Rebekah and Verdine

Rebekah and Verdine

I promised to post the recipes we learned in September 2013 from Franco Mazzei, chef, after I tested them at home in Hawaii with local ingredients. I dare to publish only the ones for the fresh pasta and sauces; those are the only ones for which I took fairly complete notes. Even so, I am a little reluctant because the taste is simply not the same as I remember it in Italy.

The taste is close, but not exact, for a couple of reasons: In Italy, the highest quality of ingredients is available. Organically grown and home grown and farm raised, for example; or the freshest and the best—wine, for example, is so much better and so much more flavorful that there is no need for seasoning with additional herbs and spices. Secondly, Chef Franco did not use measuring spoons or measuring cups, so in the recipes below, the amounts are approximate.

Regardless, making the food from scratch still tastes better than dried pasta or the ready-made Chinese wonton wrappers and noodles you can buy from the refrigerator case at the store.

All the recipes combined make enough for 8 to 10 people. It takes three hours or more for one person to prepare and cook the whole menu, that is, two hours cooking time alone for the sauces on the stove top. Consider enlisting the help of other family members, or have a hands-on dinner party where the guests make the food together, as our group did with chef Franco. (You’ll need more than one rolling-pin.) Or, do all the prep work ahead of time. As mom used to say, “Many hands make light work.” The recipes may be divided for fewer servings.

To keep ravioli for future meals, arrange uncooked ravioli in a single layer in a pan and place in the freezer. When the ravioli are frozen hard, place them in a zip top freezer bag; return to freezer. If you cook them frozen, add 2 or 3 minutes to the cooking time. A mixed green salad rounds out the meal. Add freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, if you wish.

Fresh pasta

1/2 kilo (500 grams) farina TIPO “00” (white all-purpose flour)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup water (and more, 1/4 cup at a time as needed)

In a large bowl, add 2 eggs to flour. Add salt. Add 1/4 cup water. Mix dough in one direction, squeezing with your hand. Dust your hands with flour to keep them from sticking. Add more water a little at a time until the dough pulls away from the bowl and forms a ball. If the dough is too moist to handle, add a little flour. Lift dough ball out of the bowl and knead in both hands using this method: Stretch open the dough ball, fold under and close, press; rotate 90 degrees in a circle and repeat. (This is similar to kneading dough on a board, but chef did it in his hands.) Knead for about 10 minutes into a ball. Cover with a damp towel to keep from drying out and let dough rest for 30 minutes.

Chef Franco demonstrates to Kevin and Rae his method of kneading pasta dough.

Chef Franco demonstrates to Kevin and Rae his method of kneading pasta dough.

While the dough is resting, mix the filling for ravioli. Allow 1 teaspoonful per ravioli. Refrigerate fillings until you are ready to fill the ravioli.

Ravioli Filling #1 – Mix 1 part cheese to 2 parts pork. For example, Chef Franco used
250 grams fresh Stracchino cheese (A soft, creamy cheese made from cow’s milk. You may substitute mascarpone and cream cheese if you can’t find Stracchino.)
500 grams ground seasoned pork sausage with casings removed, “special for ragu”

Ravioli Filling #2 – Mix together until evenly combined. Thaw first if frozen.
20 ounces cooked chopped spinach, well drained (squeeze out excess water)
10 ounces ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
1/2 cup flour, approximately, added to make the mixture less wet and to bind the ingredients

Fresh pasta, continued from above

After dough has rested for about 30 minutes, divide into 4 parts. Roll out 1 part evenly on a well-floured board until dough feels like a very thin chamois, about 1/16 inch thick. Keep the rest under a damp cloth to keep it from drying out. Dust your rolling-pin with flour to prevent it from sticking. Press down hard on the rolling-pin as you roll.

The big wooden kitchen table was ideal for four couples to roll out the pasta dough.

The big wooden kitchen table was ideal for four couples to roll out the pasta dough.

With a knife, cut the rolled out dough into 2-1/2-inch squares. Spoon 1 teaspoon of filling #1 onto the middle of each square. Fold each ravioli in half and seal the edges by pressing together with the tines of a fork. Each ravioli will look like a rectangle.

The shape of the spinach and cheese ravioli (filling #2) is a half moon. Roll out a second part of the dough thinly, as above, and cut out rounds with a 3-inch cookie cutter or the floured rim of a beverage glass. Fill each with 1 teaspoon of the spinach mixture, fold in half, and seal the ravioli by lightly moistening the edges with water and pressing the edges to close.

Spinach and cheese ravioli

Spinach and cheese ravioli

For long noodles, roll out the third part of the dough into a long, thin rectangle. If you run out of rolling space, divide the dough in half and roll one smaller section at a time. Sprinkle the top with flour. Starting with the short side, roll up loosely like a jelly roll. With a knife, cut the roll into round slices about 1/2 inch wide. Unravel into noodles and dust with a little flour to keep them from sticking. Set aside. This pasta is called tagliatelle.

Flour-dusted tagliatelle on the left, and macaroni on the right don't take long to cook: 2 to 3 minutes.

Flour-dusted tagliatelle on the left, and macaroni on the right don’t take long to cook: about 2 minutes.

Roll out the remaining dough and cut into 1-1/2 inch squares for macaroni. Pinch each into bows, flowers, or other interesting shapes.

COOKING THE PASTA. Set a large pot of water to boil. When water reaches a boil, add each type of pasta separately. Start with the meat ravioli and cook until al dente, 5-7 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 135 degrees F. (Take one out of the boiling water to test.) Carefully lift out of water with a slotted spoon and add to the sauce. Do not pour into a colander to drain. The small amount of pasta cooking water will help to thicken the sauce. Combine the pasta and the sauce gently to avoid breaking the ravioli. Next cook the spinach ravioli 3 to 5 minutes. Lastly, the noodles and macaroni, about 2 minutes. Serve with sauce.

Pork filled ravioli combined with ragu sauce

Pork filled ravioli combined with ragu sauce

Ragu Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium white onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 pounds (500 grams) ground beef (with 20% fat)
Good quality Chianti wine (look for the label with the black rooster)
1 can (14 oz) chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 sprig fresh rosemary, about 5″ (discard bare twig before serving)

Brown onions in olive oil. Add a little water to the onions, little by little, so they don’t burn, and cook until they are soft, about 7 minutes. Avoid boiling. Add ground beef to the onions. Stir to combine. Cook and mix for 15 minutes, stirring constantly.
When beef is fully cooked, drain off and discard the fat, then add Chianti to the pan to cover the meat mixture. Bring to a boil.
Add canned chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, rosemary, and 1 cup water. Cover sauce and cook on medium-low heat for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Check frequently and add more water as needed to keep the meat covered.
Sauce will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
Serve with pasta.

Tomato Basil Sauce

3 to 4 fresh Roma tomatoes per person
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil per person
Water, start with 8 ounces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Blanch tomatoes in boiling water for 3 minutes. Lift out carefully and peel under cold water. Skin should slip off easily. Set aside to drain.

Cut tomatoes in quarters and sauté with the basil in olive oil for 10 minutes. Add water. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 2 hours. Check frequently to make sure there is water in the pan and the sauce does not burn. After the first hour, stir and break up the tomatoes further. Continue cooking for the remaining hour.

Serve with spinach ravioli or other pasta.

Pass the Chianti

Pass the Chianti