Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Italian Ravioli...the Jewish Verenika

I love pasta.  Italian, Jewish, European versions are all my favourites!  I love the taste, the has to be my all-time favourite carb!

As you know, Carlo and the kids bought me a pasta maker for the holidays this year.  I love it!  I cannot think of a better way to spend an afternoon than creating some delicacy for dinner.  

Just before Passover, I decided to make a treat for dinner, and try my hand at making ravioli.  I had the dough recipe, and the Robin Hood flour (which my mother-in-law says renders a better pasta dough), but how to make the filling? I looked up a couple of meat filling recipes, and then did what I do best - winged it and hoped that the family liked what I served.  

I  made the meat mixture, and the dough, and then set off to make ravioli.  Somewhere along the way I realized that this procedure was very similar to one I had tried a few years back - to make kreplach for my chicken soup!  I had leftover chicken from Shabbat dinner, and sauteed it with onions and seasonings, then filled little dough pockets with the savoury mixture and added it to my chicken soup...yumm!  

Needless to say, I love finding similarities between Carlo's and my cultures, and here was yet another one!  

I proceeded to start working the dough, which I made with the Robin Hood flour.  I found the dough much more difficult to knead, and by the time I finished making 50 ravioli, I felt like I had been through a workout!  My shoulders ached and my hands were so sore.  BUT, once the dough was sufficiently kneaded, it was beautiful!  

Once I found the most efficient way to maximize my yield the whole process sped up and you could say (as Mom always did) that I was "cooking with gas"!

The best part of this afternoon was the time spent with Carlo.  I've already told you that he hangs out with me while I prepare dinner, and we catch up on our days, etc., but this time was different - it took me back to the days when we were young and newly married, and used to cook together.  

This ravioli endeavour turned out to be a much greater undertaking than I anticipated, and lasted 3 hours from start to finish!  Fortunately, I prepared the sauce before the pasta, so it had  hours to simmer.  But what about the rest of our meal?!?!  I had planned potatoes fried (I know, not clean eating) with pressed vegetables, rapini and salad - but this pasta was taking all my time and energy.  

First Carlo peeled the potatoes for me.  Then he offered to fry them up with the veggies.  Then he decided to make the rapini.  All the while I was kneading, rolling, filling and cutting ravioli.  Then he made the salad, and set the table.  It was such a relaxing and enjoyable afternoon together, and by the time we sat down to dinner with our girls, I was in a state of utter contentment.  This was one of those afternoons that I will remember forever...

I am happy to report that the ravioli were a huge success, and am I ever glad they were - there is a full meal's worth of ravioli frozen for another dinner!  And the pasta?  Well, I had some dough leftover, and being the frugalista that I am, I decided to turn it into another meal during the week.  I came home, pulled it from the fridge, and the kneading was much easier, allowing me to transform my dough into a delicious lasagna dinner that was appreciated by all!  I am wondering if this dough needs to be refrigerated for a while in order to have it submit to kneading without such a fight....I'll have to get back to you on that one!

Lasagna sheets ready for boiling
The lasagna sheets float to the top right away!
So easy to work with
Lasagna - ready for the oven
Presto - Lasagna!

From my family to yours, I hope you enjoy our recipe for ravioli and kreplach/verenikes.  The recipes for both fillings, and a pictorial step-by-step can be found below.  

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Meat Filling for Naomi's Ravioli 

  • 1 - 2 tsbp olive or canola oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1C carrots, diced 
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ¼ tsp - ½ tsp cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you like your filling)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent.  Add carrots, then ground beef and brown.  Drain mixture, allow to cool a little, and blend until it is the consistency of a spread/pate.   Use approximately ½ tsp of filling in centre of lightly-scored circles on pasta "strip".  

Chicken Filling for Naomi's Kreplach/Verenikes
  • 1 - 2 tbsp olive or canola oil 
  • 2C leftover roast chicken, diced into very small pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste 

Saute onions in olive oil, then add diced chicken and seasoning.   Remove from heat, allow to cool a little and fill!  Kreplach are delicious served in homemade chicken soup!

Pictorial Step-by-step of Naomi's Ravioli-making adventure

Brown minced garlic, diced
onions and carrots  in olive oil 
Add ground beef and brown,
drain and season
Allow to cool slightly, and blend to spreadable consistency
Roll rectangular strip of pasta dough
Fold in half to determine your "work space" 
Lightly score half of sheet, fitting as many circles as possible
Scoop filling into centre of scored circles
Fold over sheet to cover filling
Using cutter, cut individual circles,
pressing tightly all around to seal
Lay ravioli on layers of waxed paper, using
some for dinner and freezing the rest for another meal
(first freeze on the sheet, then place into a Ziploc for storage)
Submerge ravioli into pot of boiling water, and cook for
3 to 5 minutes.  They will automatically float to the top.
Drain, and serve with your favourite sauce!
 B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!