One of the first things I fell in love with about my husband was his love of food, family, tradition and farming. He comes from a rich history. His grandparents were Italian immigrants from Genoa who settled in Fresno, Ca and dominated the fruit and nut industry back in the 50's.
His grandparents were not only Italian farmers, but had their own personal farm filled with tomatoes, basil, rosemary, citrus, beans, and greens. Food was the focal point, always. Marie would cook from sun up to sun down. Her menu's were based around seasonality and freshness.
Every Christmas, ravioli was made by the thousands. Starting the first weekend in December, cousins, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces would gather to make this family recipe. This recipe (as a fair warning to you) was given by Grandma Marie but as you can guess, she never measured or followed a recipe. She'd say "oh, a little of this and a pinch of that.... a handful of basil and a ton of garlic." We've tried to perfect this direction and have guessed at the measurements. The ravioli has come out each and every time we've made it, but that being said- feel free to doctor it up as you see fit.....I'd like to add one little side note... she added in 1/2 a lb. of cow brain to the filling. Nowadays, I'm pretty sure it's illegal to buy cow brain from a grocery store, but if you have a cow share, you can ask for the brain specifically- it may sound disgusting, but truly sets this dish apart.
I hope you enjoy this recipe from the Old Country. It truly is a labor of love to make and if you ever receive a box of ravioli from a friend, know that they probably really love you, because taking on the task of giving these as gifts is no small task.
~ Pasta dough~
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 c. water
~ Make this recipe individually, don't double up. This will make approximately 30 ravioli.
Put flour in a large mixing bowl and create a well with your hands in the middle of the flour. Add the egg and water in the well. Break the egg yolk and start mixing in a circular motion until all the flour is incorporated. Once the dough comes together, about 15-30 seconds, mold it into a ball and set aside. If you're making 600 ravioli at a time, like we do, you'll need 20 batches of dough. We use pizza boxes to store our ravioli because their cheaper than ravioli boxes. They'll hold 48 ravioli, which is enough for a family of 4.
1 lb. beef, triple ground (ask your butcher to do this before you get there. You can call in advance)
1 lb. veal, triple ground
2 boxes frozen spinach (don't attempt to bite off more than you can chew and use fresh. It's so not worth it, take it from me- I cook for a living), thawed, squeezed as dry as you can possibly get it in a tea towel and chopped very fine (Cuisinart)
1/2 loaf of french bread, soaked in water, drained then chopped (use a Cuisinart or vita mix. Marie used to do this all by hand, but this is the year 2016- take advantage of technology)
2 handfuls of parmigiano
1/3 c. olive oil
~ Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Using a large dutch oven, cook this filling (called ping) in 2 small batches for 3 minutes, so that the filling is PAR COOKED (meaning, partially cooked)
Roll the dough, using extra flour if needed, into a large rectangle, about an 1/8" thick. Using a ruler or a yard stick, cut the edges into a straight line. Cut the dough into 2 equal portions. Using the same ruler or yard stick make lines and rows for the ravioli, roughly 1 inch boxes on 1 of the portions of dough (the other portion will be the top layer) Brush the edges of each square with egg wash (1 egg beaten). Fill each ravioli square with 1 tsp. ping. Gently put the other portion of dough on top of the ravioli filling and squares. Using the same ruler or yard stick re-indent (very gently) each ravioli so you can see the shape of each square again. Using a ravioli cutter, cut each ravioli and place in a ravioli or pizza box lined with parchment paper and a light dusting of flour.
1 1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 bunch parsley, minced
2 lb. chuck roast
1 handful of mushrooms (we like crimini) sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 28 oz. cans of stewed tomatoes, mashed with your hands- or fresh stewed tomatoes if you have them.
1/2 bottle red table wine
Salt, pepper, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes to taste
~ Season the meat with salt and pepper, liberally. Sear the meat on all sides in a large dutch oven. Remove the meat, but keep all the rendered fat. Saute the onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes on medium low, until translucent. Add mushrooms and saute 8 minutes, or until the mushrooms release their natural liquid, stirring ever few minutes so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. De-glaze with the red wine and stir. Season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves. Add the chuck roast back into the liquid. Cook on simmer with the lid on for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Once the sauce is complete, break the meat apart with your tongs, it should just melt into the sauce and create a rich and robust flavor. To finish, add chopped parsley and re-season as needed.
~To Bring Dinner to the Table~
Boil 4 quarts of water in a large stock pot with 1/4 c. salt
Boil fresh ravioli for 2 minutes or until they float to the top (for frozen: cook pasta 5-6 minutes or until they float to the top of the water)
Drain with a slotted spoon and put directly into a hot saute pan with 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Saute quickly to mix butter with pasta. Add 1/4 c. left over pasta water along with a hefty cup of pasta sauce. Vigorously swirl pan and turn off heat. Serve pasta in low pasta bowls, garnished with parmigiano and fresh basil.
~ This recipe is fabulous when accompanied by a hand made caesar salad and garlic bread