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The Best Christmas Ravioli

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Well, it’s ravioli time, isn’t it.  Christmas is next week.  And we working women of the modern era, well, we like to have ours done about now and stocked away in the freezer.
I made mine this past Sunday with my sister Andrea, who came over eager to help. 

So now while I’m in the ravioli spirit is a good time to tell you all that The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and Family has recently come out in paperback. 

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I really like this cover and—and hope the book will continue to reach people, as that’s what every author wishes for.  In this new edition, there is a reader’s guide at the end of the book, and I will be making myself available in 2009 for book group invitations, mainly by phone but also the occasional in person visit.  You can find out more, including my contact info, at www.lostravioli.com.

Back to ravioli….

This year, there was not a lot of torture over raw or cooked meat, as you can see in these photos of braising beef, veal, and pork. 

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There were all sorts of aromatics involved and the house smelled beautiful for two days. 

I did NOT get all worried about the cream cheese, either.  I added a package of it.  Since my book came out a year ago, I can’t tell you how many Genoese descendants have told me they use cream cheese. In light of everything and I publicly apologize for my former snobbery

and ask forgiveness.

As to rolling pin versus pasta machine?  I used a machine this year simply because my board is now officially sagging and the pin is not meeting the surface.  Very unpleasant. Until I get a new board, I’m using the machine.  Well, actually, this is Andrea using the machine. 

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It might sound like all is resolved and peaceful.  But some things never change.  Of course I had to make a last minute run to Lou’s house for some extra 00 flour.  What can I say?

Since The Lost Ravioli Recipes first came out in hardcover a year ago, a lot of things have happened.

For one thing, hundreds of Italian Americans have written to me or come to my author events to tell me about their families and their recipes, and their yearnings—whether for family or Italy, or some other form connection and continuity they can’t quite explain.  I have been so honored and humbled to hear of the things people do for love and ravioli.

Some of my favorites:  Bob (Schenone) Cole and his family in Philadelphia whose recipe matched mine just about exactly and told me his mother knew my great grandmother Adalgiza.  A musician named Georgeanne who began with “I was a generation closer,” to describe her own Italian American twilight and shared an incredible tale about her own life.  Then there was the NJ woman who wrote, “I don’t know where to begin,” and sent me a photo of herself sitting on a bench with a bunch of old Italian women in her ancestors town.  She didn’t understand it—why was she always drawn back there?

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I also made some videos of pasta rolling which have gotten a lot of response, such as this one on youtube, which over 4,000 people have watched.  I feel very shy about this, video because I’m not exactly Rachel Ray here.  But I am really touched by all the comments.  So here’s the link.

Writing a book about your own life changes your life. I guess that was my intention but I could never have expected some of the things, such as how over the last year, I slowly felt a burden lifted from my shoulders.  Something I can’t explain. But I discovered I no longer feel as needful of my own past.  Strange and oddly liberating.  I’m far less often pummeled by memories.  I am more in the present.

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Finally, since the book came out, a number of readers have asked me how my sister is doing.  They ask about her health and tell me they worry about her.  For those who don’t know, the book included details about our strained relationship and her illness.  Well, she is doing just fine.  She has found that a radical diet of eating very non-inflammatory foods is helpful and reduces pain. But we still hope for the medical community to come up with some solutions for this condition she has, which is called adhesive disease, and millions of people suffer from it.

My relationship with Andrea continues to be good two years after writing my closing chapter.  there have been no blow ups, no problems.  We are friends, or maybe just sisters, as sisters should be.  I don’t know if this would have ever happened if I didn’t write the book.  When she read it she told me “I never thought you understood.  Now I know you did.” I’d say that this was the best thing that ever came out of all my writing years.

Andrea even leans on my shoulder once in the while, as a younger sister might.  Her husband took this picture on Sunday, and honestly it just breaks me up. 

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Here’s the filling we made. We will eat these on Christmas.  I owe a debt to many many people for this recipe.  I say grazie mille and buone feste

Ravioli Christmas 2008

For the Dough
6 cups flour, preferably 3 cups being 00 Italian style flour and half , about 3 cups being a higher gluten all purpose flour such as King Arthur’s.
3 eggs plus one yolk
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
enough water to make the dough elastic

For the filling:
1 bunch of borage (about 2/3 pound) or substitute spinach and/or escarole, boiled until tender, squeezed dry
½ cup olive oil
2/3 pound veal shoulder, or veal stew meat
1 pound beef, the type you would use for pot roast, such as chuck, trimmed of extra fat, or bottom round, or top round roasts, which are leaner but still braise well.
2 cloves garlic
1 stem of fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry white table wine
1 carrot, minced extremely fine
1 rib of celery, minced extremely fine
1 onion, sliced thinly
3 or 4 pieces of dried porcini, rinsed and reconstituted in warm water 30 minutes (reserve the water)
6 cups marinara sauce already made
1 tablespoon butter
½ pound pork, shoulder cut, trimmed of extra fat
2 teaspoons pignoli
1 4 oz package of Filadelfia cream cheese in silver foil
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 large piece (about three-inches from an Italian loaf) of stale white bread, soaked in warm milk
salt
pepper
nutmeg to taste
1 teaspoon of marjoram, minced
2 egg, plus 2 yolks

1. Make the dough and set aside covered in plastic.  I’m assuming you know how to do this. 

2.  Boil the borage (or whichever greens you are using) five minutes in salted water.  Let cool.

3.  Heat the olive oil in a terracotta casserole or large heavy stainless steel pot.  Add the veal and beef along with 1 clove garlic, rosemary, and 1 bay leaf.  Brown the meat.

4.  Add ½ cup of the white wine.  When the wine evaporates, add carrot, celery, onion and mushroom.  Cook with pot uncovered until vegetables are softened.  Add a little hot water as necessary, to keep vegetables from scorching. 

5.  Put a cover on the pot, lower the flame to a very slow heat.  Check the veal in 20 to 30 minutes.  When cooked tender, remove the veal and put aside. The time will depend greatly on the size and cut of your meat.

6.  Add six cups of tomato sauce to the pot with the beef in it.  Continue to cook the beef on a slow heat until falling apart and tender.  This can easily take two and a half more hours , depending on the size and quality of your meat.  It will be tough for a long while.  When it is finally fork tender remove meat.  Save this sauce, which is one method for making tocco, Genoese for sugo or gravy.  You will use it to dress your ravioli on Christmas Day.

7.  Put the butter in a separate smaller pot.  Add the pork, salt, pinoli, a bay leaf, a clove of garlic.  Add one two or three tablespoons of white wine and put a cover on the pot.  Turn heat down to low.  Cook until tender and soft.  This may take an hour or more, depending on your meat and how high your heat is. 

8.  When all the meat is cool, set up your meat grinder and fit it with a fine mandrill.  Set a big bowl underneath.

9.  Trim the fat off the meat and put it through the grinder.  Add the reserved pignoli and a little of the flavorful fat and wine from the bottom of the pork pot. 

10. Put your greens through the food grinder, followed by the soaked bread.

11.  Okay now, go and whip up that that room-temperature cream cheese (with a mixer) and add it into your bowl of filling. 

12.  Put the parmigiano, marjoram, nutmeg, pepper, and salt directly into the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon so that all is VERY well mixed.

13.  Taste.  Correct seasoning.  Do you need more salt, pepper, cheese?  If your mixture tastes dry you may wish to add some of your reserved porcini broth or marinara.

14.  Add egg.  Mix everything.  Your filling is now ready. 

15.  If you are using a machine, roll out dough with your machine to the second to last setting.  Spread filling on a half a sheet of dough.  Do this thinly and evenly.  Put the other half on top like a lid, then run over this with a checkered ravioli rolling pin.  Finally, use a ravioli cutter to cut across the squares.

16.  Let the ravioli dry a half hour on cookie sheets dusted with flour or cornmeal.  Turn the over and let the other sides dry.  (Yes, I’m serious.) Or put the tray directly in the freezer.  Now go ahead and do the other 200.  When the ravioli in the freezer are frozen solid, transfer to plaster bags and seal shut. 

17.  When ready to serve, put the ravioli in fiercely boiling salted water.  Cook 3 minutes if your ravioli is fresh and 5 or 6 minutes if it is frozen.  Taste to be sure.

18.  Gently scoop out the ravioli with a large slotted ravioli lifter--or pour carefully into a colander, so the ravioli don’t break.  Serve in a large bowl with the tucco—the red Genoese sauce you made earlier.  Or use whatever tomato sauce you prefer.  Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

For more details and information, see Tell a friend about this article:






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Hi Laura,

Why does it make me so happy to know that you were together with your sister making your Christmas ravioli?  I was together with my mom, sister, daughter and niece making strufoli this week too.  We spent all of Tuesday rolling little balls and then frying away.  The house smelled wonderful!  Buon Natale to you and yours!

All the best, Fran Parisi

    –  (December 20 2008 at 10:20)



Dear Laura,
Thanks for keeping me posted with the wonderful informative newsletter. I won’t be doing the ravioli for Xmas, but am preparing for the seven fishes the nite before. So one course will be home made pasta anyway. If there is any fish left over maybe I will try a few fish filled ravioli just for us. 
Since reading your book I have tried to get the ingredients for my aunts meat ravioli. She was a cook at a large hospital in NY state. On her days off she cooked fabulous food and on the holidays would make the meat ravioli and bake her little heart out. She was the only one that made the meat filling, everyone else did the cheese. She passed away many years ago but has several grown children. I figured one of them must know. But sadly they barely even cook. Maybe I inherited her “cooking gene”?
Thanks Nancy for all of the beautiful Jellypress illustrations and the cookie recipes!
I just picked a huge bag of meyer lemons from a friends tree so will be making the badass lemon bars today. Some are as big as grapefruits.
I hope that you and your family and sister have a happy holiday and prosperous healthy New Year.
I will be thinking about those ravioli you are making!
M.J.

    –  (December 21 2008 at 8:53)



What a delightful (badass) read on a beautiful Sunday morn, now I want to for go other plans and head back to the kitchen. Thanks, seu

    –  (December 21 2008 at 11:44)



I just discovered your book on Christmas eve and bought my first ravioli pin the same day!  I had planned on making homemade ravioli for Christmas and had never used one of these ravioli pins before.  I’m partial to the big round ravioli, the kind when you eat four you are full, but you eat double that because they are soooo good.  The pin is fun to use to crank out the ravioli. I can’t say that mine turned out as perfect as yours.

Your book is inspirational.  It makes me want to write down all those family recipes that are in my parents’ heads!

    –  (December 27 2008 at 7:04)


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