Missing my Italian Grandmother...
I just made 116 cheese ravioli. Like Grandma used to make...except nothing like hers at all. Mine are full of imperfections, which took me hours to complete. I had no idea the talent and work that went into her daily routine.
Grandma & Grandpa's house was a favorite place to visit. Just off their kitchen, in the basement that connected their home to my Uncle's, were a couple extra freezers, a back-up refrigerator, a third kitchen table, the washer and dryer, and a few other flat surfaces. I hardly recall ever seeing them bare. As we kids would cut through to our Uncle's game room to play ping pong, shuffle board, or pool, we'd race by these horizontal surfaces covered in towels and pasta. And loaves and loaves of bread.
It always smelled delicious at Grandma & Grandpa's. Every once in a great while, like maybe three days in all 23 years of my marriage, I've stumbled on just the right orchestration of spices that instantly take me back to my Grandmother's kitchen, where on two stoves she kept many kettles of sauce simmering.
She taught me and my brothers and my cousins to make homemade pasta just like her. One Christmas when we wouldn't be traveling to Cleveland to see her, my younger brother and I decided to make the pasta like Grandma taught us. We built a bowl out of several cups of flour on the dining room table and added the half dozen eggs to the center. As we gently massaged the flour into the eggs, we sprouted one, then two, then three holes, which led to complete collapse...and eggs and flour all over the dining room floor.
Our parents and our other brother returned home at exactly that moment. We begged them to leave again so we could have time to clean it up and to try again. This time we used a bowl. And though I hardly recall exactly how we managed to clean up our mess, I do remember that we were much more successful as we cheated with the bowl. Later, as we confessed our cheat to our grandmother, she congratulated us on our success, and told us she would have recommended we use a bowl the first time anyway.
When each of my brothers and my cousins and I were married, our grandmother gave each of us our own Atlas hand-crank pasta machine. And most Christmases my machine actually gets used. This year it seemed so "easy" making our pasta that I brought it out again on New Year's Eve and taught the Italian tradition to our friends. And today, overconfident in my abilities, I pulled it out once again and cranked out huge, flat sheets of pasta. I'd thawed extra pirogi cheese I'd made before the holidays, and figuring I'd be done with my task during a long lunch, I dove in.
The other piece of my low tech, but functional and reliable equipment, is a metal tray that reminds me of an ice cube tray with holes instead of wells. I stretched the dough over the tray, took a hard plastic dimpled tray and leaned that gently into the dough, fixed the couple early rips with extra dough, added a scoop of cheese to each of the dozen squares, stretched dough over that, and then pushed a rolling pin over it, forcing the dough to seal and cut at the same time.
Popping the ravioli from the tray was a bit of a challenge and didn't go at all well for the first seven dozen or so, but somehow most of them managed to retain their shape. I'm not worried about it though. I'm guessing they'll all pop pretty easily into our mouths once they're cooked.
But now what do I do if my family likes them enough to ask for more? I guess I'm going to have to improve my time....