Homemade Ravioli...this is actually Mom's recipe
This is a special, special recipe for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that it is essentially our mother’s. I think it’s also Aunt Dorothy’s recipe and although I don’t ever remember Grandpa Martino making ravs for us, these have been a part of four of our dinners so far and for me personally, the entrée to which I look most forward (maybe tied with cuyettas).
They are a lot of work, though. I remember Mom complaining about that when she made them and nothing I’ve seen since we’ve been including them in our dinners has done anything to disprove that. In fact, my arm strength is barely capable of getting the dough rolled to the proper thickness now…or maybe I should say “thinness” because that’s what it really is. Fortunately, Jim, Alan and even Michael have been there the last few times we’ve made them and their young arms have come in very handy. And I really don’t mind at all, stepping aside, having a glass of wine and watching the next generations have at it. In fact, I rather enjoy it.
We made our first batch of ravs at our third dinner way back in September 2000 and it was a bit of a challenge coming up with this recipe. The dough that Mom used comes from The Roanoke Centennial Cookbook, an entry from Jeanette Sansone. I transcribe the dough portion of that recipe word for word:
Noodle Dough For Ravioli (Italian)
6 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. salt
About 6 cups flour *
* There’s a handwritten note in the margin about the flour that says, “3 ½ to 4 cups for dough, the rest on the board for rolling.”
Beat eggs. Add water and salt. Beat well. Add flour. Beat well. Mix the dough in a ball. Knead it well. Put a little oil on top and let it rest for ½ hour.
This is the recipe we’ve used, tweaked as the margin note suggests, and it works perfectly.
Finding the filling recipe was interesting. Turns out, Diana had Mom’s handwritten version and some time just before that third dinner, she e-mailed me the following note:
Dan, here is Mom's recipe as she gave it to me:
1 pound hamburger
1 pound loose sausage
3/4 cup minute rice
2 cups spinach (I only use 1 small can)
1 clove garlic
small can grated cheese
Add 2 beaten eggs when mixture is cool
This is just the filling recipe as I assumed you did not want the dough part.
It only took me 5 minutes to find the tablecloth. I have a picture taken 12-20-67 showing it on my table when I had some friends over for ravioli (no I did not make them, Mom did).
It will mean more to me if you just take the tablecloth as my brother instead of an even exchange for the meatballs. OK?
The tablecloth Diana refers to in the note is one that she had used when she had friends over for Mom’s ravioli in 1967 as she said. We used it at the dinner in 2000 as well. Carol and I still have that tablecloth, an heirloom now, one that we’ll treasure and pass along.
For the filling, briefly saute the garlic in a little olive oil in a large skillet, then fry the sausage and hamburger. Add the salt, cooked rice, spinach and grated cheese. Allow to cool and add the beaten eggs. Mix well.
To prepare the ravs, on a floured surface, roll the ball of dough into a very thin sheet, making it as square as possible. If you have a pasta cutter, you can use that to cut a straight edge along one side of the flattened dough sheet. Save the piece you cut as it can be reused. Starting in the corner you just created, place spoonfuls of the filling (about a teaspoon) about 1 ½ inches apart and about 2 inches from the cut edge til you get to the end.
Carefully pick up the cut edge and fold over the balls of filling. Using the pasta cutter (or pizza cutter), cut around the filling balls to form the ravs. Using a fork, seal the three edges to assure that the filling remains inside. Repeat this procedure til all the filling and all the dough is gone. Remember, you can reuse the scraps of dough to form another sheet.
An alternate technique can also be used. You can form two sheets of dough, place the filling on the first as above, then place the second sheet on top and cut all four sides around the filling balls. Seal the four sides with a fork.
The ravs can be frozen in this state and they hold up well for some time. This is useful if you want to make a batch for a small group because these things are rich and quite filling.
To prepare, bring to boil 1 to 2 gallons of water, depending on how many ravs you’re preparing. Add a tablespoon of salt (or more if desired). Add the ravs and boil slowly for approximately 15 minutes. Drain. Carefully transfer to a large serving bowl.
Brown ½ cup of butter (one stick). Again, this is the really tricky part so be careful. Heat the stick of butter in a small pan until it’s a rich, golden brown; just seconds before it would otherwise burn is best. Pour the butter over the ravs and carefully stir, trying not to break them open. Serve with Parmesan cheese and if you’d like to taste the ravs the way we used to enjoy them, add a little catsup as well.