Opinion: National Ravioli Day — bon appetite
For The Madera Tribune
The tools necessary for making ravioli.
I am of mixed European heritage. There’s a good portion of Italian, a heaping tablespoon of Irish, a smidgen of French, and a pinch of German. At least, those are the ones that I know about. My father’s surname was Sciortino, as was his father’s. So was mine until I was six years old and Dad changed our name to Glynn. I wish he’d chosen something that I wouldn’t have to spell every time I said it. But I suppose that it could have been worse, like my uncle on Mom’s side of the family, whose last name was Czabator. Or my other uncle on her side, Harry Nilson. I imagine that their kids had to spell their last names each time, too.
Anyway, out of that cauldron, I choose Italian, largely because of the food. French food is pretentious, and German food is too heavy. Irish food may be lethal, although quite a few people seem to have survived their mandatory corned beef and cabbage during the St. Patrick’s Day feast a couple of days ago. Personally, I never touch the stuff. My Irish great grandmother used to cook corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes together in the same pot. Ugh!
My father worked six days a week and spent a good part of Sunday making spaghetti sauce and meatballs. One Sunday, I got my school notebook and took notes while Dad explained each crucial step in the process. Years later, when I went off to college, I took that notebook with me. My roommate Vic Biondi and I ate pasta for as long as the sauce lasted.
Tomorrow is National Ravioli Day, and when Dad made ravioli, he used the rim of a water glass to cut the raviolis out of the rolled dough. He used a fork to crimp the edges so that the patties didn’t come apart when they were boiled. The finished product was delicious, although the ravioli patties didn’t look like the ones that were served in most Italian restaurants.
To prepare ravioli in the form that most people expect, you need three pieces of equipment: a rolling pin, a ravioli rolling pin, and a crinkle-cutter. Their use produces a product that looks “store bought.”
Many years ago, the late Sharon Stockdale and I collaborated on an article, detailing my recipe for cheese ravioli, for Cathy Campbell’s “Stir Crazy” column in the Madera Tribune. I lost my copy of that piece when my house burned down in 2010, but I believe that the photo only showed us, not the equipment or the finished product.
I call the process that I use “flour intensive.” Because the dough is just flour, eggs, water, and a little salt, it is very sticky.
I used a lot of flour on both my hands, the ball of dough, and the preparation area. The ball of dough has to be divided in half, and each half must be rolled to a fairly thin layer. Then one must be careful that the bottom layer does not get stuck to the preparation area. So, the board or countertop must be well coated with flour at all times.
The first layer must be dusted with more flour so that it can be folded and set aside. The preparation area must then be re-dusted with flour before the second ball is rolled out. The second layer is slathered with the cheese (or other) filling. Then, the first layer is unfolded and placed on top. Now, we’re ready to use the ravioli rolling pin. But first, the top layer must be well dusted with flour to keep it from sticking to the ravioli rolling pin.
Sufficient pressure must be applied to the ravioli rolling pin so that the top and bottom dough layers make contact and stick together. After the ravioli rolling pin is used, the display on the preparation area will have a series of vertical and horizontal lines, and the shape of the patties will be defined.
At this point, one uses the crinkle cutter along both sets of lines, separating the patties. I’ve found that it’s best to do this preparation well ahead of cooking time so that the patties can be placed in the freezer and frozen before being placed in boiling water.
Making the sauce (usually marinara) and preparing the ravioli takes the better part of the day, if one utilizes the method that I follow. Making the sauce involves allowing each ingredient to be slowly absorbed into the mixture. So, its preparation takes as long as that of the ravioli. However, my ex-wife made spaghetti sauce by throwing all the ingredients into a crock pot (slow cooker) and it turned out just like mine. Go figure.
I always thought that the payoff for the amount of work required was the satisfaction of producing a delicious product that looked like something that would be served in a fine Italian restaurant, but tasted even better. I know of no Irish, French, or German fare that compares. Happy Ravioli Day.
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Jim Glynn may be contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.