Sicilian Ravioli with Tomato & Meat Sauce
Anita learned how to make Sicilian ravioli from her neighbor Beatrice during a home cooking lesson in Sicily, and shares her tips on making tender ravioli.
Tomato Pork Sauce
In a pot, brown the pork along with sausage in a few tablespoons of olive oil. After the meat is browned, remove it from the pot. In the remaining oil, sauté a sliced onion over a low flame and as it becomes dry, add a glass of water and cook until the onion is soft and nearly dissolved. Return the meat to the pot with the onion, turn the heat up and sprinkle the mixture with about 1/3 cup of white wine. When the wine has evaporated, add the plain sieved tomatoes (passato di pomodoro). This is where Beatrice described the amount of tomato as being “enough to make the meat comfortable.” The tomato passato should be fairly liquid-we used a home-canned version Beatrice had made last summer. If yours is a thick store bought variety you will need to add some water. The excess water in the tomato passato will evaporate during the cooking. Bring the meat & tomato sauce to a boil, and let simmer partially covered (put a wooden spoon under the cover so that the steam can escape), and cook for about 1½ hours, until the sauce is thick. Taste & add salt if necessary and a few leaves of basil.
The ricotta should be a couple of days old and well drained - if it is runny your ravioli will be a mess. Beat the ricotta with a fork, and add a tiny grating of fresh nutmeg and mix well.
The amount below will make 6-8 dozen ravioli. You can halve the recipe, and use half of a beaten egg. (Don’t be tempted to use all the egg as the dough will be tough.)
Heap the flour on a large wooden board or wooden table top, and make a well in the middle. Add the egg, and with your fingers gradually mix the egg into the flour. Then begin adding water, a tablespoon or two at a time, gathering the flour together until it forms a rough ball. Knead for about 10 minutes. You should have a smooth dough that is the consistency of an earlobe when pressed between 2 fingers!
Dust a large wooden board with flour and roll out about an eighth of the dough, dusting the dough with flour occasionally so that it does not stick to the rolling pin. The rolling pin in this case was a long wooden rod about 1½ inches (4 cm) in diameter, without handles. You can use a wider pin, but it should be one long piece. As the dough becomes thinner, dust it again with flour for this next step. Roll the edge of the dough over the rolling pin, and place the palms of your hands on top of the dough, and with a very short rolling motion, move your hands outwards so that the dough widens. Continue to roll the dough around the pin and place your hands on top, repeating this outward motion. This will make the dough wider. Unroll the dough from the pin and continue to roll it out thinner and thinner. The dough should become thin enough so that light barely comes through it, but not completely translucent or it will break when cooking.
Cut 4-inch (10 cm) circles in the dough, using a cutter or an upside down glass. (The excess dough may be re-rolled - don’t add it to the “new dough”, but make a pile of all the scraps to re-roll later.) Place a dollop of ricotta filling in the middle of each dough circle. Fold the dough over to form a half moon, and press the edges with the sides of your index fingers to seal the dough. Then, with a jagged edge dough cutter, trim off half of the excess dough- this will provide an extra seal and more finished look to the ravioli. Don’t cut off all the extra dough edge-the ravioli expand when they cook, and if you cut too close to the filling they are more likely to pop open while cooking.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the ravioli for about 5 minutes. Drain very well (important!) and top with the pork sauce and grated caciocavallo cheese, which has a sharp flavor that is a nice accent against the mild ricotta. After you eat the ravioli, served the meat as a second course. Drink a nero d’avola and you will be happy for the rest of the day. Buon appetito!
Would you like to make this dish along with other seasonal specialties? Cook with Anita on a 1-day tour in Sicily, or learn this and more on Walking & Cooking in Eastern Sicily.