While traveling, there are always certain memories that you end up remembering a little more vividly and dear than others. The days we spent in the hills of Tuscany, near the small town of Fiesole at Villa di Campolungo, are easily one of those for us from our past trip. The first morning I cooked with Silvia, the owner of the Villa, in her pretty Tuscan kitchen. What stood out the most was being reminded of how laid back Italian home cooking is. We took our time over a few hours making the pasta from scratch, with the french doors open, John Shea and Lila the German Shepherd running in and out, chatting in Italian, chatting in English. There's a phrase in Croatian for this kind of cooking and feeling.. "Polako, polako." It means "slowly, slowly, with ease." As a young Mom, I wouldn't exactly describe our usual days like that, ha... and wouldn't want to, we absolutely adore these crazy baby-toddler years, but it is really special to slow down and lose track of time, enjoying the process of preparing a big lunch from scratch for my family. I have my sweet husband to thank for that. He chased John Shea all over the olive groves while wearing Grace in the backpack so I could have my hands and mind free. He said I can make it up to him in homemade pasta!
Silvia set the table in the breakfast room for us and I loved getting to serve them the two pastas we'd made with a bottle of Chianti. We spent the rest of the day biking up the incredibly steep hills covered in olive trees, taking in the glorious views (in between gasping for air).
Silvia, grazie mille for opening up your home for an amazing day of cooking and for sharing your delicious recipes with us all!
Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli with Butter & Sage (from Villa di Campolungo in Fiesole, Italy)
100 g (about 7/8 C) duro flour (pasta flour)
pinch of salt
250 g (a little over 1 C) ricotta, drained of water
250 g (a little over 1 C) defrosted spinach
fine sea salt
1 C parmesan or pecorino
2 heads of garlic, smashed
50 g (about 1/4 C) butter
handful fresh sage leaves, roughly torn
Even if you've made pasta before, it is such a treat to get to see how others make theirs. There's always something more to learn!
Put the flour in a medium-sized mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add in the egg and incorporate into the flour with a fork. Then by hand until all of the duro flour has been incorporated. On a smooth surface (laying a clean tablecloth or large cloth on a table works the best!) knead the dough with a little more duro as needed for about 10 minutes. Use the palm of your hand and your body weight to work the dough until smooth-- every person I've ever made dough with does this a little differently but the shared goal is to get a smooth consistency. Once the dough is in a smooth ball, wrap it in cellophane to keep it from drying out and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the spinach filling. On medium high heat, pour in enough olive oil to cover the pan. Wait until it has heated and add in the smashed garlic heads (remove the paper from the garlic and using the back of a knife, smash it with your fist) and spinach with a good pinch (about a teaspoon) of salt and freshly grated nutmeg. Taste -- it should be a bit salty with a hint of nutmeg flavor. It's important to balance these flavors and the only way you will know if they are is if you continue to taste and adjust. Cook until the liquid from the spinach is no more and then put it in a bowl. Add in the ricotta, parmesan and a small pinch of salt to the spinach mixture. Taste. Add more nutmeg or salt as is needed to balance the flavor.
Cut dough in half, wrap unused portion to keep from drying out. Use your hands to push it down thin enough so it can fit through the largest setting on your pasta machine. Silvia uses the Imperia Titania (I loved it and finally ordered one!) pull the pasta through a few times at the largest setting until it is smooth. Go to setting 4 for a few times, then to setting 2. Pull the pasta through and lay flat. Place a small dollop (about 1/2 spoonful) of the spinach filling every 1-2 inches on the pasta. Fold over the pasta so the filling is covered. Use your fingers to seal the pasta around the filling and cut the ravioli with a knife. Use a fork to seal the edges and push out any excess air. Set aside on a cloth until you have finished making all of the ravioli.
In boiling water with a handful of course sea salt, cook the ravioli until they rise to the top. This will happen fast. About 2 minutes. Homemade ravioli cooks much faster than packaged does. While cooking the ravioli in batches, melt the butter over medium high heat and quickly add the sage leaves. Pour over the ravioli and serve immediately. Buon appetito! Grazie, Silvia!