Some things cannot be learned from a book and must be gained from actually living in the moment, feeling the dough in your hands, rolling up your sleeves, and stroking the back of your hand across your cheek to brush away untamed hair, leaving a trail of flour dust, as a road not leading to Rome, rather ravioli.
I had the wonderful opportunity to connect with a college friend and cook with her adopted family in Rome. My hostess is originally Sicilian, with a repertoire of recipes dating back to generations past.
Here are notes taken when creating the meal. An exact recipe is not given, because the best homemade recipes require hand measurements and practice for perfection. I’ll create an original and vegan/gluten-free (Purevant) version when I’m back in the test kitchen, but many helpful tips are below!
1 package ricotta cheese
1 package pecorino romano cheese
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
-Mix all of the above.
1 large bunch spinach
-Rinse the spinach, cook it in its own water in a stovetop saucepan, steam until tender, then squeeze dry. Add the spinach to the mixture above and set aside.
semolina flour (courser flour to “welcome the sauce”)
white flour (900g flour)
9 eggs at room temperature
-Use the mixer fixture on a large mixer, then the hook fixture to finish mixing. Add olive oil and warm water if the dough is dry. When you press the dough it should spring back up, then it is at the right elasticity. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
Did you know that semolina flour gives that yellow hue to pasta dough? It is also course, giving the dough more texture.
-Using a pasta press, create long strips of dough.
-Lay out each strip of pasta dough on a large floured cutting board.
-Place a spoonful of filling every few inches along the strip of dough.
-Fold the strip of dough over the filling.
-Gently press around each spoonful of filling to seal the dough.
-Next dip the ravioli stamp into flour and press down. We used a circle stamp for half moon-shaped ravioli.
Next boil the ravioli gently. If you boil them in rapidly boiling water there is a greater chance for them to break open. Boil until they float to the top. Drain, and serve sprinkled with pecorino cheese. Note that not all ravioli needs to be served with sauce!
We also prepared a few side dishes including artichokes. In Rome, often times you can order Roman or Jewish-style artichokes, either sautéed or fried. Below offers tips how to cut, prepare, and cook artichokes.
-First cut off the stems and peel off the leaves, one by one.
-Next cut the tops off. Remove the purple center and cut off the outer stem.
-Remove the bear’s fuzz as it’s called, rub lemon juice on the stem, and slice.
-Fill a large bowl with cold water and lemon juice to soak the artichoke pieces. This prevents the artichokes from turning brown due to oxidation.
-Next drain the pieces and cook in olive oil with 1-2 garlic cloves. When the pieces soften, turn off the heat, tear Roman mint leaves with your hands, and toss into the pan. (Roman mint is more subtle than traditional mint.)
A Sicilian strawberry dish and beef skewers with sage leaves were also served.
Another side dish prepared was monk’s grass, which is native to central Italy.
-To prepare you simply break off the stems and cook in a pot of salted water until wilted. It resembles chives when fresh, but tastes and looks somewhat like spinach when cooked.
I want to note that all ingredients were local, from the ricotta cheese found at neighboring farms to the artichokes that happened to be in season. It was a wonderful experience learning tricks and tips in the preparation of authentic Roman-Sicilian cuisine. I want to send a special thank you to my friend and her Roman family for making me part of their family for a day. I hope you enjoy a bit of Roman ravioli and please take a look at my hostess’ website, capturing the hidden secrets and recipes from a lovely Sicilian-Roman chef.
*Stay tuned for an allergy-friendly version of the recipes coming soon as I’m currently in Thailand without my test kitchen!