Our friend Bruce Burton loves to cook for and with people, foods from scratch, that take hours and hours, such as ravioli, tamales (that’s the next blog!), and the like.
Our Executive Chef
We had tasted his ravioli before, including butternut squash ravioli that just melted in your mouth, but we never had the opportunity to cook with Bruce. We finally found the time to “whip up” his Nonni’s (from Italy) ravioli. We passed out the ingredient list to friends, set aside a Saturday afternoon in the party barn, and got to work. We were making the dough, the filling, and the sauce. In hindsight, next time we may make the sauce, or filling, or both, the day before, as this was an all day process with multiple hands at work!
We really started from scratch by grinding our own meat. We had a couple of pork butts and a chuck roast that we sliced into strips and ran through the grinder.
The Meat Grinder
We didn’t follow the recipes to the tee (as usual!). We didn’t have chicken, so we doubled the pork, and for the sauce, we didn’t have canned tomatoes, we only used tomato sauce. Then the chopping began–lotsa chopping–and it had to be diced fine to fit into those delicate little pillows! Bruce’s Sous Chef, Joan (his wife!), was the chop master, with oysters, half a dozen fresh herbs, spinach, Swiss chard, onions, and, of course, lotsa garlic!
Our Sous Chef hard at work
We put our Italian friend Kristin (maiden name: Amicucci!) to work on the garlic.
The Italian Garlic Princess – Ms. Amicucci
Some of the same ingredients were used in the filling and the gravy (which we American’s would call sauce), we were working on those simultaneously. We needed to get the gravy on early so it could stew for about 3 to 4 hours. It was really amazing how much was happening on the party barn ping-pong table, multiple stations along the progress of our ravioli adventure.
Once we had the filling all chopped and mixed, and the gravy back in my kitchen on a slow simmer (the hot plates in the barn couldn’t cut the mustard), we got to work on the ravioli dough. Just like Mario Battali, Bruce started the dough with a pile of flour, made a well, dropped in the eggs, oil and salt and got to kneading.
Three batches later, we were ready to starting rolling out the dough in the machine.
Once it was just about see-through, very thin, but not so thin it would tear, we placed it over the floured ravioli pan, made little divots, spooned a small amount of filling into the hole, watered the edges, and placed another layer of dough on top.
Then we used a small rolling pin to roll all the edges,
flipped the pan over onto a corn floured baking sheet, and got on to the next batch.
The final step was boiling the ravioli in a large pot of salted water. You dump the ravioli in and when they float, mission accomplished, about 5 to 6 minutes. We poured a bit of sauce on the plate, placed the ravioli on top, and poured more sauce over the top, and dug in.
My first bite was worth all the effort, these little pillows of loveliness melted in your mouth! I don’t remember ever tasting pasta that soft and velvety, I was so overwhelmed with eating that I never did get the “money shot” of the finished product! This picture doesn’t do those ravioli justice.
So the next occasion you have multiple hands available, a lot of time, and the ingredients on hand, “whip up” some ravioli, it’s well worth the time and effort, and for those of you without an Italian Nonni like me, now you have a recipe!
NONNI’S GRAVY (SAUCE)
- 1 – 28 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes
- 1 – 15 ounce can tomato sauce
- ½ small can tomato paste
- 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 tsp. red pepper
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. dried thyme
- pepper to taste
- Blend plum tomatoes in cuisinart. Put in a 6-quart pot with remaining ingredients.
- In cuisinart chop:
- ½ bunch parsley
- 10 large fresh mushrooms
- ½ cup dried mushrooms (soaked in water, squeezed and chopped, use strained liquid)
Add ingredients to the pot.
- 1 pound ground beef
- Chop in cuisinart to a fine texture and add to pot.
- 1 leg and 1 thigh of chicken
- 2½ cups water
- 1 pound boneless chuck roast
Cut big slices through the chuck but leave in one piece. Brown the chuck and chicken pieces. Cook with 2 ½ cups of water to make broth. Strain out the meat and chicken bones, add broth to the sauce and cook for 3 or more hours.
NONNI’S RAVIOLI FILLING
(1/4 batch, 5 ounces = 1 dozen ravioli)
- ¼ pound sirloin
- ½ pound pork butt
- ¾ pound chicken (we didn’t use chicken, but more pork)
- ½ jar fresh oysters, chopped
- ¼ cube butter
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
- ¼ cup celery, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp. Thyme and rosemary, finely chopped
- ½ bunch parsley, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ½ cup spinach, finely chopped and cooked
- 1 cup Swiss chard, finely chopped and cooked
- 6 eggs
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- ¾ cup Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs
Grind the beef, pork and chicken. Fry celery and onions in butter and olive oil. Fry the pork, then beef and chicken. Mix with the remaining ingredients to stuff the ravioli.
NONNI’S RAVIOLI DOUGH
- 1¼ pounds of flour
- 3 eggs
- 2 tbsp. Oil
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- Hot water if needed, use oil in hot weather
Make a well in the mound of flour. Place the eggs, oil and salt in the middle of the flour. Mix together, kneed, put in bowl, cover and let rest for 1 hour or so. Roll out, add filling, top with dough, cut into raviolis.