Earlier in the week, my grandma from Italy arrived in the U.K. As some of you may (or may not) know, recently, my mum officially moved back here after living in the Middle East for fourteen years, a place where I spent most of my childhood.
I’m not sure how many of you will be familiar with Italian culture, but basically, everything in Italy revolves around food (and carbs!). Your lunch times are strictly classed within the order of antipasti (starter) primo (usually pasta), secondo (followed by meat/fish) and dolci (desserts.. I think this is where my rule of always finishing a meal with something sweet came from). Seriously, it still takes me an effort to convince my grandma that I don’t particularly like having a three-course meal every day. Nonetheless, when my grandma arrived, she had naturally stocked up her suitcase and bought over an abundance of fresh Italian produce (Lucky me!). She had items like fresh buffalo mozzarella (you can buy these at Naples airport), ricotta, among other delicious things. Unsurprisingly, one of the things she enjoys most is cooking, usually waking up super early most mornings to start making fresh pasta dough and regularly yearning to cook us all something. While her old fashioned beliefs still startle me, (she tells me that it’s vital for a woman to cook for her man- I don’t think so sister!) it’s always nice when we can come together and make something tasty.
We decided to make both fresh ravioli and fusilli (another type of pasta pictured below and made by yours truly). The ancient trick to making the perfect fusilli? My grandma uses the inner rods from an umbrella (no lie).
For the pasta dough itself, her recipe is as follows:
250g of pasta flour “00.”
You simply mix the two ingredients together and add some water to help bind it all together. Leave it to rest for a bit before attempting to use.
As for the filling, (roasted butternut squash and ricotta), I decided to take inspiration from Jamie Oliver’s new recipe book- ‘Super Food Family Classics’. If you follow me on my food Instagram, then you will know I’ve recently been using the book and replicating dishes (to convince myself I am an actual chef). I roasted a butternut squash whole at 180c for an hour and then added the ricotta in for an additional 30 minutes. When the butternut squash had softened, I scooped out the flesh discarding the seeds and mixed both the ricotta and squash together with some salt, pepper and basil.
As Italians, my mum obviously owns a pasta machine (i think almost every Italian does), which makes rolling the dough out easy, to spoon the mixture and fold the pasta sheet over. Of course, if you don’t have a machine (like myself in my kitchen) then you can use a rolling pill to still get a similar effect.
Next, using a mould especially made for ravioli making (see, I told you- italians are dedicated to our food), my grandma pressed and discarded the surrounding dough. Once everything was done and enough had been made, I boiled water with some salt and cooked the pasta for about two minutes. For the cherry (tomato) on top of my fabulous food day, we also had fresh parmesan from Italy AND tomato sauce that my mum had made earlier. While it took time and effort, nothing quite beats a plate of fresh creamy pasta!
In true Italian fashion, the day couldn’t be over without making desserts. We made Pasticelle, or Stelline di Natale- because they look like stars and they are made during Christmas in the south of Italy. However, my sister and I love them and have usually never got to go to Italy during the Christmas season, so my grandma is happy to make them 365 days of the year! It is essentially a sweet pastry that is fried and has a gooey chestnut, coffee and dark chocolate filling. They are also lightly dusted with icing sugar. My favourite time to eat them is when they are fresh out the fryer and the chocolate filling oozes from the inside.
I think it’s safe to say that I was left pleasantly satisfied (along with incredibly full- which is what every Italian grandmother aims to accomplish) and if you ever get the chance to meet her, I’m sure you’d feel the same.