In my new special, Dream of Italy: Travel, Transform and Thrive, premiering on PBS stations in June, I further explore my heritage and how food is central to Italian culture. My grandmother, Marie Cuzzone Nargi, surely taking after her ancestors from the town of Ariano Irpino in the southern Italian region of Campania, was a wizard at making any kind of dough, especially for pasta. What kid doesn’t love ravioli? And my grandmother made the best! She infused love into every bite. I recently rediscovered this recipe in my late mother’s pile of recipes. It was in a special file marked, “Secret Family Recipes, Don’t Share!” Oh how I laughed when I found it and said out loud, “mom, I’m sharing this recipe with the world.” She would have loved that actually. To taste these ravioli again after so long brought me back to my childhood and why I simply adore the warmth of Italians and Italian-Americans. They express their love through food. -Kathy
For the dough:
- 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- ¾ tsp salt
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 2 Tbsp vegetable shortening
- Boiling water
- Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Add eggs and shortening.
- Measure boiling water into a 1-cup measuring cup. Mix the water gradually into flour to make a stiff dough (it will take between ¾ cup and a scant 1 cup of water, depending on the moisture content of the flour and the size of the eggs).
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured pastry board and knead for 5 minutes, or until dough is very smooth and shiny.
- Cover the dough with a mixing bowl and allow to rest at least 10 minutes before rolling out.
For the filling:
- 1 cup ricotta cheese, or 1 cup dry cottage cheese
- 1 package (8 oz) mozzarella cheese, shredded
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs, beaten
- ½ tsp salt
- Dash of freshly ground pepper
- Mix all filling ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Using ¼ of the dough at a time, use a pasta machine or rolling pin to roll dough into long strips- about 4 inches wide.
- On one strip of dough, place approx. 1 Tbsp scoops of filling, leaving enough space in between depending on the size cutter you are using.
- Lay a second sheet of dough on top of the sheet with the filling and firmly press the edges down around the filling.
- Use a 2 ½ to 3-inch round cutter to cut the ravioli.
- Repeat until you have assembled all the ravioli.
- Add ¼ of the ravioli at a time to a pot of boiling water. Cook for 7 minutes until ravioli float to the top. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and serve with sauce of choice.
Note: Uncooked ravioli may be frozen in single layers on jelly roll pans and frozen for about 12 hours. The frozen ravioli may then be tumbled into plastic bags and returned to the freezer.
Photo by Stephanie McClendon