Ravioli: Thanksgiving tradition

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Ravioli served with a hearty red sauce was a Thanksgiving tradition in our home. It wasn’t until I was seven or eight years old that I discovered most homes served mashed potatoes instead. I felt a sorry for them. Why would anyone choose mashed potatoes over ravioli? Here are a couple of my family recipes. The process has changed, the tools are different and the taste may not be quite like Noni’s, but it’s worth the effort. It’s tradition.

A glass of good Merlot and Pavarotti singing in the background add to the tradition as well.

raviolitraditions 015Dough:

  • 5 cups flour plus extra flour for kneading
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ¼ cup cold water

In a large bowl combine flour and salt. Form a well in the center; add eggs and yolks, olive oil and water using a folk to slowly mix the ingredients together. On a flat surface, knead dough to form a smooth, ball shape. A food processor or mixer with dough attachment saves time. Knead for 3-5 minutes adding flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.

Place the bowl, upside down, over the dough, allowing the dough to rest for 20-30 minutes.

Traditional Method: Using an extra long rolling pin, roll dough out as thin as possible to form a large circle. Again use generous amounts of flour to keep dough from sticking. Spread a thin layer of filling over half of the dough. Fold the unfilled dough over the top of the dough with filling. Cut into ravioli sized squares using a ravioli pin or ravioli cutter. (Looks like a bumpy pizza cutter).

To Freeze: Ravioli may be frozen at this point. Place in single layers on flour covered cookie sheet and dust tops with more flour. Cover and freeze until solid. Remove from cookie sheets and store in airtight plastic bags or containers.

Pasta Machine: Follow manufacturer’s guidelines.

To cook: Drop fresh or frozen pillows into boiling, salted water until cooked through. Usually they float to the top when done, about 8 to 10 minutes.

To Serve: Drain and serve on a platter with tomato sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan, Romano or combinations of Italian dried cheeses. Enjoy! Makes 18 dozen. As a main course plan on serving 1 ½ to 2 dozen per person.

Turkey in a bag: Anna’s mother has cooked her turkey in brown bags for years. She slips each end of the turkey into an oversized bag. The two bags overlap in the middle over the breast.

There are many great filling recipes available and I never hesitate to try something new at least once a year. This is a basic recipe used by my family for generations.

raviolitraditions 009Ravioli Filling: inspired by Anna Casalegno Oliveri, 1900s

  • 2 lbs. learn beef roast, cooked 1 lb. lean pork roast, cooked
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
  • 2 cups cooked Swiss chard or spinach
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Add ¼ teaspoon thyme or Italian seasoning to taste

Cook beef and pork in oven with rosemary leaves and oil.

Put meats and Swiss chard through meat grinder (food processor is OK  in today’s world); add remaining ingredients. A bowl under the meat grinder catches the filling. Cover, set aside or chill overnight. Bring to room temperature before using.

Rolling the dough to the right thickness was the most difficult part. Once a circle of dough was formed, the filling was spread thinly on top. Another layer of dough was placed on top. This is a little different from the half circles in the recipe above. Then with a ravioli rolling pin, she’d form the pillows, pressing hard and finally cutting the indented lines with a ravioli cutter. Once she got a pasta-ravioli maker, she found the filling easily dropped into the dough, formed the pillow shapes and separated the pasta. Less work!

More gravy hints: this is how my mother-in-law, Carla  Inie, made gravy. She put the flour in a jar with the water & shook the lumps out before adding to the broth/drippings.

My favorite mother-in-law quote: When asked what she would do different with her life, she answered, “I wouldn’t worry so much.”

That’s right up there with this quote  from an education professor: “How does a society treat the masses of people? We have three choices: feed them, drown them or educate them. You are here to learn how to educate them.”

Yams and Sweet Potatoes are not the same. On the West Coast I always had a hard time finding sweet potatoes but in the Maryland, the yams are harder to find. While shopping this past week, I noticed that several boxes labeled yams were actually sweet potatoes. When preparing your Thanksgiving side, the differences between the two aren’t critical for most people (unless you’re a North Carolina sweet potato farmer).

Trivia for the Thanksgiving Table: Yams are tubers and tend to be starchier and drier. With over 600 varieties, they’re native to Africa. Sweet potatoes are native to North America and a member of the morning glory family. When cooked, they tend to be softer. Great for sweet potato fries which leads to the question: has anyone tried yam fries?

Enjoy your Thanksgiving Day. Be thankful!