My mum used to say that I had started a food blog as I had plenty of free time: I still didn’t have a boyfriend at the advanced age of twenty-eight. Once you’ll find someone, you won’t have time for the blog anymore, she would say, looking up to the sky. Well, she was completely right, and completely wrong, as mothers always are in the eyes of their daughters.
Yes, I actually had plenty of time after work and during the weekends to notice that my love for food deserved all my commitment and curiosity. Therefore, I happily invested all my free time in cookbooks reading, recipe testing, workshops of food photography and food writing. I would go to sleep with a stack of cookbooks by my side, choosing every evening which recipe would have kept me company in my dreams. I know it might sound slightly desperate, but I was happy.
In 2012, I found myself without a daily job, and I decided to give it a try. Yes, I could turn my passion for food into my new job.
It took my about one year of late night working, trials and errors, a steep learning curve on how to handle clients and deadlines to have some rare pockets of free time again. At the end of that year, after almost four years of blogging, I had become the person I wanted to be. That December I met Tommaso.
Unexperienced as I was, it took me a few months to realise how that geeky guy, who loved photography, dogs, hiking in the mountains, Madonna, watching TV series, Batman, anything Apple would create, Sacher torte and Burger King (!!!) could be the one I had been waiting for years.
And here I luckily proved my mum wrong. Not only I did not abandon this blog once he tiptoed into my life, but he completely embraced my project, the cooking classes and the woollen jumpers in August to shot a Christmas menu, a retired life in the countryside, my large, loud family and a fluffy shedding white dog. We’ve been a couple for five years now, living and working together for more than three years, we are continuously moving the furniture in our apartment to make it more comfortable and, in less than one month, we’re getting married.
I am thirty-seven years old and I am getting married, not with my Prince Charming but with a real man, who proved to be honest and reliable, who generously embraced my life and my dreams, helping me to turn them into reality.
If I hadn’t had plenty of free time ten years ago, I would not have discovered my call and my real self and how resolute I could be to fulfil my bold dreams. When I finally fully appreciated who I was and who I could be, when I fearless opened my heart to novelties and to the possibility of change, Tommaso appeared into my life.
So now, the wedding
You’ve been here all these years, since the beginning, always supportive. You’ve read about my struggles with a daily job I didn’t like, about my hopes and expectations, about my days as a twenty-something single woman who was so full of romantic dreams fuelled by Jane Austen’s novels. You noticed that something had changed that summer of five years ago when I started using usinstead of me, when two male hands appeared in the photos of this blog. You cheered for us, I felt you were genuinely happy for us.
I could not resist any longer to share this news with you all! On the 22ndof September, we’re getting married in the little parish church of Mensanello, where I was baptized by an ancient priest with shaking hands exactly 37 years ago.
It will be a simple almost home-made country wedding, just as we are.
I know you are thinking: how, when and where did he propose? Well, real life, we just happened to talk about it after attending a friends’ wedding there and it happened, and again, when we tell this story to our friends they say: we could not expect anything different from you two, this is just like you are.
We chose September as this is at the end of the high season of cooking classes, because I can’t stand the summer heat, go figure with a wedding dress, because the countryside in September comes to a new life and gets all busy with the grape harvest.
We chose September and the first day of Autumn because for me, since the school time, September is the true beginning of a new year and I could not think at a better moment to start afresh a new life as husband and wife.
We will have our wedding reception at our friends’ agriturismo in Mensanello, eating local cheese, their charcuterie, their free-range pork served with seasonal vegetables. We will drink their wine and beer. A dear friend will bake our wedding cake and all the little desserts. We made fresh ricotta ravioli for all the wedding guests, jams and compotes to go with the cheese, and a truckload of liqueurs, from limoncello to nocino.
In the next days and weeks I’ll tell you more about the menu and all the details of the organisation. Today I want to share with you the recipe we used to make the tortelli, as it happens to be also a recipe of my cooking repertoire.
It’s always handy to have a fresh pasta recipe in your cooking repertoire.
Last year I decided to share these recipes, staples of a Tuscan repertoire, analyzing the ingredients and the process with plenty of details so that, if you want, you’ll be able to include them into your collection and make Tuscan cooking your signature style.
After the crespelle alla fiorentina and the eggplant meatballs, after the ricotta and kale gnudi, after one of the desserts you loved the most, a humble Tuscan apple olive oil cake, and after this summer hit, the baked eggplants, it is time to introduce a fresh pasta recipe.
The basic recipe for Italian ricotta ravioli
Grandma taught me to how make fresh pasta during one of the first months of blogging. We gathered into my mum’s kitchen, three generations of women, some flour and a few eggs, and we start kneading a soft ball of dough which now has an unmistakable smell of semolina, yolks and tradition. I had already turned the hand crank of her old pasta machine countless times to help her with tagliatelle and ravioli, but that time I finally got a grip on pasta making from scratch. That was the first of many, many times.
Now we make fresh pasta for special occasions and during cooking classes. We make pici, tagliatelle, tagliolini and maltagliati, but my favourites remain ravioli, little chubby parcels of pasta filled with ricotta and whatever vegetable is in season.
Year after year I perfected my go-to recipe for ravioli, the same we made for our wedding. Fifteen hundred ravioli for the party, all neatly arranged in paper trays, frozen and sealed in plastic bags ready for the wedding reception and a tasty pork ragout.
This is the basic recipe which calls just for ricotta in the filling.
Therefore, the most important ingredient to get it right is ricotta. I bought a fresh ricotta from the local sheep cheese farm, and they had been draining it the two days before to make it thick. You can see the texture and the thickness of my filling in the photos above, this is what you are aiming to. Even if you can only get a good quality store bought ricotta, be sure to drain it in a colander for at least a few hours to have the perfect filling. Weight the required amount of ricotta just after the draining process. Use sheep, cow, goat or buffalo ricotta, just follow your taste.
Once you master this recipe, you can play with the ingredients of the filling: you can add fresh herbs (I love marjoram or calamint with ricotta) or different grated cheeses to substitute the Pecorino: think about Parmigiano or a very pungent aged provolone.
Half the amount of ricotta and substitute it with an equal part of already cooked vegetables like spinach, Swiss chard, zucchini, artichokes, pumpkin or butternut squash and you’ll have little parcels to celebrate the seasonal ingredients.
But now, to the recipe. Let us know if you replicate the ravioli and which is your favourite combination. Share the recipe with the #julskitchen and #myseasonaltable hashtags or join our Facebook group to discuss together the recipe!
- 100 g of all-purpose flour
- 100 g of semolina flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 300 g of well drained sheep ricotta
- ¼ teaspoon of grated nutmeg
- 30 g of grated aged pecorino or Parmigiano
- A few turns of black pepper
Sift the semolina flour with the all-purpose flour, place it on a wooden board and make a well in the centre. Break the eggs in the centre of the flour, add a pinch of salt and pour in the extra virgin olive oil. Mix the flours and the eggs with a fork, then start kneading the dough, until the dough is soft, elastic and it doesn’t stick to your fingers anymore. You’ll need about 10 minutes.
Let it rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature, wrapped in cling film or covered with a bowl.
Collect the well-drained ricotta in a bowl and add the grated nutmeg, the grated pecorino, salt and pepper. Taste. You should taste the milky ricotta, then you should feel the warmth of the nutmeg and a hint of black pepper. The savouriness come from grated pecorino and salt combined. Set it aside.
After the resting time, roll out the dough: you can use a classic rolling-pin or the pasta maker. The most important thing, either you’re using the rolling-pin or the pasta maker, is to keep rolling and flipping and rolling and flipping until you get a dough that is paper-thin. If you use the pasta machine, I usually reach the one stop before the last to have my perfect thickness for ravioli.
Make a thin wide sheet of pasta and lay it on a lightly floured wooden board.
Dollop the filling onto the pasta sheet an inch apart - a teaspoon would do, to make the wedding ravioli I used a pastry bag as it was easier and quicker.
Lay the filling on the top part of the sheet, then fold it on the bottom part, flipping the filling. With two fingers press the pasta in between the filling to seal the pasta and then press it on the lower side too, trying to remove as much air as possible.
Now comes the cutting. Use a scalloped pasta wheel to cut the ravioli: first cut the bottom part of all the long sheet, removing the excess pasta, then cut the ravioli in between.
Last thing, use a fork, on the flat side, not the prongs, to seal again the three sealed sides of the ravioli. You’ll get a cute shape of a pillow!
Repeat to finish pasta and filling, arranging the ravioli side by side, not overlapping, on a floured board.
Cook for just a few minutes on a large pot of boiling salted water, drain and season with your favourite sauce: brown butter and sage, but also a quick tomato sauce.
Vote for the Saveur Blog Awards – We’ve been shortlisted!
We’re super happy to share with you another great news! Thanks to your precious support, we’ve been shortlisted again for the Saveur Blog Awards, in the Most Inspired Weeknight dinners category. We are super proud to represent Italy and Italian food in one of the most important international food awards!
You brought us up to the finals, now we’d need your support for the the last step. We are humbled to be in such an incredible company, among talented friends and bloggers. Now it is up to you, again, to vote for your favourite bloggers.
As the Saveur Team suggests, vote early and often, as you can vote multiple times in each category through September 12th. You can do it here!
In the meantime, we’ll keep adding more and more ideas for your weeknight meals with an Italian twist!