Moleskine Passed Down Recipes Contest Winner!

May 19, 2010

We're happy to announce Nancy White - and her young son's wonderful story about his great-grandmother's ravioli - as the winner of our Moleskine "Passed Down Recipes" contest! Nancy will receive a beautiful suite of journals from Moleskine's new Passions line, such as their fabulous Recipe journal (I have one and LOVE it!). For more on Nancy visit her blog, Nancy's Full Circle. Nancy submitted Emma Barsotti's Ravioli, her Italian grandmother's recipe for handmade ravioli. We loved this submission because it encompassed everything we were looking for in a winner:history, tradition and a special dish that's stood the test of time. While this dish may not frequently be made today, it clearly remains reasonably intact in the hearts and memories of multiple members of this family. We hope you enjoy as much as we did!

Food Traditions: Ravioli (recipe follows)

As transcribed by my son, Chris, when he was in 6th grade in 1998. For the full story see this page. From Chris when he was in 6th grade: To better understand how the tradition has been passed down, I have interviewed several family members. The interview consisted of questions like "When did you learn?" "How did you learn?" "What tools were used?" etc. I interviewed people via telephone, E-mail, and in person. This is what people told me: Nancy White, my mother, said that she learned to make ravioli from her grandmother, Emma Barsotti. She learned to make ravioli when she was fifteen or sixteen. She learned by watching Emma . She thinks that Emma probably got the recipe from a family member. She remembers Emma using a big ceramic bowl, a meat grinder, a ravioli cutter, and a special rolling pin for making ravioli. She has only made them three or for times her entire life because they take too long to make and are lot of work. She also remembers Emma making big batches and then freezing the extras all nice and flat in boxes so she would have them on hand in case unexpected company came over. Mary Frances, my mother’s sister, said that she too learned to make ravioli from Emma Barsotti. She learned in her late teens to early twenties. Mary Frances said that Emma did not use a written recipe and that she had to write it down so she would have it. Emma used a large cutting board, and a ravioli rolling pin. Mary Frances doesn’t make them now because they are so time consuming to make. They are also easier to buy ready-made. Mary Frances remembers Emma that served ravioli as an appetizer although she serves ravioli as a main course. She also remembers the freezing of the raviolis so they would be on hand. Randy Wright, my mother’s brother, learned by asking Emma Barsotti for the recipe and filling in details with cook books (Joy of Cooking). He learned when he was twenty-five years old. He remembers Emma using a hand meat grinder, a special rolling pin, and a cutter similar to a pizza cutter. He doesn’t make them much anymore because they take too long to make and they are easier to buy ready made. Dolores Wright, my grandmother, watched her mother, Emma Barsotti, make ravioli, but she never actually made ravioli on her own. She remembers Emma using a special rolling pin and a ravioli cutter. She never made ravioli on her own because they took too much work and she found it too hard to guess how thin the dough should be. She enjoys eating ravioli though. My conclusion from the interviews is that the recipe is slowly dying out because it is not being made as often. One reason is that it takes too long to make. Another reason the tradition is slowly disappearing is because now most anything you can buy ready made. The ready-made pasta at the stores also is not bad. Another conclusion is that today most people’s jobs take up most of their day and they have found it is not worth it spending half the day to make what could be bought and made in ten minutes. I have also found that there seems to be patterns and differences in how people have learned the ravioli tradition. I have also discovered that people’s memories are not always the same. Ravioli Filling: 1 pound veal 1 pound pork ¾ cup chopped onion ½ cup chopped celery ½ cup chopped parsely Garlic, to taste 2 cups chopped drained spinach ½ to ¾ cup parmesan cheese 1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks Salt and pepper, to taste 2 Slices of bread soaked in bouillon and crumbled up Pasta: 6 cups flour 8 tablespoons water ¾ teaspoon salt 8 tablespoons oil 4 eggs The first step in making my great-grandmothers recipe for ravioli was gathering the ingredients and the tools you will use. The tools include: a big mixing bowl, a rolling pin for rolling dough and a special one for making ravioli. You also need a big cutting board or surface to roll out the dough. This step is simple. The next step is to make the dough.For this you need to put the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the dry ingredients together. Then make a well in the dry ingredients and put the eggs, oil, and water in it. Mix it gently with a fork, gradually mixing in the flour until it is to tough to mix with a fork. In this step you must pace yourself and mix the ingredients bit by bit because it makes it easier to mix. Gradually you incorporate all the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. This is where you need to make sure it is not too wet or not too dry. After it is too tough to mix you have to pick it up and knead it. You should knead it for about ten minutes. As you knead it will become elastic, shiny and easier to knead. I found that your wrists get sore while kneading. If the dough is too dry you might have to sprinkle water gradually until it is no longer dry. After the dough is made you must let it set for one hour. This is boring, but there is some thing you can do while you are waiting. You can make the filling. To make the filling you brown the meat. Make sure it is fully cooked. We used ground veal and pork. Emma Barsotti used to brown cubes of meat and then hand grind it herself. Then you take all the vegetable ingredients (which include onions, celery and parsley) except the spinach and chop them up and sauté them with the meat. The meat smells really good, but you have to keep your mind on what you are doing. You can tell when the vegetables are done when the onions are transparent. Now you must take the drained spinach (we used frozen, like Emma Barsotti did), the meat, and the cooked vegetables and mix them with the Parmesan cheese in a food processor. Emma Barsotti did not have a food processor. She used a grinder. I suggest that that you taste it now because you don’t get another chance because next you mix the raw eggs in. The filling tastes really good. Beat the egg and mix it with the filling. Now you have to get the dough out and tear off a chunk. Take the chunk and flatten it out with a rolling pin. If the dough is dry this step will be really hard. That is why I stress that you should take your time and make sure the dough is not too dry when you make it. We made ours a little too dry. Although you do not want to make the dough too wet. That is why making the dough and judging how thin the dough should be are the hardest steps. Once you have rolled the dough into a large rectangle about one eighth of an inch thick, put small balls of filling about twice the size of a marble about one half an inch apart in a grid pattern over half of the sheet of dough. This is where the special ravioli rolling pin comes in. The rolling pin is like a regular rolling pin except that there are several thin strips of wood that make a grid pattern with indentations in between them. As you roll this pin over the dough it makes the grid that the filling will lay on. (note: you don't have to use the ravioli pin) In between each row of balls you must paint a line with water making a checker pattern that will help the pockets seal. Then the dough is folded over and you roll the rolling pin over it and the rolling pin seals the dough making the separate pockets. You use a cutter similar to a pizza cutter to cut the edges of each pocket. The cutter is a metal disk with a crimped zig-zag cutting edge that cuts the pattern on the edges of each ravioli. The last step is to cook them by boiling them until they float to the top of the water. Then comes my favorite step, eating it! For a printable version of the recipe click below:

Emma Barsotti’s Ravioli



Julie M.'s picture

Thanks for sharing that recipe. I am one of those people that believe it's so important to carry down recipes through the generations. They're a link to family history and can be so easily lost and never repeated again. I'm glad you were able to document this and save it for the next generation!

Thank you for stopping by my blog and I'm so glad I was able to check out yours!

Abigail Louise's picture


Passed downs recipes are always the best, and its great to see this is being recognised! I am slowly copying all my mothers recipes when cooking!

Abigail x