April 2009

Ravioli alla Ricotta - Ricotta Cheese Ravioli (Recipe)

Ricotta ravioli in bowl


Nothing beats the anticipation of a plate of freshly made raviolis with ricotta cheese or meat filling!

  Raviolis are just one of the classic Italian filled pastas that you should attempt to master!

I just look at that picture and fear comes into my mind, the fear that my brother will get more than me!  We all waited for the call to the table!

There were so many Raviolis on the bed that we had to hang up our coats! The kitchen filled with family all catching up on what's new with who and sharing stories of past times.

 The aroma of a pot of Gravy cooking on the stove, fresh basil growing in the window in tomato cans and the faint hint of gas from an old space heater in the kitchen.

The table was set with a mix match of glasses plastic, metal and cut crystal. The table was covered in special linen and the kids table in newspaper! Homemade Wine on the table in gallons!

It is amazing how food can conjure such imagery! I can just taste them now!

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Ricotta Cheese Filling (Recipe)

Ravioli being filled



The most important thing about this recipe is the selection you make when buying the Ricotta cheese.


Find a Ricotta that is not bound up with lots of starches or gums to tie up moisture.  The Ricotta should be whole milk and drained properly in a colander in the refrigerator, overnight if possible.  Important to also note that you must use flat Italian parsley  not the curly kind as well as good quality Imported Parmesan and Romano.

This recipe does not have salt but will get its saltiness from the grated Romano and Parmesan Cheese.  If Romano is too assertive then only use Parmesan Cheese.

Use this recipe for your Ravioli, Manicotti and Lasagna filling. Also great to stuff chicken breasts with!

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Italian Tomato Sauce "Gravy" (Recipe)

Italian Gravy

Some call it Tomato Sauce and others call it "Gravy", whatever you call it is a must have for the Italian Family kitchen.

I have fond memories of a large pot of Gravy simmering all day on on Saturday !  The simple pleasure of dipping Italian bread in to the sauce as it is simmering or cheating a piece of sausage or a meatball as a prelude to the meal to come.


Start your Gravy it in the morning as your day goes by and  your home will be filled with the feeling of warmth and comfort! As the children come is they will ask it it is ready yet and eagerly ask if they can have some before dinner is ready. You give in..... 

As you lovingly scrape down the sides and stir the gravy up from the bottom you are overwhelmed with a deep sense of satisfaction as well as the pride that comes with following family tradition.

I know it is just a recipe for tomato sauce but for me it is so much more, it is love!


Italian Tomato Sauce  "Gravy'


2 cans 28 oz San Marzano Tomatoes crushed

1 can. 28 oz Italian Tomatoes puree

1 large can Tomato paste

1 medium bulb garlic peeled and chopped

1/8 cup fine grated carrot

1 cup fine chopped onion

1/8. cup fine chopped celery

1/2 heaping tbsp Mexican oregano

1 heaping tbsp leaf basil

1  tbsp dry Italian parsley

 1 tsp black pepper

2 pinches crushed red chili

1 tbsp salt or to taste

1/8 cup lard (or olive oil)

1/8 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1 cup red wine

1/8 cup fresh chopped Italian parsley

5 large fresh basil leaves torn

2 cans water


  • In a large pot, heat the lard till it crackles when a drop of water is added.
  1. Reduce heat to medium Add garlic and brown lightly Add onion,carrot, celery and cook till soft

  2. Add all dry herbs, and wine hold back the salt pepper, chilies, fresh herbs and parm till end Reduce till almost dry.

  3. Add all tomato products and water Mix well add salt. pepper.chilies and parm.

  4. Simmer the "gravy" till thick and not watery. Stir often to assure it does not burn. When the sauce is done about 2 hours add the fresh herbs, stir and serve or use in your favorite recipe.

Freeze in small containers If you are making meatballs you may add them to your gravy while it is cooking. Same for Italian Sausage.

* Try browning Pancetta and using the natural drippings instead of lard

* When making Italian Meatballs start your sauce in the same pot you fry them in or be sure to de-glaze the pan and add the drippings to your sauce. Enjoy!


Pastiera Napoletana


Pie shell for pastaria
Pastaria ready to eat
Photos by Maggie Soladay

As I was searching for for Pastiera Napoletana. I came across this great piece written by Carla Passino, http://www.italymag.co.uk


I also have included a recipe that I found in the Ambassador Magazine of the

 National Italian American Foundation


Ms. Passino covers some Naples classics. 

-"The first thing that strikes you about Pastiera Napoletana is its scent. It’s like smelling a bouquet of orange flowers. Indeed orange flower water and orange peel go into this pie, which has a crisp golden crust and a soft, creamy filling of ricotta, sugar, eggs and cooked wheat, flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla.


 It is so heavenly that legend wants it to be the creation of a siren, Partenope, protectress of Naples, who concocted it from the food offerings the populace brought her every spring. The cake, Neapolitans say, was the only thing that was sweeter than the siren’s voice.


Another story gives Pastiera Napoletana equally sacred but more modern origins—it is said that a nun of a Neapolitan convent first made it to celebrate Easter, and tried to capture in the recipe the scents of Spring blooming in the cloister garden. Indeed, Pastiera was long the preserve of nunneries, which excelled at making the cake.


Today, it is made at home, usually on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, so that the flavors have time to blend and steep before the Easter banquet.


Recipe from the Italian Culinary Institute in New York City


2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups lard
1 1/4 cups sugar
5 egg yolks

*Vegetable shortening can replace lard, but lard is the traditional ingrediient in this Neapolitan specialty and adds to the pie's distinctive taste.


In a mixing bowl, cut the lard into the flour until fine crumbs form.

Make a well in the center. Add 5 yolks.

Bring the dough together by pulling and pressing, avoiding excess kneading. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.

Roll out the dough and line the pan. Dough should fold over the edge of the pie pan.

Reserve leftover frolla to cut 3/4 inch strips for the top of the pie.

Note: Frolla made with lard is very fragile. We rolled to a little thicker than 1/8 inch within an envelope of wax paper, then removed the top layer of wax paper and flipped the frolla into the pie pan. Frolla dough can be refrigerated overnight.



17 oz. sheep ricotta (or cow ricotta)
2 cups sugar


Crumble the ricotta and place into a mixing bowl.

Fold in sugar well by hand.

Let stand overnight in the refrigerator; Return to room temperature for mixing into the filling.

Some recipes call for straining the ricogtta before adding it.  this is not necessary. 


Recipe is a combination of one taught at Italian Culinary Institute and a traditional recipe from Chef Guido Magnuagno.


1 cup hulled wheat berry soaked in water for 12 hours (Water can be changed 1 or 2 times, if desired)
6 oz. milk
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon orange blossom water

Zest of 1/2 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice (1 tbsp. in reserve)
1 tablespoon sugar Water to cover Hint of salt

Drain water from the grain.

Place grain, zest, lemon juice, sugar, crumbled cinnamon stick and salt in a covered saucepan under a low flame with enough water to cover.

Cook until grain is somewhat softer and larger, or about 25 to 30 minutes.

Drain the water. Place the wheat and all other ingredients back in the saucepan and add milk. (If the grain is salty, add reserved lemon juice.) Stir vigorously for another 10 minutes or until the mixture is creamy (not sticky), and the grain is al dente.

Remove and place into a mixing bowl.


Recipe is a combination of Italian Culinary Institute's recipe and a traditional one.


Pre-prepared Ricotta/Sugar mixture ('The Ricotta")

1 1/4 cups pre-prepared wheat mixture ('The Grain")
4 eggs, 3 yolks*

4 teaspoons orange blossom water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tbsp. lard

1/3 cup freshly made candied fruit (orange and lemon)
Dash of cinnamon Confectioner's Sugar for dusting

*Yolks result in a dense pie; if you wish to have a lighter consistency, replace them with 2 egg whites. Whip separately and add 2 tbs. sugar right before they peak. Fold in at the end, after the wheat has been added to the filling, and just before emptying the filling into the frolla.


Add the following ingredients to the pre-prepared ricotta/ sugar mixture: 4 eggs and 2 yolks, lard, vanilla, orange blossom water and cinnamon. Whip with a hand mixer until smooth.

Add candied fruit and pre­prepared grain. Blend by hand.

In a small bowl, whip 1 yolk with 2 tsp. water.



Roll out reserved dough to a greater thickness than crust (more than 1/8 inch) in an envelope of wax paper. Remove the top sheet of wax paper and cut four strips about 3/4 inch wide. (Less experienced bakers may wish to cut more than four strips so that if a strip tears in the middle of the pie, it can be picked out of the filling and quickly replaced with another.)

Brush yolk and water mixture over the frolla around the edges of the pie pan.

Spoon filling into the pie pan.

Replace the wax paper over the strips of frolla so that only one strip is exposed at one time. Flip the strip diagonally over the filling carefully securing  the strip at each edge of the pie. Repeat to create a lattice design.

Brush yolk and water mixture over the strips.

Place pie in oven pre-heated to 375 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes. Lower oven to 325 degrees and cook for another 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


Cool and then refrigerate la pastiera for an hour or more before dusting it generously with confectioner's sugar. Pie should be refrigerated. It will stay fresh for four or five days.