Friday, September 7, 2012

UNRAVELING THE MYSTERY OF A LOST REC IPE

UNRAVELING THE MYSTERY OF A GREAT GRANDMOTHERS LOST RECIPE

"Lost" Ravioli

When I read the title of this recipe I got excited. Words like unraveling and mystery and Lost, always appeal to me. I couldn’t wait to explore the recipe and the story behind it. I am so grateful to my chef friend, Stratton St. Clair, who sends me all sorts of difficult recipes. He knows there is no recipe too complicated for me to attempt to make. As a matter of fact, I consider tackling complex recipes a challenge.

One challenge in particular that I remember well, took place in the Vittorio Venuto area of Italy, which is north of Venice. The class in which I was taking featured making tortellini. My teacher was a sweet woman who happened to be about 2 heads shorter than I am and spoke no English. She had to stand on a chair and pantomime the instructions and I had to take pictures of each detail so I’d remember when I got home. That night, I made tortellini for her family of 16 members. What an adrenalin rush. None of them spoke English! If you would like to read about this life changing night, please go to my post of “The Night I Made Dinner for Sixteen Italians in Italy and I don’t speak Italian.”

I love good stories associated with food. I was pleased to find that not only is there a story involved with the recipe but there is actually an interview with food editor Julia Della Croce,who interpreted and adapted the original recipe. It describes the process of finding the recipe of the ravioli that a woman’s great grandmother used to make in Tuscany. I love the idea that the recipe came from Italy.

I wasn’t too surprised that the recipe is lengthy. The challenge was on.

Here is my version of "Lost Ravioli with Rice, Spinach and Sausage Filling. I only changed it slightly by creating a different sauce and changing the amount in a few of the ingredients. I can't even begin to tell you how good these ravioli are-they melt in your mouth!!!

Rice Being Cooked in Milk

Shredding Cheese Into Cooled Rice Mixture

Sauteed Onions and Garlic

Chopped Spinach

Spinach Being Wilted

Eggs and Flour Mixed Together


Kneaded Dough

Sausage and Cheese Mixture Blended Together

Dough Being Rolled

Filling In Place

Pressed Pasta

Filled Pasta-Resting

Ravioli Sauteed With A Butter and Sage Sauce

My Sister-In -Law Gives Just the Response I Was Hoping For

"Lost" Ravioli with Rice and Sausage Filling Adapted from the original recipe by Julia Croce

For the filling:
1/3 cup arborio, carnaroli, or vialone nano rice-I used Carnaroli
1 cup whole or 2% milk-I used whole milk
fine sea salt
12 ounces fresh baby spinach, stemmed-I used 6 oz. but 12 oz would be ok too.
extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 egg yolk
12 ounces smoked luganega, or substitute fresh Italian sweet pork sausage meat-I used Italian sweet sausage
1 clove garlic, minced-I used 3
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg-I used 1/2 t.
4 ounces freshly grated semi-aged (semi-soft) Tuscan sheep cheese (cacio or caciotta) or
substitute one of the other cheeses mentioned in the headnote-I used Landana Sheeps Milk Gouda
freshly ground black pepper to taste


For the ravioli dough:
(makes about 1 pound)
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose white flour, plus additional
4 “large” eggs at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil-I used olive oil


To make the filling:

Bring the milk to a boil. Stir in the rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover tightly and simmer over low to medium-low heat without stirring. When the milk is entirely absorbed,about 15 minutes, take the pan off the heat and allow the rice to cool, lid on.

To cook the spinach, steam or boil it until it wilts. Alternatively, in a wide skillet, saute it in 2 teaspoons of olive oil until it collapses, about 2 minutes. Drain it well and use your hands to squeeze out excess water. Chop and set it aside.

Wipe out the skillet and put in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Warm the oil over medium heat until it begins to shimmer being careful not to let it overheat. Add the onion and garlic and saute it over very low heat until it is thoroughly softened but not colored,about 12 minutes. If using pre-cooked, smoked luganega-style sausage, mince it finely by hand or a food processor and set it aside. If using fresh sausage, remove it from its casings and add it to the skillet. Saute gently until it is cooked through. Add the cooked spinach to the pan and toss. Take the skillet off the heat and allow it to cool, lid on.


To assemble the filling, to the cooled rice add the egg yolk, nutmeg, grated sheep cheese,and pepper, using a wooden spoon to blend well. Now mix in the sausage mixture.
Taste and adjust for seasoning. Chill the filling aside while you make the pasta.


To make the ravioli dough:

Assemble all the ingredients on an ample work surface. Keep at hand several clean dishtowels, a sharp knife, a fluted pastry wheel, and a few sheet pans lined with clean cloth kitchen towels.


Mound the flour and salt directly onto your work surface. Make a "well" in the center.
In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the eggs and oil and pour the mixture into the well.
Using a fork, gradually draw in the flour from the inside of the well, always working the fork in the same direction to prevent air pockets from forming. Use your free hand to protect the outside wall until the wet mixture is integrated. When the mixture becomes too stiff to work with using the fork, scrape the dough from the fork into the well and continue forming the dough with your hands. Continue forming the dough into a very soft ball. It should be firm enough to handle, but soft and very pliable. If there is too much flour to be absorbed, do not use it all. The dough should be soft but not wet or sticky in the least. If the dough is too soft, add flour a little at a time until you get the right consistency. Set the dough aside.

Lightly flour the surface and using the heel of your hand, knead the dough from the middle of the ball outwards, as you would do for bread dough. Do this for about 5 minutes, or until it is smooth, even, and elastic, maintaining its round shape. Well-kneaded dough makes rolling and cutting easy, and produces pasta that is tender but firm. Divide the dough into four equal parts and cover it with an inverted bowl and let it to rest for 15 minutes or up to 3 hours.


Rolling and cutting using the pasta machine:

Set up your pasta machine so that everything on your work surface is within easy reach. Be sure the machine is free of dried dough bits.
Working with one section of the dough at a time, lightly flour your work surface. With a standard rolling pin, flatten the piece you are working with. Dust it lightly with flour. Set the rollers of the machine at the widest possible setting. Feed the dough through the roller without pulling it or stretching it. Drape it over your hand with your thumb up in the air to avoid puncturing it. Take the dough strip and fold it in thirds as you would a letter. (This will keep the piece of dough in a uniform rectangular shape, which is important as you roll it out thinner and longer through the machine.) Press it flat with your hands and fingertips to get all the air out and lightly flour one side only (the other side remains un-floured so that it will adhere to itself when you fold it in thirds again). Pass the dough strip through the rollers at the widest setting for a total of three times, folding it in three each time. Then set the rollers one notch past the previous one. Pass the dough through again, collecting it at the other end. Repeat the process of folding it in thirds and pressing out the air, flouring it lightly on one side, then putting it through a higher notch each time. Continue doing this at each setting, finishing this rolling-out process with the setting at the next to the last numeral on the knob.

Roll out only one strip of dough at a time for the ravioli, as the dough must be porous in order to seal properly. While you roll out each strip and form the ravioli, keep the remaining dough sections under the inverted bowl to prevent them from drying out. Work quickly in order to prevent the dough strip from drying out.

Fresh-filled pasta should not rest longer than fifteen minutes or so at room temperature after they have been filled, or an hour or two (depending on the moistness of the filling) in the refrigerator. The ravioli can stick to the surface, breaking when you try to lift them if they are left out too long. It is best to refrigerate them if you plan to cook them promptly after making them If not, freeze them, leaving adequate space between them to prevent them from sticking together. Layer them only if you are going to freeze them, putting waxed paper between each layer. If you plan to cook them right after making them, do not stack them--keep them separate on numerous trays and do not let them touch.

Cutting and filling the dough strips for ravioli:

Cut one strip of dough in half cross-wise and lay in out on an ample work surface. Cover with other half with clean kitchen towels. Working quickly, place a mounded teaspoon of filling at 3-inch intervals in rows along the pasta strip.
Dip a pastry brush into beaten egg, or yolk; paint the area around the filling and just to the edges of the dough strip to completely surround each mound and ensure a secure seal.

Place the second sheet of dough over the filled sheet, matching up the edges and corners. Use your fingers to press out any air pockets and press down firmly around each filling mound to seal well.
Use a fluted pastry wheel or 10-inch chef’s knife to cut 4-inch square ravioli. Press down around each filling mound once again to secure the envelope seal. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Cooking the ravioli:

Drop the ravioli a few at a time into plenty of gently boiling salted water. Stir and immediately cover. When the water comes to a second boil, remove the lid. Cook for 3-4 more minutes from the moment the water has returned to a boil. Cook gently--if the boil is too vigorous, the pasta envelopes can break. Using a “spider” or wide mesh spoon, lifting them out as soon as they are cooked, allowing excess cooking water to drip off. Transfer the ravioli to a pan of butter and sage leaves and saute for a few minutes. Total cooking time should not exceed 3-5 m


I did not make the red sauce called for in the recipe but used the butter sage sauce instead. Simply place butter and sage leaves in a pan and gently saute the pasta after it is removed from the boiling water.

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15 comments:

  1. I have to admit that I've never tried to make home made pasta, but this looks so delicious, I may have to have a go!

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  2. Trish Foutz September 7, 2012 8:19 PM
    Your ravioli look devine! I know personally that your home made pasta is to die for!

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  3. I have to admit, looks to long for me, i'm sure it was worth it though, looks delicious!

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  4. Brava! to you for being brave enough to try such an ambitious recipe. Though I love to cook, this is waaaay outside my comfort zone. I'll stick to the simple stuff like your amazing caramelized cauliflower!

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  5. OH good grief, my stomach is growling and i just ate dinner. this is FABULOUS looking and i KNOW it tastes DIVINE. thank you for sharing the recipe cheryl! now i am going over to read your story about serving 16 italians! :) xo

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  6. What a great story and what yummy food! I have so enjoyed catching up with you Cheryl, it's always a treat to read your wonderful blog! x

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  7. A brilliant artist and cook too! You totally put me to shame Cheryl but I have every admiration for you. Your sister-in-law's face does indeed say it all! Made me smile too.

    Take care x

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  8. WOW yummy food, thanks so much for sharing, it looks fantastic!

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  9. It looks GREAT and so is your story....

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  10. I am salivating over the pictures and reading the recipe! Yummy! xxoo

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  11. Well Cheryl, that must have been a night, cooking for the family and not speaking a work of english. no doubt the response was postive in any language!
    hugs Lynn

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  12. Sounds divine. THanks for sharing:)

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  13. Thank you for sharing this-I have never made pasta and you have now inspired me.

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  14. Oh Cheryl....I love homemade pasta...being Italian, I'm sure that's just a natural thing! I want some, every photo had me wishing I was there to enjoy the process...and the flavours. Thanks for sharing this heartwarming post.

    Ciao Bella
    Creative Carmelina

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