Search for Authentic Ravioli Forges Family Bonds

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Author Laura Schenone traveled to Italy to retrieve her great grandmother's ravioli recipe. i

New Jersey food writer Laura Schenone spent five years finding and perfecting her great-grandmother's authentic ravioli recipe. Dan Epstein hide caption

itoggle caption Dan Epstein
Author Laura Schenone traveled to Italy to retrieve her great grandmother's ravioli recipe.

New Jersey food writer Laura Schenone spent five years finding and perfecting her great-grandmother's authentic ravioli recipe.

Dan Epstein

For Laura Schenone, finding her roots meant crossing the globe for ravioli.

The New Jersey writer set off on a quest to find her great-grandmother's hand-rolled ravioli recipe. Along the way, she reunited with relatives and helped mend frayed relations with others around the dinner table.

Her new memoir, The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and Family, chronicles her five-year journey to reclaim her Genoese great-grandmother's recipe, which had been altered since the turn of the last century. Schenone, who writes about food for major publications, travels from New Jersey to the tiny Italian region of Liguria.

In the kitchens of her family elders, she painstakingly learns the art of making ravioli dough. Schenone then spends years perfecting her dough technique. As she relentlessly works the dough, she shares her family's story — its losses, problems and foibles — and helps bridge familial divides.

Schenone showed Andrea Seabrook how to make her great-grandmother's ravioli in NPR's kitchen.

Excerpt: 'The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken'

Book cover 'The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken'

A Basic Pasta Dough for Ravioli

Sfoglia per i ravioli/Sfogie per i ravieu

Yield: 1 pound pasta

1 cup 00 flour (if not available, use all-purpose)

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 egg

tepid water, beginning with 4 to 6 tablespoons, adding a little at a time; you may need more depending on your flour

Making Dough By Hand

1. Pour the flours into a hill on your work surface and mix them together. Sprinkle the salt on top. Make a hole in the center so it looks like a volcano. Be sure to leave some flour at the bottom of the hole.

2. Add the oil into the hole. Next, crack the egg into the hole. Use a fork to lightly scramble the egg and then gradually pull in flour from the inside walls of this volcano. As you do this, cup your hand around the exterior walls to keep the sides from collapsing and the egg from running all over the pasta board. (If this happens, however, don't panic; just use some flour to quickly pull the egg back into the flour as best you can.)

3. Continue to scramble the egg and pull in flour a little at a time. As the egg absorbs the flour, begin to add the water, gradually. At some point soon, you will no longer have a volcano but a mass of sticky dough. Don't be shy. Abandon the fork and use your hands with confidence to gather the dough up into a ball, adding enough water as necessary, little by little, so that the dough is workable and elastic but not too sticky, as you continue to pull in the loose bits of flour on the board. If you must err with your liquid, better to be too wet than dry. You can add a little more flour later, while kneading. It's much harder to add more water.

4. As your dough comes together, it will be sticking to your fingers. (Did I say to remove your rings?) Scrape your fingers with your dough scraper. When you have a dough that you can knead, wash your hands and scrape the pasta board clear of crusty bits and gumminess so that it is smooth.

5. Knead the dough for about 8 minutes (longer for a larger batch). Generously sprinkle flour on your board as needed so that your dough is strong and absolutely not sticky. I suggest using the heels of your hands to push, then fold the dough in half, then rotate your lump a quarter turn and do it again. Everyone has a different kneading style. Get yourself into a nice rhythm. Push, fold, turn, push, fold, turn, etc.

6. When your dough is satiny, soft, and elastic, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 20 minutes if you plan to use the pasta machine, but at least half an hour if you plan to roll on a pin. You can let it sit longer, too, as much as 2 hours. It will continue to develop flavor as it rests, and the glutens will relax so you can roll the dough without having it snap back at you.

Copyright © 2007 Laura Schenone. All rights reserved.

Books Featured In This Story

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken

A Search for Food and Family

by Laura Schenone

Hardcover, 331 pages | purchase

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