Ravioli are a type of filled pasta composed of a filling sealed between two layers of thin pasta dough. The word ravioli is reminiscent of the Italianverb riavvolgere (“to wrap”), though the two words are not historically connected. The word may also be a diminutive of Italian dialectal rava, or turnip.
The history of ravioli is an interesting tale. So far as Italy is concerned, the earliest records of ravioli appear in the preserved letters of Francesco di Marco, a merchant of Prato in the 14th century. The pasta is described as being stuffed with pork, eggs, cheese, parsley and sugar, and during Lent a filling of herbs, cheese, and spices was used. There were both sweet and savory kinds. The city of Cremona claims to have created ravioli. But Genoa claims that too, insisting that the word ravioli comes from their dialect word for pasta, rabiole, which means “something of little value” and referred to the practice of poor sailors who suffered left overs into pasta to be eaten for another meal.
In 14th century England Ravioli appears in the Anglo-Norman manuscript Forme of Cury under the name of Rauioles. In Malta Raviul dating back before the North Italian ravioli, are stuffed with ricotta from the local sheep.
Here’s our version of Home-Made Ravioli Pasta with suggestions for fillings and accompanying sauces.
400g Plain Soft Flour
How to make the Ravioli Dough
- Start by putting the flour in a heaped pile on the table or pasta board (spianatoia).
- Break the eggs into the ‘volcano’ of flour. Add a pinch of salt.
- Use a spoon or fork to lightly beat the eggs in the middle before slowly bringing the flour into the mixture.
- Once the mixture is not too sticky work it with your hands. Knead well for at least 15 minutes until the dough is smooth and suppliant.
- Set the dough aside for half an hour and get your filling ready.
- After the dough is ‘rested’ divide into two halves and roll each out as thin as possible, 1mm thin if possible. If you have a pasta machine then you’ll find it much easier to get the required thinness. Remember to pass the dough through at one thickness then gradually reduce the size and pass it through again.
- Whether you decide to roll a circle (comes more naturally as a circle if hand rolled) or a more square shape then do both pieces the same shape.
- Put a small dollop of filling at even intervals over the dough (see pictures). Smooth a little water between the dollops of filling.
- Once completed lay the second half of pasta over the top and gently press between the mounds of filling. With a pastry cutter cut round the mounds to make the ravioli squares. Seal the edges with a fork.
- An alternative method to using two pieces, one on top of the other, is to place the fillings in one half of the circle or other shape and then fold the other half over – see pictures.
- Cook in boiling salted water for 4 minutes. Serve hot. See below for ideas for fillings & sauces.
Spinach & Ricotta
- Cook the spinach in extra virgin olive oil and a little water with salt and pepper to taste.
- Once cooked make sure you drain out all the water.
- Chop very finely.
- Add fresh ricotta cheese, one egg beaten, a pinch of salt & pepper and a dash of nutmeg.
- Optional additional ingredients – finely chopped walnuts, grated parmesan cheese.
- Cook and mash (blend) the marrow.
- Add fresh chopped parsley, one small chopped and lightly cooked onion, a pinch of salt & pepper and a dash of nutmeg.
Optional additional ingredients – grated parmesan cheese.
Sage & Butter
- Melt a generous amount of butter in a frying pan.
- Add several fresh sage leaves.
- Cook on a low heat for 5 minutes.
- Pour over ravioli once cooked.
- Season with grated parmesan cheese and finely chopped walnuts.
Caccio e Pepe
- Grate 50g Parmesan cheese and 50g of Aged Pecorino Cheese.
- Add a generous quantity of freshly ground black pepper.
- Once the ravioli is cooked, drain it and put it in a frying pan.
- Add the cheese & pepper mix and cook for another 2 minutes until the cheese starts to melt.
There are at least three different stories surrounding the origins of Tiramisu.
The first is that it was was initially created in Siena, Tuscany. The occasion was a visit by Grand Duke Cosimo de’Medici III, in whose honor the concoction was dubbed zuppa del duca (the “duke’s soup”). The erstwhile duke brought the dessert back with him to Florence.
The second theory is that is was a cake specialist from Torino who invented in honour of Camillo Benso the Count of Cavour to sustain him during the difficult job of unifying Italy.
Northern Italians will swear blind however that it was invented in Treviso and was a favourite of Venice’s courtesans to fortify themselves between their amorous encounters. Tiramisu literally translated means Pick Me Up.
Whatever the true history behind Tiramisu it has become one of the most popular and well known Italian deserts.
You will find hundreds of variations, some light and fluffy, some rich and creamy, some strong on the coffee and others with more emphasis on the liquor.
The Italians use Savoiardi biscuits to soak the coffee and liquor – the American version would be Lady Fingers.
The Mascarpone cream cheese used today is a replacement for the custard used in the original recipes.
Here is our light fluffy version of this wonderful desert.
250g/8 oz Mascarpone
A packet of Savoiardi (Ladies Fingers)
2 Tablespoons of Sugar
Cocoa to decorate
2 Cups of Strong Expresso Coffee
½ Cup of Milk
Small glass of Desert Wine or Liquor
50g Dark Chocolate
How to make the Tiramisu
- Separate the eggs into yolks and whites.
- Add a tiny pinch of salt to the whites. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Set aside.
- Beat the egg yolks with the sugar to form a creamy paste. It will go from a bright yellow to a pale cream colour. Add the mascarpone and stir. Mascarpone is a cream so if you use an electrical mixer use it very briefly otherwise you may find the cream separating.
- Fold in the egg whites gently. Set aside.
- Make a jug of strong coffee and mix it with the milk. Add a small teaspoon of sugar if you have a sweet tooth. Add the desert wine/liquor to the mixture.
- Dip each Savoiardi in the coffee/liquor mix to soak. Arrange the soaked biscuits into one layer in a serving dish.
- Once you have the layer of soaked biscuits cover with a layer of the cream mix. Sprinkle with a layer of grated chocolate.
- Repeat the biscuit and cream layers until the dish is full.
- Finish by sprinkling generously with the cocoa.
- Cool in the fridge for at least two hours before serving. Please note that this is a dish that should be eaten the same day that it is made as it is made with raw eggs.
RICH VERSION TIRAMISU
- To make a richer version of Tiramisu leave out the egg whites – use only the yolks. The preparation is the same as above but no folding of whites required.
- This version may require a little more than two hours in the fridge to allow more time for the cream to soak in.
FRESH SUMMER PINEAPPLE TIRAMISU
- Some good Italian friends of mine made me a pineapple tiramisu and it was amazingly fresh and a great alterative summer desert.
- No coffee required. Instead mix the pineapple juice with the liquor and soak the Savoiardi in this.
- Instead of the chocolate and cocoa layers there are layers of pineapple fruit on top of the savoiardi then the layers of the cream.
Try one or all of these – they’re delicious!
The history behind the Crostata is unclear with some saying it was a gift from grateful habitants of Napoli to a pagan goddess of the sea in pre-Christian times, created from ingredients that symbolised strength and richness (flour), rejuvenation of life (eggs) and the sweetness of the siren’s song (sugar). Other legends place the Crostata as an Easter tradition; the cake that finally brought a smile to the face of the Queen of Austria when Ferdinando II di Borboni was king – he declared it as an Easter dessert to guarantee his wife’s smile at least once a year; or a symbol of the resurrection of Christ created in the ancient convent of San Gregorio Armeno.
In any case it became a popular dessert to exchange among friends at Easter and as such over time different versions were created as each person wanted to make their gift slightly different. Now you will often see it on menus all year round and especially at events such as harvest festivals and Easter of course.
350/4oog Plain Flour
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
One small cup Vermouth
- Beat/whisk the eggs with the sugar. Add the butter and mix well into a creamy consistency. Add the flour and the baking powder a little at time, mixing well. Add the lemon rind and vermouth.
- Once you have a smooth dough set aside a quarter of it then roll the remainder to form the base of the Crostata. Put into a baking tin/flan case – round or square as you please.
- Spread a generous amount of marmalade across the whole of the dough base.
- With the set aside dough roll then flatten strips and place across the top of the marmalade to make a lattice pattern.
- Cook at 180°C/350°F for 20/25minutes until the lattice is golden brown.
- Serve warm or cold as preferred with cream or ice cream.
Serves: 4 – 6