Sunday, January 07, 2007

Pasta Pictorial

With the heat of the week zapping the energy from me I thought I might do something a little different. I'm sure people in the northern hemisphere surrounded by snow really want to know that it's hot here.

It's not really a surprise that an Italian influence flows through this blog - it is afterall, my heritage. It doesn't take too keen of an eye to see that even the blog banner is pasta - more to the point, it's my mother's pasta. I thought it would be timely to delve into the process of ravioli making as it's part and parcel of my Christmas and Easter celebrations since I was born and for my family, it's a skill that's developed over generations and over many hundreds of years.

Italians can be quite parochial some might say arrogant about their food and who does what best. Anyone who watched Jamie Oliver's series on Italy will understand what I mean. My mother's region which is the Emilia-Romagna are famous for their pasta and there will be no arguments that they indeed are the best.

For this post I'm not going to be supplying a recipe instead I'll be showing some of the processes that go behind making traditional handmade ravioli. There will be no pasta making machine in sight and no face-sized abominations called raviolo!


In the scheme of things this is actually a small "sfoglia" or pasta sheet. These days we make two "small" sheets. Growing up, with more mouths to feed and more hands helping, one sheet would be made. It was so long it would hang over the kitchen table and produce well over 600 ravioli. For a sheet this sized we'd probably make under 200.


That rolling pin in the front is about 1 metre (over 3 foot) long - it has huge sentimental value as it was made by my father especially for my mother. It has the most wonderful feel in the hand and it's the measure in which I judge all rolling pins.


The master is at work and makes it look way too easy, though she doesn't think she's anywhere as good as her own mother was. I can certainly relate to that.

It's taken a while but in the last couple of years I've actually taken on some of the rolling duties and have moved from doing okay to doing wonderfully. She was most eager this Christmas to inform Paalo of my improvement. It's an endorsement that can't be topped.

Since these are festive ravioli, the filling is a little more luxurious. A combination of various elements - roasted meat, sausages, cured meat, spinach and silverbeet then flavoured with nutmeg and Parmigiano. The end result is this wonderfully spiced and multi-dimensional filling that you'd gladly eat even without the pasta.

Now it's time to start making the actually ravioli and it is the simplest and most effective way to form this pasta. It doesn't involve using those tiny trays were you get those soulless uniform sized ravioli, it doesn't involve using pre-shape cutters or those blanketing methods that seem so unwieldy.


Basically they are made a row at a time - a portion of filling is spaced along the width of the pasta, with enough overhang to encase the filling - like so


A pastry cutter is rolled across the edge and then the long sausage is divided into more manageable sections, that look like this


Here is where my role truly begins.

First step is to expel the air - air is the enemy as when the pasta boils, it's the presence of air bubbles that will cause your ravioli to burst. Using your index finger, starting at the side closest to you, you work up towards the long seam, pressing the pasta round the filling - the air naturally escaping through this cut side.


Next step is to ensure a good seal - using a fork, you gently press down around each raviolo causing indentations on the pasta


Finally, cut into individual ravioli - use a fluted pastry cutter for this.


Then place them on a floured cloth in neat rows.


Once they are all done, cover them with a cloth and let them sit for about half an hour before turning them over.


This means that when it's time to cook them, they will achieved an even level of drying.


All that's left to do now is cook them!

I do hope that you've enjoyed this little indulgence as much as I have in presenting it.


  1. There is nothing nicer to sit down to a family dinner for Easter, Christmas or other family celebration and eat these gorgeous creations.

    For all the hard work there is nothing that can replicate the love we taste when we eat it.

  2. Brilliant, and beautifully photographed! I traveled for a time in Italy last year and took two lesson in pasta preparation. It has taken some time to master at home, but it is well worth the effort and such a satisfying endeavor.

  3. Beautiful post! I love it when you share about your heritage - Guess I understand it deeply, too. Your post reminds me so much of my grandma who prepares beautiful traditional treats every Chinese New Year.

    Thanks for your deteailed instructions about making pasta, too! :)

  4. Very nice port!
    Now I want to make some ravioli...

  5. Oh my god! So many ravioli! The step by step is wonderful and handy - though without such a beautiful rolling pin like your mother's, when I try making homemade pasta (I'm yet to do it) I may have to stick to the cranker!

  6. Spectacular! Love this way of making ravioli and they look delectable

  7. So true Karen - it just wouldn't be the same day without them

    Thanks TW - it's a lifetime to master but the enjoyment is in the doing.

    Thanks Anh - it's wonderful that your grandma keeps the traditions alive. When we are teenagers to tend to take these things for granted but I think eventually we understand how important they are and they are what makes us.

    Thanks Plume - anytime is a good time for ravioli!

    Thanks Ellie - you can apply the same principals, just use smaller amounts of dough and a normal sized rolling pin. Or if you use the machine you can still then form the ravioli in the same manner.

    Thanks Reb - now I say this without bias they are the best ravioli ;)

  8. Haalo, this is one of the most beautiful posts I have ever seen on the Internet. Lovely writing, amazing photos...

    I love all the feelings and stories this recipe has.

  9. Thanks so much Patricia that's lovely of you!

  10. What a fantastic post. I too am from an Italian background. Some of my most fond memories are of helping my mother make ravioli.

    I just love your Blog. I have directed many of my food loving friends to it.

  11. Thanks Linda for your recommendation that really is so very nice of you. It's much appreciated.
    I think we are very fortunate to have mothers that involved us with these wonderful traditions and hopefully we can continue to keep them alive.


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