Remembering My Mom’s Ravioli

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.

My mom

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. 

Not my mom’s 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.

Cheers! 🧡💛🤎

Ravioli Dreams of Nonna

My dreams of preparing ravioli from scratch are inspired by mother and brief memories–real and imagined–of my maternal grandmother. I grew up calling her grandma, but now I want to remember her as nonna.

Steph’s nonna

Nonna was born in America in 1913 of Italian heritage. Her mother from Abruzzo, her father from Calabria. She lived a life I know little about, yet her shy muted spirit lives in my heart.

My few memories of Nonna have the naive fuzzy edges of a six or seven year old. She had gray hair and carried the weight of her years in a barrel atop two short legs. She lived humbly, in a rundown home patched with corrugated metal and an outhouse, in a depressed community out in the middle of the desert.

Visits with Nonna were short and usually involved my parents bringing her practical items from our middle-class home. (If we got a new kitchen table, then we brought her our old one.) Our trips from the big city took most of the day, with our visit to be just long enough to unload the car and for my folks to address any familial matters. My limited time with Nonna was precious.

Mostly, I remember that Nonna couldn’t speak–Italian or English. Her vocal chords were irreversibly damaged as a young child. Yet the spoken word wasn’t necessary for her to be understood and endeared.

Her smiling eyes would light upon an item and her body would dance. My eyes would follow her movements and my mind would race. Her gestures and facial expressions could tell stories and demonstrate basic needs.

Nonna lifted an item, made some moves, and I understood. She showed me a bottle of milk and raised her hand to her lips. I smiled and nodded. She made me an egg (or was it bologna?) sandwich, and I watched her cook potatoes. Her kitchen was bare, but my belly and heart were full.

Rocco’s Homemade Cheese Ravioli

Unfortunately, I never learned much about her or even how to cook ravioli by watching her. But I liked to imagine the sound of her voice, the stories from her life, and the tastes from her table. Perhaps her voice and her ravioli were as endearing as those of the nonna from my dreams?


© Stephanie Abbott. Sunday, November 24, 2019. The photo of my nonna is from my family tree. The photo of Rocco’s ravioli was taken while I cooked dinner tonight. The memories I shared are inspired from my youth, the ricotta ravioli from Rocco’s NY Pizzeria (“Just like Grandma used to make!”), and the video, “Italian Grandma Makes Homemade Ravioli” published by Buon-A-Petitti at https://youtu.be/n68W0bVolmU.

Living Life Thankfully

Thankfully, my hearth and heart are full. Full of a life dramatically spiced with savory memories and biting privilege, my heart chuffs to awakening and prophetic dreams. Dreams for my family, friends, and those less fortunate to realize, prepare, and savor, are mine to share but ultimately their own to fulfill. Fulfilled for the beat, I am living life with gratitude, thankfully.

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About this post: I am participating in a challenge to create daily during the month of November. This is my post for November 22, which also happens to be celebrated as Thanksgiving Day here in the USA this year. My inspiration today comes from the holiday, my hopes for humanity, and our curious use of language. The doodle is one that I created for a post two years ago. See Heartfelt: https://stephabbottsays.com/2016/11/14/heartfelt.

#NaBloPoMo18 #Create30 #openheartsurgery #survivor #bleedingheart

©2018 Stephanie Abbott. All rights reserved.

Treading to Gobble Thanks

20180721-Treading-the-Mill

About this post:  I am participating in a challenge to create daily during the month of November. This is my post for November 21. Tomorrow is Turkey Day. I am thankful that I have a home, family, and food. Whether I cook or jump into the bolthole to the restaurant, I need to get treading to the gym and my local WW workshop. #NaBloPoMo18 #Create30 #WW

When the birds flock south for the dinner…

Cornacopia_flat

Like many families, I used to love the tradition of the extended family flocking to one house for the annual feast. Since all the kids and cousins have flown the coop and have families of our own, the tradition of the big gathering has gone the way of birds. That doesn’t stop my folks from enjoying the tradition of cooking the full meal and spending it with family.

This year my mom and dad will be flying south to join my little rebel nest in the desert. They will make the pilgrimage in the big truck, taking two days and packing most of the feast fixings. (Just picture the modern-day covered wagon with four-wheel drive and recorded books on disc.)

It doesn’t really take two days. They just like to enjoy the ride through the desert. I don’t blame them. If I were 75 years old, I too would stop and smell the roses (or admire a bunch of brittle sage) in the great, frigid basin.

Lately, it’s been snowing in their neck of the woods. That won’t stop them. They’ll just drive slower; perhaps stay an extra night on the road. Snowy, icy roads are something I avoid. (Just another reason to live in the Southwest.)

Weather will not deter my parents. Hazardous road conditions can be dealt with. Their covered wagon also comes with snow tires and chains when necessary. 

With dad to navigate and plan the trip, my mom has been busy planning the whole feast. They’ve been married for over 55 years, and she still loves to cook the big Thanksgiving Day meal.

So, as long as she wants to cook it, I’m more than happy to make her happy. I look forward to this year’s big production and mom taking over the kitchen. She is even packing in most of the fixings:

  • Cranberry sauce (freshly made)
  • Stuffing makings: fresh celery, onion, Italian sausage
  • Cornbread stuffing mix (Trader Joes, a bit lazy this year?)
  • Rolls
  • Yams
  • Potatoes
  • Spices
  • Apple pie makings (yellow delicious)
  • Pumpkin pie makings
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Brown sugar

And, wait for it…

  • Muffin mix (triple chocolate, Weight Watchers. Huh?!)

She says that I could “help greatly” by picking up the following items:

  • Fresh turkey (actually frozen)
  • Fresh green beans
  • Baby carrots
  • Shelled hazelnuts

I will try to take notes this year. For those that know, I am not a great cook. I’m better at cooking the bird and watching football. (My lack of culinary talent probably results from spending two hours in the swimming pool before dinner most weekdays growing up. I didn’t spend much time picking up on the nuances of meal planning.) That ends this year. I will try to focus on the whole production. (Even though the Jets game is on a national broadcast.) 

Note on the graphic: The other night, I created this cornucopia from scratch in Illustrator. I was inspired by my six-year-old son’s first-grade class paper mosaic.