Thanksgiving is tough for me this year. I lost my mom just last week, and all I want to do is talk to her and eat her delicious meals. My heart breaks thinking I’ll never hear her voice or taste her cooking again.
Mom made Thanksgiving meals wonderful, whether Thanksgiving was hosted at our home or at my dad’s siblings’ homes. (We rotated homes each year.) And, for some of those years, mom prepared ravioli as a side dish.
Mom made ravioli because she knew we didn’t enjoy dad’s family tradition of mashed potatoes and raisins. Yes, raisins. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind mashed potatoes or raisins. However, I never understood why the potatoes were ruined with raisins. I didn’t like my paternal grandmother’s raisin pie for dessert either. I appreciate some of our family’s traditions, but I choose not to continue those involving raisins.
Like most women born at the end of the Great Depression, my mom cooked from scratch mostly. She prepared the stuffing (sometimes with cubed left-over, dried-out sourdough bread), simmered and whisked up a gravy (from the turkey’s broth and giblets), mashed the potatoes (sans raisins), cooked down the cranberries (dashed with orange juice and Grand Mariner), steamed green beans (tossed in olive oil, lemon, and slivered almonds typically). Everything tasted fresh. I find myself lucky never to have tasted a green bean casserole.
Mom rarely followed a recipe. She modified recipes to meet whatever ingredients available to her at the time. Her practical process made every dish memorable.
Today, I will share my memory of my mom’s process for making ravioli.
She sauteed some meat (either fresh or what was leftover from last night’s meal), something green and leafy, onions, garlic, oregano, and basil. No measuring amounts, just eye-balled it. She added a dash of salt and pepper. When it looked to be done, she’d scrape it into a big bowl. She let the sauteed ingredients cool then mixed in the ricotta and parmesan. (The types of cheeses changed with whatever was in the fridge, as did the meat.) As the prepared mixture cooled, she made the dough. In her younger years, she made the dough on the kitchen counter or table, rolled it out by hand, spooned and dolloped the mixed ingredients onto the expanse of dough in a grid pattern with generous imaginary borders. She topped the whole thing with another layer of rolled out pasta dough. She ran her finger along the imaginary border pressing the doughs together. She followed her path with that weird wavey wheeling knife tool to cut and separate the mass into ravioli. In her later years, she bought the pre-made circle-shaped wonton wrapper dough at the grocery store. She didn’t care about not making the dough; she was practical. She was getting older, her hands and back needed a break from standing so long. And she had to make more ravioli, since the dinners had grown from 12 people to about 26 people. The sauce for the ravioli was prepared the day before. The ingredients varied with what was in the garden or fridge and whether the ravioli were meat or ricotta lemon.
Tonight, I will serve ravioli for Thanksgiving dinner. But I won’t make it from scratch. My heart (and kitchen) are in a shambles. I hope to make it for my family next year.
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