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Fried Sweet Ricotta Ravioli (Culurgioneddus Di Arrescottu)

This platter of cookies was the perfect ending to a fabulous meal at Agriturismo Sa Marighedda on our recent trip to Sardinia (recipe at the end of the post).  If you don’t know what an agriturismo is, let me explain. It’s sometimes a place to stay where the owners live, often on a working farm. It’s sometimes a place where the owners invite the public in for a meal using products grown or raised on site.

In this case, it was a restaurant next door to the owner’s home, and everything was homemade, from the cured meats, to the wine and liqueurs and everything in between. They offer a multi-course meal for a grand total of about 30 euros, or about $40.00 U.S. per person – a real bargain, especially considering the quality of the food and they even offer seconds of all the courses — if you have room in your stomach.

The owners, Mara and Roberto, work hard to deliver an authentic Sardinian meal and make you feel like  you’re sitting down to Sunday pranzo at their home. That is, if you’re in the habit of eating what seemed like non-stop courses – all of which were delicious. Families are most welcome here, and there’s even a playground for children who might feel a lightly antsy sitting at a table for two or three hours.

We were seated and immediately served a platter of homemade affettati (cured meats), olives and wine – all made in house and all wonderful.

Next came a frittata-like course, with zucchini dotting the egg and cheese mixture.

Then came savory pockets filled with seasoned raw tomatoes.  Think of tomato bruschetta, but with a flaky pastry dough instead of toasted bread.

We moved on to primo piatto, or in this case, primi piatti, since there were two first courses — one of malloreddus with sausage (see my last blog post here for the recipe),

And another of culurgiones, a typical Sardinian pasta similar to a fat ravioli, but filled with potatoes, pecorino cheese and mint.

We could easily have eaten seconds on any of these foods, but we knew there was still plenty to come, including the main event — roast suckling pig — cooked on an open spit.

Sardinia is surrounded by water and we ate fish nearly every night, but the interior of the island especially, is known for its delicious roast pig, and we were not disappointed in this juicy and flavorful rendition.

Before the main dessert arrived, we were presented with these small and juicy plums. They were just the right palate cleanser before moving to sweeter offerings.

I also wanted to show you these breads that are also traditional Sardinian shapes, using scissors and other implements to cut the dough.

Here are some of the implements Mara uses to make the breads and the cookies:

Aren’t they lovely with those scalloped, fringed edges? After they’re shaped, they get deep-fried and sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.

But we still weren’t finished after the cookie assortment. There was mirto (homemade blueberry liqueur) and grappa to taste. Fortunately, we didn’t have far to drive to get back to our hotel, after this abundant feast.

Thank you Mara and Roberto for your hospitality and the authentic flavor of Sardinian cuisine.

Mara was kind enough to give me her recipe for the ricotta ravioli (called culurgioneddus de arrescottu in Sardinian dialect) and you’ll find it below:

Culurgiones Di Arrescottu (Fried Ricotta Ravioli)
 
 
Ingredients
  • For the Filling:
  • 2.2 lbs.(1 kilo) ricotta (preferably sheep's milk)
  • 1 whole egg and one egg yolk
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
  • 1 pinch of saffron (one of those waxed sleeves you buy in Italian grocery stores)
  • grated rind of two lemons, preferably organic
  • For the dough:
  • 5½ cups 00 flour (700 grams)
  • 2¼ cups (300 grams) semolina flour
  • water, as needed
  • ½ cup sugar (100 grams)
  • 1 cup lard or vegetable shortening - (200 grams)
  • confectioner's sugar or honey, to finish
Instructions
  1. Mix all the ingredients for the filling well until it is creamy, then set aside as you prepare the dough.
  2. Mix the 00 flour, semolina, sugar and lard (or shortening) together, and add just enough water until it comes together in a ball.
  3. Roll out the dough thinly, add some of the filling along a row of the dough, closing with another layer of dough, and cutting it out with a ravioli cutter.
  4. Fry the ravioli in hot oil, drain on paper towels, and when cool, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar, or drizzle with honey.
 

My Big Fat Raviolo

My Big Fat Raviolo

When San Domenico restaurant was still on New York City’s Central Park South, I ordered its signature dish – a plate-sized, single raviolo filled with ricotta cheese and a egg yolk that oozed decadently onto your plate when you broke through the pasta. Combine that with a parmesan cheese and sage sauce and you’ve got a celestial forkful of goodness. The only thing that could elevate it to truly divine status would be a shaving of truffles on top. I’ve been thinking about that dish ever since I first ate it years ago and wanting to recreate it at home. This was the year I finally did, for our Thanksgiving first course. It was just as special as I remembered it. Although my pocketbook didn’t allow for the truffle indulgence, this dish still has such a wonderful taste and mouth feel, that you won’t miss it.  I urge you to try it for your next special event. It’s a bit tricky to make in large quantities, only because of the size of the pots needed, so I caution you to make this only when your group is eight or less.

I started out by making some fresh pasta, but if you want to take the easy route, buy some fresh pasta sheets. A few pasta makers, like Rana, for instance, sell fresh pasta sheets for lasagna, and they’d work just fine. If they’re a little on the thick side, just roll them thinner with a rolling pin.
After rolling out the dough, I cut out disks using a plastic container from the deli as a guide. It was about four inches in diameter. This pasta recipe makes enough for about sixteen of these disks, which is what you’ll need for eight servings.

Just work with a third of the dough at a time, leaving the rest covered under a bowl or in plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out.

Top it with a mixture of ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and spinach (or in my case, wild broccoli rape I foraged and froze.) I forgot to add an egg to the ricotta mixture itself and it was fine, but I might try adding it the next time I make this. Create a little “nest” with the ricotta mixture and drop in a medium size egg yolk.
Wet the outside edge with some water and place another disk of pasta on top, securing all around the edge with the tines of a fork.
Drop the disks in a pot of boiling water only long enough to cook to the “al dente” stage. This could take as little as two to three minutes.You don’t want to cook it so much that the egg yolk hardens. Then, remove the disks from the water, and in another large, shallow pan, add butter, some of the pasta water and sage. Sprinkle heavily with freshly ground black pepper.

Place each raviolo in individual pasta bowls and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and some of the sauce from the pan.

A lovely and delicious surprise is waiting for you when you cut into it.

Here comes the sun! This might seem like a difficult dish to make, but it’s not. The important thing is to use quality fresh ingredients and not to prepare too far ahead of time. I assembled these about one hour before cooking them. I wouldn’t do it more than two or three hours ahead of time, because I’d be afraid that the dough would absorb too much of the liquid from the ricotta mixture, even though I’d drained it overnight.

Here’s a little video of me assembling the ravioli. I hope it inspires you to try it at home.

Big Fat Raviolo

printable recipe here

dough (enough to make eight large ravioli or sixteen disks)

3/4  cup semolina flour (I used a mixture of semolina flour and Italian “double zero” flour, which makes for a more “toothy” dough, but next time I might use all “double zero” flour, or unbleached white flour for a “softer bite,” since I was concerned that the egg yolk would harden in the time it took to cook the pasta through. It didn’t, but using a softer flour would insure a quicker cooking time for the pasta.)
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
2 large eggs

 

 

Place most of the semolina and regular flour into a food processor bowl. Keep about 1/4 cup of the flour or semolina aside. Add the eggs, then pulse the ingredients until a ball starts to form. Add more flour or semolina if it seems too sticky. Put on a board and knead, adding more flour as needed. Let it rest under a bowl, or covered with plastic wrap, for at least a half hour. Work the dough through a pasta machine per instructions with the machine. Make sure to flour the dough as you make each pass through the rollers, so it won’t stick.
Cut out the disks using a small plate, or a plastic deli container as a pattern.
Filling
 
2 cups ricotta cheese, drained overnight
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 large egg
a grating of fresh nutmeg
1 cup of chopped spinach, squeezed really dry  (I used foraged broccoli rape but not everyone has that option)
8 medium size eggs
Mix the ingredients together with a spoon. Place some of the filling on each of the disks, and create a little “nest” by indenting the center of the ricotta filling. With the medium eggs, separate the yolks from the whites and save the whites for another recipe. Drop a yolk into the center of each ricotta “nest” then wet the rim of the pasta disk with water. Place another pasta disk on top and pressing gently from the center, seal the edges with your fingers. Use the tines of a fork to seal the edges of the disk a little more securely.
Sauce
8 T. butter
pasta water
fresh sage leaves (at least eight to 12, depending on size)
freshly cracked black pepper
parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top
Boil the ravioli in a pot of water for about two to four minutes. A lot will depend on the type of flour you used and the thickness of your raviolo. In a separate large pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the sage, then remove each cooked raviolo from the pasta pot and add to the butter sauce. Add water from the pasta pot to keep the ravioli from sticking and to create a slight “sauce.” Serve each raviolo in a single bowl, topped with parmesan cheese and a sage leaf that’s been cooking in the sauce.
Cooking Cavatelli With Fabio In Rome

Cooking Cavatelli with Fabio in Rome

Rome has at least 50 museums where you can see everything from paintings to pasta, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time in a majority of them over the years. But I’ve learned that when you’re traveling, it’s nice to step away from museums sometimes and do something a little different. Something different… something fun… something delicious. That’s what I did in between museum-hopping, boutique shopping and hunting down new gelato shops. There are many cooking classes to choose from in the Eternal City, but this one is conducted by a chef — Fabio Bongianni — not in a restaurant, but in his own home nearby the Spanish Steps. Come on now, how often do you get a chance to peek inside an apartment owned by a noble family that dates back to the Renaissance and Middle Ages? That family would be the Colonna family, who supplied a pope and many political leaders over the centuries and who are the owners of one of the largest private art collections in Rome at the magnificent Galleria Colonna.
So I signed up and even though I’ve shopped in many of Rome’s less touristy-markets, I had fun tagging along as Fabio began the day by choosing vegetables in the Campo dei Fiori market.
Next stop was the old Jewish ghetto for some meat.
And some fish too. Can you tell Fabio has a good sense of humor?
We walked to his apartment on via Gregoriana, passing by the monumental Trevi Fountain.
Fabio stripped off his good shirt, we all put on aprons and got to work…. cutting fish….
pounding chicken…
making two kinds of pasta – one with eggs and flour for the ravioli, and one with just flour and water for the cavatelli.
Some people worked on squishing cooked potatoes through a ricer for the gnocchi:
Rolling out the cavatelli took a bit of practice but people caught on fast:
We ended up with a tray like this:
The ravioli were stuffed with ricotta cheese, zucchini that were cooked and mashed, parmesan cheese and an egg to bind everything together:
Fabio was an expert at tossing everything in the pan.
The best part was the eating. Three primi: ravioli dressed with butter, sage and parmesan cheese:
Cavatelli with cherry tomatoes, sea bass, olives and capers and a sprinkling of bread crumbs:
potato gnocchi with eggplant, tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese.
Meat and vegetables too – chicken cooked two ways — sauteed with a coating of breadcrumbs and olives, and braised in balsamic vinegar; baked eggplant, fried zucchini and ricotta “balls.”
For dessert, we headed to one of Fabio’s restaurants — “That’s Amore” and celebrated the birthday of one of the young and lovely participants with cake and coffee.
If you’re headed to Rome and are interested in taking a class from Fabio, click here for more information. He plans to move his cooking classes from this apartment however, so I can’t guarantee you’ll be eating in this lovely dining room — or gazing at the view of St. Peter’s from his bedroom. (Yes, we were all invited in. His wife is very tolerant… to a point.) But you’ll have a great time no matter where it’s held — and a delectable meal at the end.
 Grazie mille Fabio per una giornata divertente.

Fabio’s cavatelli with sea bass, cherry tomatoes and olives
printable recipe here

 

Ingredients

For the pasta:
10.5 ounces of water (about 1 1/4 cups)
21 ounces of flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 pinches of salt
Fish stock:
1 medium white onion
1 stalk of celery
1 medium carrot
1 clove of garlic
1 pinch salt.
2 sea bass
For the Sauce:
1 package of cherry tomatoes
1 c white wine
1 clove of garlic
Parsley
Capers

























Black olives
Pour flour on working surface and make a fountain with a hole in the middle of the flour. Pour the water into the middle of the fountain then add a little flour at a time with the tip of the fork. Keep beating and when all the flour is mixed and you have a dough consistency, knead the dough by pressing and folding gently with your hands. Now, work the dough with palm of your hands – holding with the left hand and pressing with the right, then fold the dough over and turn. Repeat this process for 5 minutes. Let the ball of dough sit for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Take your ball of dough and divide it into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time, lay the dough out on a lightly floured surface and divide it into quarters again. Take a piece of the divided dough (now and 1/8 of the original amount) and roll it into a long tube 1/4 inch in diameter. Divide the tube into pieces 1 inch long with either a pastry cutter or a knife. Now this is the fun part. Using the edge of a butter knife or pastry cutter, with the device at a 45 degree angle, press on each piece of dough and pull across the length of it. You find that the motion causes the dough to curl up the edge of the impliment. If you don’t get it at first, don’t be discouraged. Just keep working with it using different amounts of pressure on the dough and eventually you’ll get into the grove.

Debone the sea bass and use the bones for your stock. Place the bones in a pan with 1/8 c of olive oil and one clove of garlic. Then add the onion, celery and garlic to the pan to Sautee for a few minutes. Next add 2 cups of cold water and 2 pinches of salt. You need enough cold water to completely cover the ingredients so add more cold water if needed. Simmer for 20 minutes. Then drain the stock and save for the later step.
Saute cherry tomatoes cut in halves in a pan with one clove of garlic. Cook until the cherry tomatoes start caramelizing then glaze with white wine. Cook the cavatelli in boiling water until it floats. Add the pasta to the pan with the cherry tomato and white wine. Add the chopped sea bass and fish stock then cook until the sauce reduces. Reduce until you reach a nice creamy sauce.
Remove from the heat and serve with black olives, capers and fresh parsley sprinkled on top.