Unraveling the mystery of ravioli
About a year into fatherhood I soon realized I would be expanding my cooking cuisine in order to keep harmony in our home. Early on, Miss Lydia took a real interest in ravioli. It soon developed into a huge craving for ravioli.
Now herein lies the problem. This craving was easily solved when we were residing in Minot – off to Sammy’s Pizza we would go, and within minutes of our arrival, we would be presented with delicious, homemade ravioli with a wonderful homemade tomato sauce. It is the type of meal that truly leaves one very satisfied. It was while visiting with Tony Shomento in Rugby that I learned of the dedicated efforts of his parents, Bert and Anna Marie, the previous owners, who laid the foundation for excellent ravioli and tomato sauce at Sammy’s. It is a tradition that continues and is a real hallmark in Minot dining.
However, let’s head 60 miles east to Rugby. Lydia mentioned she really needed some ravioli! Her solution was to hop in the car and drive to Sammy’s. It was at this time I felt inspired to give her my dining contentment talk. (This child knows who the President of the United States is, knows who our North Dakota governor is, as well as the mayor of Rugby.) I wasted no time in giving her the full-strength lesson on happiness with dining.
Our conversation went as follows: “Lydia, did you know that it is a proven fact that contentment in dining is internally generated and has nothing to do with being at a favorite restaurant?” Boy, did these big words get her attention. At once she sat up in her car seat, set her pink sippy cup down, and responded by saying, “Oh really?”
“Why, we could have homemade ravioli in our own dining room in Rugby,” I said.
“Oh, Daddy we will have a good supper tonight in Rugby then,” was her lovable response.
I was just about to swerve into Leevers grocery store and purchase some canned ravioli, and then the force came over me! I straightened out the car wheels and headed for home. It was time to stand up and be permanently liberated from not knowing how to make homemade ravioli! After all, I had helped my mom make homemade noodles, and this certainly couldn’t be that different.
I took the leap of faith, whipped out the flour and eggs, and cleared the counter. A pair of the sweetest blue eyes was upon me, and I knew at this very moment there was no turning back. I embraced making homemade ravioli like it was lemon meringue pie. Lydia had already potentially embraced the idea that hot, steaming, delicious ravioli in a rich tomato sauce would be served on our dining room table TONIGHT!
Noodles from home was my groundwork for this supper dish. (Thanks, Mom, for making those noodles!) Now, before my daughter’s very eyes, she would witness the kitchen adventurer in action! Since I had not made homemade noodles or ravioli on my own, I kept reminding myself what I had learned in that self-confidence course years ago. When confronted with a huge task, picture yourself doing it perfectly! At once, I started seeing the absolutely best puffy ravioli coming from our kitchen, and in the back flower garden was our own miniature version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. What an inspiration!
Then I felt this little hand tapping on my leg to get cooking! As a father, it is my responsibility to contribute whatever I can to her well-roundedness, especially when life throws us a curve. With that thought in mind, I quickly thanked her for using her sweet little “noodle” to what she should have for supper. Then we both headed forth with washed hands and big smiles!
What a glorious meal it turned out to be! When Mommy arrived through the door, Lydia ran to her and exclaimed, “Mommy, Daddy made ravioli for supper, and it is good, good!” I admit I certainly can’t make ravioli like they do at Sammy’s. However, I can create a dish that our little Lydia loves at home in our dining room.
I do not claim to have cracked the code and solved the equation for making perfect ravioli every time. But I am willing to share with you the tricks that I have learned as I work to perfect my ravioli making.
Egg pasta from my mother
At home, this was our starter for noodles. Any desired amount of pasta can be made using this basic formula: cup of flour to 1 large egg. We always tried to reserve a small amount of the flour to work into the dough after the first mixing.
1. Place the desired amount of flour on your countertop or a plastic surface. Remember to scoop out a bit for kneading. Make a well in the center of the mound. If you missed out on the creation of the Garrison Dam, this will be your own personal re-creation of it! The well should easily hold the number of eggs you wish to use. Break eggs into well and beat lightly with a fork in a swirling motion.
2. Your purpose now it to continue beating while slowly incorporating flour from the sides of your well. This is not that difficult, and you possibly could call your mother-in-law and chat at this time. This will soon form a thick paste. At this time, hang up the phone and get all that flour off your fork – this is important. Your goal is now to create a stiff dough, yet sticky. Once this has happened, I set the ball of dough aside. With a knife, scrape the countertop and sift this remaining mixture through your flour sifter. Remove any large dried pieces of dough.
3. Wash and dry your hands very well. A light coating of flour should be sprinkled on your working surface. Kneading will now begin. This can be very therapeutic as you press the dough and release those frustrations that may cause you to get into a snit. Remember to flatten the ball of dough and fold in half toward your body. Push the dough, and the bad thoughts you had about Uncle Hilbert away from you with the heel of your hand. Repeat this several times and add flour if you need. Turn the dough and repeat. By this time you have even forgiven Cousin Millie! Repeat until dough is smooth and supple and very few air bubbles remain in the center when the dough is cut in half with the knife. This kneading should take about 10 to 12 minutes, so do not try for forgive all your relatives. After all, there is no need for excess kneading!
At this point I place it in a lovely earthenware bowl that we received from my mother-in-law and let it rest for 30 to 40 minutes-or even up to a couple of hours. Now, get a good cup of coffee and put your feet up. You deserve it!
To roll pasta by hand
I usually divide the dough at this point, depending on the amount. Place on a lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin – a long thin one works dandy – roll dough into an oval about inch thick and remember we are STARTING to roll. Now, turn this cute little oval at a 45-degree angle from the first position and roll again with a few strides. This will start to widen your oval. Continue in this fashion of turning at 45 degrees with gentle rolling strides from the center of the dough towards the edge. Soon your dough will have nice rounded contours. When your dough is about 1/16 or 1/8 of an inch thick, depending on your taste, it will be ready to cut into noodles or shapes such as squares for ravioli.
Stay tuned as next week I will share with you a filling for the ravioli, the assembly of our meat pocket friends, how to cook and freeze them easily, and a favorite tomato sauce which is the perfect swimming sauce for your ravioli.
Repnow is a Rugby resident.