It's not really a surprise that an Italian influence flows through this blog - it is afterall, my heritage. It doesn't take too keen of an eye to see that even the blog banner is pasta - more to the point, it's my mother's pasta. I thought it would be timely to delve into the process of ravioli making as it's part and parcel of my Christmas and Easter celebrations since I was born and for my family, it's a skill that's developed over generations and over many hundreds of years.
Italians can be quite parochial some might say arrogant about their food and who does what best. Anyone who watched Jamie Oliver's series on Italy will understand what I mean. My mother's region which is the Emilia-Romagna are famous for their pasta and there will be no arguments that they indeed are the best.
For this post I'm not going to be supplying a recipe instead I'll be showing some of the processes that go behind making traditional handmade ravioli. There will be no pasta making machine in sight and no face-sized abominations called raviolo!
In the scheme of things this is actually a small "sfoglia" or pasta sheet. These days we make two "small" sheets. Growing up, with more mouths to feed and more hands helping, one sheet would be made. It was so long it would hang over the kitchen table and produce well over 600 ravioli. For a sheet this sized we'd probably make under 200.
That rolling pin in the front is about 1 metre (over 3 foot) long - it has huge sentimental value as it was made by my father especially for my mother. It has the most wonderful feel in the hand and it's the measure in which I judge all rolling pins.
The master is at work and makes it look way too easy, though she doesn't think she's anywhere as good as her own mother was. I can certainly relate to that.
It's taken a while but in the last couple of years I've actually taken on some of the rolling duties and have moved from doing okay to doing wonderfully. She was most eager this Christmas to inform Paalo of my improvement. It's an endorsement that can't be topped.
Since these are festive ravioli, the filling is a little more luxurious. A combination of various elements - roasted meat, sausages, cured meat, spinach and silverbeet then flavoured with nutmeg and Parmigiano. The end result is this wonderfully spiced and multi-dimensional filling that you'd gladly eat even without the pasta.
Now it's time to start making the actually ravioli and it is the simplest and most effective way to form this pasta. It doesn't involve using those tiny trays were you get those soulless uniform sized ravioli, it doesn't involve using pre-shape cutters or those blanketing methods that seem so unwieldy.
Basically they are made a row at a time - a portion of filling is spaced along the width of the pasta, with enough overhang to encase the filling - like so
A pastry cutter is rolled across the edge and then the long sausage is divided into more manageable sections, that look like this
Here is where my role truly begins.
First step is to expel the air - air is the enemy as when the pasta boils, it's the presence of air bubbles that will cause your ravioli to burst. Using your index finger, starting at the side closest to you, you work up towards the long seam, pressing the pasta round the filling - the air naturally escaping through this cut side.
Next step is to ensure a good seal - using a fork, you gently press down around each raviolo causing indentations on the pasta
Finally, cut into individual ravioli - use a fluted pastry cutter for this.
Then place them on a floured cloth in neat rows.
Once they are all done, cover them with a cloth and let them sit for about half an hour before turning them over.
This means that when it's time to cook them, they will achieved an even level of drying.
All that's left to do now is cook them!
I do hope that you've enjoyed this little indulgence as much as I have in presenting it.