Bread is the staff of life and bread of all sizes, shapes and tastes are baked all over the world. In my Italian American family, the Easter season is a time to eat Italian Easter Bread. It’s especially delicious toasted.
Braided Italian Easter Bread and Knots
As with any recipe, there are an infinite number of variations, and each cook believes theirs is the best. My daughter at GraceFullPlate.com has bravely written a family recipe that seemed to change from family member to family member. I say bravely, because many family members did not write down the recipe, but just made the bread year after year.
Last Easter season, I joined my Aunts and Mom back east to make 20 loaves of braided Easter Bread. We also made small “knots” that are great for eating with a cup of coffee or tea.For the family recipe, please check out my daughter’s blog at GraceFullPlate.com.
Wrist deep in Easter Bread dough
Braided and Twisted dough in lightly oiled pans before baking
I enjoyed making homemade ravioli in a cooking course in Tuscany this past September, and then made them with friends twice in the last month here at home. I must say, they are so light and delicious, it’s hard to believe they are pasta!
We used a hand cranked pasta machine and a ravioli form that looks like an ice cube tray. Of course, you do not need any equipment, but it is quicker, and this helps to seal the ravioli, so you don’t lose the filling or your happy ‘feeling’. So, here’s the recipe and instructions.
Ravioli Recipe and Equipment
Simple ingredients. Semolina flour makes a rich dough. A pasta maker insures greater ease in making thin light dough. Ingredients:
2 cup Semolina Flour
3 large Eggs
pinch of salt
Ravioli Form (looks like ice cube tray)
Ravioli Pasta Machine
Crack eggs in small bowl. Whisk or beat with fork or your fingers.
Make mountain of flour on a flat surface, and form a well in the center of it. Pour in 1/2 of egg mixture and begin mixing egg into flour with 2 fingers while supporting the mound of flour with your other hand, adding in the rest of the egg mixture once the dough gets going.
Knead dough for 5 minutes, flouring surface with semolina as needed. Form dough into ball and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Set dough aside to rest 15-30 minutes while you make the filling.
Recipe for Spinach Ricotta Filling: 1 lb. Ricotta (15 oz container)
2 C. fresh spinach, uncooked
dash of salt
1 Tbl parsley
1/3 C parmigiana cheese, grated
Blend all ingredients in food processor until very smooth.
After dough has rested 15-30 minutes, gently flatten the ball of dough and cut into 4 pieces with a knife or dough blade. Roll out first piece. Work quickly so dough does not dry out. Keep extra dough in plastic wrap.
Lenora (left) and Kathleen (right) using the Pasta Machine
Pasta Maker: During the process of moving each piece of dough through the machine, you will be setting the knob on #1 four times, then on numbers 2. 3. 4. 5 consecutively.
First set the knob on #1, roll the dough through. Then fold the dough into thirds. This actually helps to knead the dough even more.
#1 setting for 2nd time. Roll the dough that was folded into thirds through again.
Then add a little flour onto the piece of dough. Fold into thirds again.
#1 setting for the 3rd time. Run dough through machine. Fold into thirds.
#1 setting for 4th time.
#2, #3, #4, #5 settings, running the dough through once on each number. It is not necessary to fold dough for the #2 through 5 settings.
1st sheet of dough over silver form tray, press down with white form, add filling, cover with 2nd sheet of dough
Next, you form the ravioli either by hand or with a ravioli form: (looks like an ice-cube tray). Ravioli are more uniform, quicker to make and, seals tightly with this. (See next week’s post for details on making ravioli by hand.)
Place the long strip of dough on a floured counter. Measure length of dough to be slightly longer than the ravioli maker (ice cube tray thingy), and cut to have small overhang. Two strips needed.
Next place 1st strip of dough flour side down (so it is easily removed from form) onto ravioli maker. Make sure dough reaches over the edges a little.
Then, press gently with the ‘white form’ to make the wells for the filling.
Fill the wells with 1 tsp or so of filling. Take the 2nd strip of dough, flour side up. Gently press down to get all the air out.
Use a rolling pin, to roll over the top of the ravioli form to cut the edges to form ravioli. Then overturn the tray, and pop out the ravioli. You may have to very gently pop them out, but be careful.
Pop ravioli out of form. May have to gently nudge them out.
Prevent ravioli from sticking together by parboiling them in rapidly boiling water for 1 minute. Take out with slotted spoon and place on dish. (You will cook them later or put into freezer bags in the freezer).
NOTE: Be sure to put the pasta machine back to #1, to begin the next section of dough.
Right before eating, boil ravioli until they float to the top of the water. 4 minutes or more.
Serve with Marinara Sauce, and grated parmigiana cheese. As with any recipe, the higher the quality of ingredient, the better tasting will be the finished product.
The best part is sharing your delicious creation with friends and family. Let me know when you’ve tried this recipe. Buon appetito!