Carnevale in Italy is famous for all sorts of things being turned upside down; women become men, women become animals, naughty nuns run amok and, in Abruzzo’s Teramo province, ravioli gets an equal flipping.
The freedom to satirise the pomp of supposedly unimpeachable institutions, combined with a rare opportunity for the egalitarianism a disguise or masks lends its wearer, is obviously quite liberating, and in Abruzzo this freedom from the norm has been stretched into the normal confines of the delicious filling inside ravioli. Like the congregation dressing up as priests and festooned with inappropriate carrots, this type of ravioli people either love or think is a mini blasphemy, and it certainly does seem to divide our neighbours.
Ravioli dolci is a dish whose delicate ricotta stuffing is flavoured with cinnamon, lemon zest and marjoram, eaten either with a light sugo or a pork-based ragu to compliment the cinnamon, or sprinkled with more sugar & cinnamon and eaten as a desert.
Maybe cinnamon’s qualities were used for aiding digestion and bad breath that were badly needed on Martedí Grasso (Shrove Tuesday, though in this case “Fat Tuesday”), when you are supposed to eat seven times in the day. I can’t make up my mind if that was for helping you store up vital cholesterol reserves for your 40-day meat-free Lent, or to free your cupboards of temptation which may just break you if still stuffed with such yummy lovelies! In the Tossicia area these typical dishes would historically be enjoyed on the day, as you can see the Ravioli Dolci’s cinnamon may just help on the digestion front!
Fresh Egg Pasta
400 grams of flour
Good pinch of salt
For the Filling
350 grams fresh ricotta – sheep or cow or mixed according to taste
1 egg yolk
140 grams caster sugar
2 tablespoons of chopped marjoram
Zest from 1 un-waxed lemon
1 ground cinnamon stick
For the fresh egg pasta
Add the flour into a bowl, make a well, break the eggs inside the well, add the pinch of salt and mix until it forms a dough. Knead for 5 minutes until you feel it is smooth and elastic. Cover with a teacloth and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Prepare the filling by mixing together well the ricotta with the egg yolk, sugar, marjoram, cinnamon and lemon zest. Put into the fridge.
Cut the dough into four balls and take one, cover the rest with a teacloth. Roll it a little and then setting your pasta machine on the widest setting feed the dough through the machine. Repeat 6 times, folding the pasta into thirds and then turning it 90 degrees to the pasta machine before you feed the pasta dough through each time.
When the dough is the same width as the machine, feed the dough through the machine, gradually narrowing the pasta machine settings, 1 notch at a time. Repeat until you reach the second last setting on the machine. Repeat with the remaining 3 dough portions.
Place a pasta sheet onto a lightly floured surface. Place heaped teaspoonfuls of filling, in 2 rows, at 5cm intervals onto the pasta. Leave a 2cm border around the edges and then using a pastry brush, brush these edges with water. Place a second pasta sheet on top and press the edges together to seal. Use a knife or ravioli wheel to cut between the filling to make your squares. Repeat with the remaining pasta sheets and filling.
Cook in plenty of salted boiling water for approximately 4 minutes, until you see the ravioli rise to the surface. Drain and serve with your preferred sauce if serving as a primo or secondo, or dredged with sugar and cinnamon if serving as a dessert.