Unraveling The Mystery Of A Grandmother's Lost Ravioli Recipe | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Unraveling The Mystery Of A Grandmother's Lost Ravioli Recipe

Play associated audio

NPR listener Alice Benner says her Italian grandmother made ravioli that was "indescribably delicious."

Benner told us that she's tried to re-create the recipe many times. "The dough — the consistency — is totally wrong, usually too thick," she writes.

Benner's grandmother used Romano cheese in the filling — probably from an Italian deli in Chicago — but Benner says when she makes the ravioli, "the Romano cheese I've used never has the same punch. I've all but given up trying to make them."

Unfortunately, Benner didn't have her grandmother's recipe, only a memory of the dish, so she asked All Things Considered's Lost Recipes project for help.

We reached out to Oldways, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving traditional cooking, and they suggested we contact an expert on Italian food, Julia della Croce.

Della Croce was intrigued by two ingredients in the filling: the rice and the Romano cheese. And she used her knowledge of regional Italian cooking to unravel the ravioli.

She asked Benner in an email: "Did her grandmother use olive oil or butter? Answer: olive oil. Did she cook with tomato sauce? Answer: Yes. So the olive oil and the tomato sauce put her either in the central or southern part of Italy. But then again, there was the rice, which put her in the northern part of Italy."

Della Croce was getting warmer. Turns out, Benner's family came from Tuscany, and they were shepherds. So della Croce delved into her collection of cookbooks from the Tuscany and Liguria regions and found a historical recipe for spinach and rice ravioli that was nearly identical to the one Benner had described.

But there was still one ingredient to puzzle over: the Romano cheese, or pecorino Romano. "It's a very sharp, very salty, aged sheep's cheese. And I knew that would overpower the other ingredients," says della Croce.

It also wouldn't melt during cooking to help bind the filling together. "It would have to be a younger cheese, which would give it a melting quality, but have a more mellow flavor," she notes.

Della Croce suggested Benner try a Tuscan sheep's cheese, or pecorino Toscano, for the filling, since that's her family's home region. Sure enough — Alice Benner had her spinach and rice ravioli, the way Nonna used to make it.

You can find the recipe della Croce adapted for Benner here.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

The Colorful, Blossoming D.C. Arts Scene In The 1950s, '60s

In 1965 the work of six local painters went on exhibit at the now-defunct Washington Gallery of Modern Art. The show launched a movement, and the painters' work now hangs in major museums. One of those artists, now 97, lives in Arlington, Va.
NPR

Cash For Halloween Candy? Dentists' Buyback Program Is Booming

If you're like many parents, by tomorrow morning you'll be facing a candy glut. One possible solution? Sell it to a dentist participating in a program that sends candy care packages to troops.
NPR

For This Colorado Voter, Oil And Gas Debate Plays Out On His Property

Knocking on doors in Colorado, Steve Inskeep asks Antionio Covello about the election. The successful Denver business owner, a conservative, weighs mineral rights, foreign policy and division at home.
NPR

Selfies With Bears Prompt Warning From Park Rangers

Selfies with bears are showing up on Instagram. Rangers in South Lake Tahoe have been sufficiently worried to issue a warning: Wild bears are unpredictable, and could attack. #bearselfie

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.