It was 1º F. when we woke up yesterday morning. Sarah and Nathan were dropping the D boys off at our place at 9 AM, and I had the pleasure of keeping them busy for the next 4-5 hours, until Barbara returned. Given the temperature, I quickly scrapped the idea of going sledding with them, and instead, decided to make ravioli from scratch. This would occupy almost 3 hours, provide lunch for us all, and be in my comfort zone for sure.
There are dozens of ways to make ravioli, but I chose to use the method I thought an eight and six year old would enjoy, and one I had used before. For the dough recipe, I went to my ravioli maven and consultant, Laura Schenone, author of The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken. If you enjoy pasta, love Italy, and/or just enjoy a good story, buy the paperback and read it — one of my favorites.
We started by mixing the dough: 2 cups of flour, 1 egg, a tablespoon of olive oil, and 1/2 tsp. of kosher salt. Fortunately, there were two cups of flour so each boy could measure one of them and put it in the Cuisinart food processor. Douglas cracked the egg perfectly and dropped in the mixing bowl, and Dexter did the salt. As they pulsed the contents to mix the dry ingredients, they each drizzled some tepid water into the top, until it formed a ball on the blade. We floured the granite counter, dropped the dough on top, and each did some kneading until smooth. The dough was wrapped in plastic wrap and left to relax on the counter for 40 minutes.
In the meantime, we then went to work on the filling. After I washed a bunch of Swiss Chard and some baby spinach leaves, the boys carefully stripped off the leaves from the chard ribs, and also removed the stems from the spinach. Slow, tedious, but necessary work, and time was moving right along. Amazingly, the boys stayed with it.
I steamed the two greens on the stove top, squeezed out the water, and then placed them in the Cuisinart. Now for flavorings: leftover caramelized onions, walnut and rosemary from an earlier pasta sauce; a little grated Parmesan cheese, the only non-vegan part; olive oil, salt and pepper; and several gratings of nutmeg by each grandson. Blended together and finely-chopped, this was pronounced ready as a filling.
Next, was the fun part…rolling the pasta dough. I pulled our old Atlas Marcato pasta machine out of the drawer and attached it to the end of the counter, where a small step stool enabled the boys to reach the controls. After my brief lecture on the importance of the thinnest possible sheet of pasta for the ravioli, we got to work, rolling each of four dough balls from initial thick setting (#1) to the finest (#6). Somewhere near 45 minutes later, we had rolled all the pasta dough into thin sheets, and were ready to fill them. I pulled out the ravioli frame and mold, plus some hand tools, and made them both ways, with the boys alternating on the filling work, and then dropping the finished raviolis onto the drying rack.
They were very meticulous and engaged in the process. We took a half hour break while I straightened the kitchen a little, and then I put a pot of water on the stove and cooked the ravioli. While that was heating up, I chopped three cloves of garlic and some parsley, and sautéed them in olive oil, salt and pepper, for the sauce. While we were doing the other cooking, I also decided to make a recipe for Braised Cippolini with an Orange Juice-Balsamic Glaze, using a small amount of those onions I had bought the week before.
In the last stage, when reducing the liquid for the sauce, I got distracted and almost burned it — but not quite, it was saved. Anyway, the three of us sat down for a fine lunch, right on schedule. Grandpas do have a redeeming feature or two, after all!