This morning my son Zack and I began the two day process of making Nanna Maria’s Ravioli from scratch.
My Sicilian grandmother…Maria Costanza Truzzolino…arrived in America during the early 20th century as a shy teenager from Cefala Diana, Sicily.
Not long after coming ashore in the New World, Maria Costanza married my Sicilian grandfather…Antonio Truzzolino…a man from Godrano, Sicily who was 15 years older!
As time moved forward, Maria Truzzolino stood faithfully by her husband as he built a successful Market Street restaurant business in downtown San Francisco…despite the terrible Great Depression era. At home, my grandmother raised my mom Josephine and my uncle Joe, while creating new American traditions based on her old country upbringing.
From the “old country”, young Maria Costanza carried in her mind across the Atlantic, generation spanning family recipes of splendidly rustic, satisfying, Sicilian compagna inspired cooking.
As I grew, many of my favorite memories of time spent with my Nanna Maria Truzzolino were in her kitchen. I watched her prepare family heritage meals with a relaxed, exquisite, loving perfection. We reminisced about her experiences as a young woman in Cefala Diana…and how they compared to those during her new life here in America.
Often she spoke with me in Sicilian. It was then that I was grateful for my earlier childhood years when I was often surrounded by many Sicilian family members speaking their “country Italian” during get togethers. I was able to absorb enough of it to understand the language…not fluently by any stretch…but enough to fully appreciate my visits with Nanna in her native tongue.
Time passed. I married. I asked Nanna if I could please copy her recipes…so that in the future, Sonja and I would be able to carry forward her culinary traditions. Nanna would always say…“Non ho le mie ricette scritte. Sono nella mia testa.”
Translation: “I don’t have my recipes written down. They are in my head.”
Uh, oh. Nanna Maria had been creating and cooking from memory. Freestyle, so to speak.
Nanna Maria passed away in 1991. Fortunately, Sonja and I had decided a dozen years before, that we would spend time with Nanna as she prepared some of our family favorites.
Over the course of several days, Sonja transcribed procedures and ingredients as Nanna cooked. In Nanna’s words, “just a little bit of parsley” might translate in reality, to one and a half teaspoons of parsley; “a package of ground beef” …to three and a half pounds. And so on.
One of the recipes we absolutely, positively had to have was for Nanna’s Ravioli. I especially remember enjoying her ravioli around the Holidays.
It was a Tradition.
On Day One, Nanna cooked a whole chicken, carefully sliced onions, browned ground pork and beef…then gently combined that whole chicken, spinach and seasonings with the browned meat. Pushing it all through a meat grinder was a final step that first day.
On Day Two, Nanna thoroughly mixed flour, water and eggs to create pasta dough which she’d fill with the delicious ingredients created the day before.
The result of all this loving preparation? The most tender little meat filled pillows to ever cross a palate.
It’s a lot of work making Nanna’s Ravioli…but so worth it. I attempt it myself every couple of years right around Christmas. To continue the Tradition.
I decided it was time for ravioli again this year. When Zack heard I was going to be tackling this on my own, he volunteered to get involved.
Yes! The Tradition continues!
So this morning…we began the Day One process.
Day Two tomorrow…Pasta!