Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
My great-grandmother, Maria Stella Cipolla, was born on December 2, 1906, in Marianopoli, Sicily. Her first known arrival in the U.S. was in 1921. She married my great grandfather, Paolo Sciabbarasi, and they had five children. It is recorded in one of the censuses that the highest grade she completed is the 6th grade.
In Summer of 2017, my grandmother told me stories about my grandfather’s family. Theirs was a poor family and they lived on the West Side of Buffalo. The sons worked at a bakery and my great-grandfather owned a grocery shop. One night my grandmother was over for dinner. My great-grandmother liked to make ravioli but my great-grandfather didn’t like ravioli. He said they sat like rocks in his stomach. So, she made him spaghetti instead.
This recipe is dedicated to my great-grandmother. I wanted to take a stab at making ravioli by hand. This recipe comes from the cookbook, Sicily, by Melissa Muller. Her family is from Sicily, and she spent her childhood Summers visiting the family town of Sant’ Anna, which is not too far from Marianopoli, where my great-grandparents are from. I love this cookbook for the wonderful stories that are weaved throughout the book and the close attention to ingredients and detail. There are tips peppered throughout about the authentic ingredients and the history of the foods and recipes.
I decided on Spiced Sweet Ricotta ravioli. I have to say, the authentic ingredients were not easy to find. I became obsessed with finding the right flour and cheese because of this book. Many traditional Sicilian kinds of wheat are at risk of disappearing because farmers are abandoning them for more profitable varieties. Some of these flours include pane nero, semola rimacinata, and maiorca. The only place I could find these varieties online was at Gustiamo, a Brooklyn-based online shop.
Oh and when making the dough, don’t do this:
Instead, add a little egg to the middle of the volcano and gather flour from the sides until you have a dough ball to work with. Then, continue to pick up egg and flour as you go.
If it appears to dry, don’t panic. Add water.
The recipe called for Ragusano, a specific cheese made in Ragusa, Sicily. I didn’t spot it in my local Wegman’s app, but found it only in stock on Amazon (offered by igourmet, fulfilled by Frank and Sal Italian Market). The Ragusano is and tastes like a hard parmesan. You could easily substitute parmesan in this recipe. With as hard as it is, get ready to work while grating it! (Could you use pre-grated parmesan? Absolutely.) While at Wegman’s, I also purchased Ricotta Salata, an Italian ricotta that is drained and salted. Next time, I might try draining my own ricotta because the mixture was a little chunky for my taste. Draining American ricotta is very important in Italian recipes. Our ricotta is very waterlogged. I always strain it with cheese cloth the night before I make cannolis.
I got a chance to use fresh marjoram from the garden. Very exciting!
I also picked up a pasta cutter since it was a ravioli-making accessory that I lacked. I had a ravioli punch and I thought I would use both, but my husband and I really enjoyed working with the pasta cutter so much that we never used the ravioli punch.
To roll out the dough into sheets, you can just as easily use a rolling pin and get the sheets nice and thin. Instead, we used a pasta machine that someone got me for Christmas. We got the dough down to the thinnest setting and realized this was way too this for ravioli. We selected the second last setting instead, and next time we may even go thicker.
The thicker setting on the pasta machine produced better-looking ravioli. After they were cut, we placed the ravioli on a cookie sheet for a half hour. This airflow underneath was very important to the drying process.
This recipe said it went great with a pork ragu, but that was too heavy to make in the Summer. Instead, we served it with a simple passata basil sauce and some grated Ragusano on top.
The ravioli was delicious but very different from store-bought. The flour was definitely more grainy and less noodle-like. I also used duck eggs, so this could have contributed to the dough texture. The filling was also more like cottage cheese, which sounds gross, but the flavor was outstanding. I mentioned above that I will try using store-bought ricotta next time and strain it myself. The ricotta salata was too dry; like a feta. With two special kinds of cheese and special flour, I probably spent far too much on a ravioli dinner. The experience was priceless. I can now say that I made ravioli and I was so proud to eat it.
- Sicily cookbook by Melissa Muller
- Pane Nero Flour: https://www.gustiamo.com
- Italian specialty shop: Gustiamo
- Ragusano cheese
- Pasta cutter
|Prep Time||1 hour|
|Cook Time||2-3 minutes (per ravioli)|
|Passive Time||1.5 hours|
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 7 large eggs
- 1 lb. hard wheat flour see resources
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1/2 lb. ricotta strained
- 1 tbsp. marjoram finely chopped
- 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 cup ragusano cheese grated, see resources
- Beat 4 eggs and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl.
- On a large working surface, put flour in a mound and make a volcano hole in it.
- Put 1/4 cup of the beaten egg mixture in the hole in the center of the mound.
- Little by little, gather flour from the sides and mix into the egg mixture. Eventually, it will become a dough ball.
- Continue to add the beaten egg to the center as you continue to knead the dough ball.
- Knead the dough ball until you have used all of the flour. Add water if too dry, add flour if too wet.
- Cover with a towel and let rest for one hour.
- Beat one egg with sugar and remaining salt.
- Add ricotta, marjoram, cinnamon, and grated ragusano cheese. Mix well.
- Beat remaining two eggs.
- Roll out dough in to to eight 8 x 25 inch sheets with a hand-cranked pasta machine if you have one. If not, then by hand. This dough should be thin.
- Using a tablespoon, spoon 10 mounds of the filling on the dough, about 3 inches away from each other.
- Brush a thin layer of beaten egg around the mounds.
- Place the second sheet of pasta on top.
- Press down around the mounds to 'stick' the top layer to the bottom layer where the egg is. Use a ravioli cutter to cut out the shapes, one by one.
- Alternatively, you can fold wider sheets of dough over and cut out 'pockets' of mounds. This is the method we used and found it worked a lot easier.
- Dust the ravioli with flour and let sit out for 30 minutes in a cool kitchen or fridge.
- Ravioli only need to boil for 2-3 minutes, until they rise to the surface.
- I topped fresh ravioli with a simple passata sauce, but it is also great with a heavy pork ragu sauce.