version. I miss those family gatherings and holidays. Both Mom and Mamaw were huge mentors to me. So happy we are carrying on the family traditions. Keep spreading the love. Jeanne

  9. Once again, a great tribute to your Mom and Mamaw, your role models. How appropriate to christen your kitchen with your Mom’s name. I’m sure you feel here energy guiding you as you create your marvelous wonders.
    By the way, I never realized that I have your Mom’s (Mamaw’s) recipe until I read your blog. I don’t remember the occasion of obtaining it. However…my recipe does not mention just soaking the pasta in hot tap water, interesting!
    So now, just as I have named the Italian cookie recipe, Mrs DelBaggio’s Itialian Cookies; I will rename the lasagne recipe to Mrs Raffetto’s Lasagne.
    No wonder it always turns out so well. Her spirit is with me!
    Sending love back to you.
    PS I don’t need to know your friends’ names. It is just a pleasure to see their smiles faces after enjoying one of your culinary delights!

  10. Sorry another PS:
    Margie looks like your Mom and you look like your Mamaw!

  11. Thanks, Kathy, as always, for your thoughtful comments. I admit I added a couple of touches to my family’s recipe. The original did not have hot Italian sausage but I think it adds a lot. Also, the soaking of the noodles in hot tap water was a tip I garnered from The Barefoot Contessa. Saves time and prevents overcooking. Noodles are soft and pliable but do not fall apart. This dish is always a hit. I am happy to hear you make it too!

    People have always said Margie resembles Moms side and I, my Dads, even when we were little. Sending my love to you. Jeanne

  12. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention my sausage change to you! A couple of years ago a group of us were visiting a friend’s beach house. She made lasagna one evening for dinner. To her ground meat she added sausage rolled into small balls. When cooked, they are like little sausage meat balls. Since then, I have added the sausage to Mrs Raffetto’s Lasagna!
    I will definitely try the pasta tip next time I make lasagna.

  13. Elizabeth Palmer

    Jeanne, curiosity got the best of me and I found a link to the pasta cutting machine sketch referenced in the comments above:

    Kind regards,


  14. Thanks for the link, Elizabeth. I am sure these Raffetto’s are distant relatives. My family owned a restaurant for three generations in Pennsylvania but the one in the article I believe is in New York. I know there is a specialty food shop called Raffettos so that may be the connection. My father talked about them but I have never met this clan. Thanks again. Jeanne

  15. Thank you, Elizabeth. Unfortunately I cannot respond in Italian but I appreciate your comments. I can read it better than speak or write it. Thank you so much as always, Jeanne

  16. Jeanne—I am so happy for you that you have the kitchen complete. How exciting!! I love how you honor your mother and grandmother in the cooking tradition. So wonderful. Hope to see you sometime soon.The summer has been very busy and lots of cooking with the bounty of the season.—Debi/Driftless Deopt

    • Hi Deb: Thanks for the comments and as always, great to hear from you. I was thinking your summers must be really busy. Hoping to see you after labor day. Will things be calmer by then? My grandmother and mother were huge culinary influences in my life. It felt good to pay them tribute. Hope to see you soon. Sending harvest love, Jeanne

  17. Jeanne, your aptly christened kitchen, family photos & memories, menu, heritage recipe, and cherished dishes made for one doozy of a “spread the love” post. (I feel hugged!) So happy for you to have a warm, inviting place to carry on these wonderful traditions.
    P.S. It was great fun reading your comment section, too!

  18. Hi Kim: Thanks so much for your comments. I agree about the comment section. As I am sure you have experienced, some posts just seem to touch people more than others. Glad you enjoyed this one. Try the recipe. You will love it! Sending more hugs and love your way. Jeanne

  19. Pingback: Chunky Chili with Dark Chocolate | Queen Jeanne's Cuisine

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