My dad surprised me with a somewhat last minute trip down to see me this past weekend. There are a few things I can always count on when he visits – good food, a glimpse into my family’s history, and him razzing me for not wanting to take his dog for a walk in the “feels like 4°F” Boston weather. He has a lot of great family stories that I need to start writing down so I can pass them along to my imaginary children one day.
For this visit we decided to make homemade Spinach Ravioli with a Sage Butter Sauce. I found the recipe on Memories in the Baking’s blog and, boy, am I glad I did. This one is a keeper! For the pasta I decided to use Tyler Florence’s recipe as I didn’t have semolina (which Memories in the Baking’s recipe called for) and hate buying something just to use a half cup of and then letting it take up precious cabinet space.
The spinach raviolis with sage butter sauce came out much better than I ever would have thought. Don’t get me wrong, knowing what went into them I realized they would taste good but I had no idea HOW good. They were cheesy but light, filling but fluffy, creamy but fresh. I could have eaten another half dozen without thinking twice (if I knew I didn’t have dessert in the oven). We’ve had so much fun making ravioli together I think it’s becoming our “thing”!
Over wine and raviolis I got to dig around my dad’s brain for memories of our family in Malta, where my grandfather, Horatio Emmanuel Luigi Plant, was born. My grandfather didn’t stay long in Malta once he was born but the entire side of his mother’s family remained. He had gone back as an adult for some paperwork (and maybe business?) and taken my father with him. My dad was maybe 11? They took a boat over to Sliema which is where my grandfather believed he had an aunt living. They stopped into a little convenient store on a cobbled street and asked the shopkeeper if he knew of any Cesares (my great grandmother’s surname) living in the area and he was told that Connie (Consuela? Concetta?) lived a few doors down. They headed to her house not knowing what to expect and how they would be greeted as my grandfather hadn’t seen her since he was a toddler. When they got to her door she opened it knowing it was my grandfather on the other side and greeted them warmly. When Horatio was a boy he had been in an accident which he needed surgery for which left him with one leg shorter than the other. His walk had a distinct melody to it and Aunt Connie, knowing this through letters from my great grandmother, could hear the rhythmic tap of his shoes echoing through the cobbled streets towards her door. She was so excited to see the two of them she called up other family members, about 70 of them, to get together later that evening.
Stories like these have me dreaming about going to Malta and looking up the Cesare family. My family.
Until then, here are some recipes.
Pasta Dough for Ravioli
Adapted from Tyler Florence
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
To make the pasta dough: In an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook*, combine the flour and salt. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to mix. Drizzle in 1 tablespoons of the olive oil and continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball. Sprinkle some flour on work surface, knead and fold the dough until elastic and smooth, this should take about 10 minutes. Brush the surface with the remaining olive oil and wrap the dough in plastic wrap; let rest for about 30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.
*Alternatively if you don’t have an electric mixer: Combine the flour and salt on a flat work surface; shape into a mound and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the well and lightly beat with a fork. Gradually draw in the flour from the inside wall of the well in a circular motion. Use 1 hand for mixing and the other to protect the outer wall. Continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball. Continue as directed above.
Cut the ball of dough in 1/2, cover and reserve the piece you are not immediately using to prevent it from drying out. Dust the counter and dough with a little flour. Press the dough into a rectangle and roll it through a pasta machine, 2 or 3 times, at widest setting. Pull and stretch the sheet of dough with the palm of your hand as it emerges from the rollers. Reduce the setting and crank the dough through again, 2 or 3 times. Continue tightening until the machine is at the narrowest setting; the dough should be paper-thin, about 1/8-inch thick (you should be able to see your hand through it.). Dust the sheets of dough with flour as needed.
Dust the counter and sheet of dough with flour, lay out the long sheet of pasta, and drop tablespoons of your favorite filling on 1/2 of the pasta sheet, about 2-inches apart. Fold the other 1/2 over the filling like a blanket. With an espresso cup or fingers, gently press out air pockets around each mound of filling. Use a sharp knife or ravioli press to cut each pillow into squares and crimp the 4 edges with the tins of a fork to make a tight seal (I didn’t do this, they will stick if you just press them down tightly but softly). Dust the ravioli and a sheet pan with flour to prevent the pasta from sticking and lay them out to dry slightly while assembling the rest.
Adapted from Memories in the Baking
10 ounces of spinach, washed and stemmed
1 pound whole milk ricotta
3 ounces of mascarpone
1 large egg
3 ounces of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Pinch of nutmeg
Cook the spinach in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 30 seconds. Drain thoroughly. Set aside to cool a bit. Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the spinach, and finely chop.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, mascarpone, egg, Parmigiano Reggiano, and nutmeg, until smooth. Fold in finely chopped spinach. Season with salt to taste.
Fill ravioli with filling and set aside until ready to cook! Freeze any leftovers that are not being used immediately.
Sage Butter Sauce
Adapted from Memories in the Baking
3 tablespoons shallots, minced
½ cup dry, white wine
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
Salt & Pepper to taste
Sauté shallots in 2 tablespoons of butter, about 3-5 minutes. Add white wine, heavy cream, chicken stock and lemon juice. Simmer until sauce is reduced by half. Gently whisk in remaining butter, one tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly. Adding butter only until the previous addition has completely melted. Add sage. Salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the ravioli in a large pot of boiling, salted water, about 5 minutes, or until they rise to the surface. Drain well. Transfer ravioli to a serving bowl and sprinkle lightly with salt. Pour the sage butter sauce over the ravioli and sprinkle with as much Parmigiano-Reggiano as your little heart desires. Serves 6 (Yeah, right).
Oh, and what’s this? I couldn’t resist making this Molten Chocolate Cake again as it’s my new favorite thing ever. It’s so easy to make, you can prepare it in advance, and it’s completely decadent and fancy! A little scoop of vanilla FroYo on the side rounds it out as the cake is still warm and gooey from the oven. I can’t get enough of how you just pull it open ever so delicately and the insides just melt all over the plate. Yes! I may soon turn into a little chocolate cake if I am not careful.