Memories of Italy and Ravioli from Scratch

When I think about Italy my mind darts to various things. The flowing delicate gowns of Valentino, pictures on the news of the Pope emerging onto his balcony in the Vatican City to speak, the bizarre irregularity of the leaning tower of Pisa and creamy rounds of soft mozzarella.

Italy fascinates me with its archaeology and its food. Strolling along the streets of Pompeii knowing the stones beneath my feet would have looked the same to the people who ran from eruption of Vesuvius centuries ago was an incredible experience. Seeing glimpses of their lives, preserved in the ash until they were dug out: a charred bed, the detail in a wall painting depicting a political slogan, the delicate decoration on the walls and floor tiles in the houses. A gap in the wall of a first floor room allowing a glimpse of a table and chair still in place as if waiting for the people who used them to return.

In the evening in Sorrento I remember vividly the moment I walked into a Gelato shop. It went all the way across the block from one winding little street to the other and the counter covered the same distance. Ice creams and sorbets in glittered in dozens of radiant colours from under its smooth curved glass, adorned with small panels displaying their flavour in curling script.

While the sorbets of Italy are fabulous the pasta is better still. Whether it is long strands of spaghetti decked out in crimson tomato sauce, small parcels of ravioli hiding spoonfuls of some fragrant mixture or simple penne with nothing but olive oil and a few herbs.

I love pasta of any kind but ravioli best of all. Sadly my allergy to cow’s cheese means I can only glance wistfully at the packets of ravioli on the shop shelves. On occasion I can have it in a restaurant. My love of ravioli drove me to attempt making in from scratch and make it gluten free and dairy free for my mother to eat.

Mushroom, Leek and Onion Ravioli (adapted from La Cucina Veneziana by Gino Santin) [serves 4]

250g plain gluten free flour (I substituted in 50g of hemp flour the first time I made this which had a slightly different flavour)

3 eggs

1 onion

1 leek

125g mushrooms

Tomato paste

Chop the mushrooms, leek and onion finely and fry in a little olive oil, add tomato paste to taste in order to bring the mix together slightly.

Make a well in the flour and crack the eggs into it. Mix them with your fingers, slowly bringing in flour from the edges of the well until a firm, slightly sticky dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead with clean dry hands until it is smooth and elastic and no longer sticky.

Take sections of the dough and roll out with a floured rolling pin until paper-thin, try and keep the shape in a rough rectangle. Place spoonfuls of the vegetable mix about an inch in from the edge and roughly an inch apart. Fold the other half of the dough over and gently press down around the mounds of mix. Cut into ravioli shapes by pressing down with a cookie cutter or a butter knife. If you run out of time or get tired of rolling the dough out make little balls of dough and press into the top with a fork to make pasta gnocchi.

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