I often wondered if it was normal to talk about food from dusk to dawn or at least that’s what it seemed like growing up in an Italian-American home. No sooner was the morning coffee poured than we were chatting about what we would conjure up for lunch and dinner. It’s no surprise that my fondest memories take place at kitchen tables around the world from Boston, New York and London to Rome, Naples and Sicily…cooking and conversation feed my stomach and spirit.
Lazy mornings spent at my parents’ carved wooden kitchen table and days cooking with mom are things that I crave. Our day starts with coffee talk, sometimes for hours, sometimes for moments. We leaf through piles of cookbooks talking about recipes, food, and family. I wonder if she realizes how much I love listening to her.
It had been years since we dusted off Ma‘s pasta maker. I felt strangely melancholy as I cleaned it with a pastry brush. Crumbs of hardened dough fell to the floor, crumbs from the last time Ma made pasta at 552 Main Street. Ma and a dear Italian friend would spend an entire day making fresh tagliatelle, ravioli and lasagna. The smell of freshly brewed coffee filled the air, strangely yet pleasantly mixed with scents of bubbling tomato sauce, fresh basil and ground pepper.
And so mom and I spent a day making ravioli and tagliatelle. Aprons on, wine poured and tomato sauce simmering… “It was very pleasant to savor its aroma, for smells have the power to evoke the past, bringing back sounds and even other smells that have no match in the present. -Tita” ― Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate
Ingredients for fresh egg pasta dough
- Approximately 3 cups flour
- 4 large eggs
- 1-3 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- warm water as needed
Makes enough pasta for 6 first courses or 3 main courses.
Ingredients for ricotta filling
- 1 pound ricotta cheese
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 large egg lightly beaten with 2 tbsp water
- parsley, salt & pepper to taste
In a large bowl mix the ricotta, parmesan cheese, parsley and egg. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
Invent and change fillings according to your taste. Add lemon or orange zest, nutmeg, or basil. You can’t go wrong.
To mix the dough by hand
Pile 3 cups of flour in a mound on a flat work surface. Make a well in the center of the flour. Beat the eggs, olive oil and salt together in a bowl until the eggs are foamy. Pour the egg mixture into the well. Use a fork to gradually draw in the flour from the inside of the well. Continue until all the flour is incorporated and it forms a ball. If this happens before all of the flour is incorporated, add a small amount of warm water and keep mixing until all of the flour is incorporated.
Flour your hands and knead any remaining flour into the dough until a slightly sticky dough is formed.
Shape the dough into a ball and cut into three equal pieces. Flour them lightly and cover them with a kitchen towel to keep the dough from drying out. Working with one section of dough at a time, form it into a rectangle (approximately 4 x 3 inches). Roll it through a pasta machine at the widest setting 2 to 3 times. Reduce the setting by one and pass the dough through again 2 or 3 times. Continue reducing the setting until the machine is at its narrowest. The dough should be paper-thin (you should be able to see the outline of your hand through it). Dust the sheets of dough with flour as needed. Repeat with each piece of dough.
Dust the work surface with flour. We filled the ravioli in two ways as shown here. Lay out a sheet of pasta and cut in half-length wise (pictured above). Spoon the filling on the pasta sheet about 1 inch apart. Place the other 1/2 sheet of pasta on top and gently press out air pockets around each tablespoon of filling OR lay out a sheet of pasta, spoon the ricotta filling on the pasta sheet about 1 inch apart and fold the other 1/2 over the filling (pictured below) like a blanket. We found the second way to be easier and quicker. Use a knife to cut each ravioli into square or use a pastry cutter. Crimp the edges with the tines of a fork to seal.
We experimented making both square and round ravioli. We used a pastry cutter and knife for the square ravioli. We dug out Ma’s cookie/ravioli cutter for the round-shaped ravioli.
Sprinkle cornmeal on a sheet pan and the ravioli to prevent the pasta from sticking. Lay them out to dry slightly while making the remaining ravioli.Cook the ravioli in plenty of boiling salted water for 3 to 4 minutes. They float to the top when they are done. Gently lift the ravioli from water with a slotted spoon. Coat the ravioli in your favorite sauce and serve.