Saturday, November 25, 2006


This Thanksgiving my entire family was in town and my mother made the traditional Thanksgiving day dinner and was prepared to make Italian wedding soup as the appetizer when at the last minute, my Nephew suggested that we make home made ravioli.

In retrospect this was like saying "why are we always buying cars, why don't we just make a car?" or "Hey let's make a Nuclear Reactor!"

My grandmother was the always the one who made these delightful little pasta and ricotta cheese Italian delicacies on Thanksgiving and my cousin J took over the franchise on her passing in 1999.

Our family had never made them, only eaten them. Lots of them.

Years ago, when my grandmother was getting older and no one had yet taken the on the mantle of continuing the family traditions of homemade pasta, my Aunt had wisely sat down with my grandmother and written down the recipes. She gave the recipes in book as a Christmas gift that year but I'm just not sure that we had ever tried them.

I've since learned that my wife's family made them a little differently. They would make square ones and put sugar and cinnamon in the ricotta. We consider this evil.

I had also seen my grandmother make them when I was much younger so I knew the basic steps. You make dough, you roll and cut dough, you fill it with ricotta cheese and close the ravioli .

Repeat 200 times.

How hard could this be?

First, this is a two day process. On the first day you make the dough and let it rest. Frankly, I think it's you that needs the rest and not the dough after hand kneading 24 cups of flour and 24 eggs but the recipe says the dough needs the rest.

On Wednesday afternoon, with my brother and mother as the main workers and my nephew no where in site, they started in on the first batch. They decided to break it into two batches since my mother only had a smaller kneading board. The first batch came out a bit dry since someone had misread the recipe and used half the amount of water with the eggs as the recipe called for or my brother miscounted cups of flour.

A trip to the supermarket for more flour and eggs later and they had two resting lumps of dough in gallon zip lock bags, enough for 200 ravioli.

It's a good thing the dough is rested up on the second day because it is going to have a work out. On Thanksgiving morning, t took an army of family members to perform the next few steps. My brother had brought his pasta machine so the rolling and of the dough wasn't so much of a chore but the cutting of dough circles to fill with cheese turned out to be tougher than expected.

It seems that my grandmother had one special glass for this. A glass with just the right size and just the right edge so that it was perfect for cutting ravs. I am not sure that the sacred glass was ever used for anything other than making ravs. It would be un-holy to drink from the rav glass.

We didn't have this glass.

There was much discussion about what became of the glass after my grandmother passed and we decided that my cousin must have must have taken the glass.

We were making due with a beer glass but it was slowing things down. In the end they made 200, freezing half and serving about 100.

Later in the weekend we spoke with my cousin about the glass. He said "it broke" and he has been using an aluminum cookie cutter to make ravioli. He also confessed to making the dough in bread maker and now he uses a mixer with a dough hook.

At least he doesn't cinnamon in them.

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