Thursday, April 20, 2006
Here's an old photo of my Grandmother (Dad's Mom) with my older sister. I'm guessing my sister is about 6 here...which would make this photo about 27 years old. Anyway, they've both passed on now, but not from my memory. Both were named Theresa, but Grandma's friends called her Tret. My sister was Terri.
I've been thinking about Grandma lately because of the Easter Holiday. Grandma was an excellent cook, but protective of her recipes. When she died, a lot of her recipes died too, as she rarely (if ever) had them written down. My mother does have a few that she wrote down while watching Grandma at work. These are rather comical... Grandma's cooking wasn't very scientific, and everything was added until things "felt right" or were the right consistency (hard to convey on paper). I don't know if she truly ever measured out ingredients. But, she definitely knew what she was doing.
Over the years, a number of us have been in search of traditional Italian recipes that would be the closest to what Grandma used to make for us. I remember that when my family would drive 4 hours across Upstate NY to visit my grandparents in Amsterdam, Grandma would have a pot of chicken noodle soup with beef meatballs ready on the stove. I'd never heard of anyone else making that, and now I realize that it's actually a version of Italian Wedding Soup, that you see all over now. (Campbell's version is actually very close in taste to Grandma's, and when I first tasted it I just had to tell my father about it!)
I kind of went off on a tangent there... Anyway, this past Easter, my mother actually pulled out a few of the traditional meals that Grandma used to make. The ham pie (she had gotten this recipe from my cousin, who pulled it from her memory), Ricotta Cream Pie, Ravioli, and the lemon cookies (these are awesome and a must at all my family holidays - Mom and Dad both, even after the divorce - and my father still contends that my mother makes them better than Grandma ever did...but my Uncle refuses to agree. They actually argued about it once, my Uncle ending with, "They're good, but they're not how Mom made them.")
We need to tweak the ham pie, as Mom and I both think there was too much cheese, and don't remember it quite that way. It was good though. This was what the family would stay up late on Good Friday waiting for. As soon as the clock struck midnight, and we could eat meat again, out came the ham pie, eaten cold.
The ravioli are also a family tradition. They take 2 days and are completely worth it. Both of my parents make them, just a tiny bit different. My dad uses a pasta machine now, but my mom still rolls out the pasta by hand. I'm pretty sure they both use a food processor now though, to prepare the filling. The filling is spinach, sausage, parmesan, egg, salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg...Chopped so fine it's the consistency of pudding. That sits overnight, and the dough is made the next day. My favorite part of the recipe as my mom wrote it is that it calls for 6 eggshells of water. (Grandma originally told her to add water to consistency, but as mom watched, she saw Grandma measure out 6 eggshells full.)
And my mother takes great pride in her raviolis. (Though I think her biggest vanity is actually her ability to make pie crust...) Here's mom posing for my blog (camera ham! hehe):
Spooning filling into pasta.
Folding the pasta over on itself...ready to roll!
The action shot...with the ravioli rolling pin.
Originally, my idea was to share the actual recipe...but I actuall forgot to write it out for myself! (I re-wrote it for Mom, to make it clearer & easier to follow, though it almost felt like I was robbing that little recipe card of it's historical accuracy and character.)
I do have the gnocci recipe though...maybe another time.