Chiara Maci is a young Italian TV food blogger/presenter. I say young because she was born in the 1980s. One of her recent programmes is called “Italian Bites” – “L’Italia a Morsi” and she travels all over the country to eat in people’s homes – a home restaurant as opposed to a commercial restaurant. She is a bit like me, i.e. ‘half and half’. Half of her is from Bologna (North) and the other from Campania Region (South). She has an extraordinarily beautiful smile and does a lot of telegenic moves on the programme à la Nigella but one can tell that she is the real deal, and is authentic about her love of good food. Soon after lockdown, I remembered the basics of a Sicilian pasta dish she was making with her hostess Elisa in the Sicilian town of Modica. My daughter helped me replicate this dish and upon tasting it we decided it was a recipe to be repeated. Different.
The recipe entails making fresh pasta and cutting it into squares or rounds (I used a glass to do this). The ‘fake’ sauce is thus named (“sugo finto”) because it contains no meat. Yep, seriously, that’s why. Obviously in the past if you couldn’t add meat for whatever reason, it didn’t pass muster or something like that. Also, while ricotta is utterly ‘normal’ when stuffing ravioli, I was surprised by the inclusion of fennel seeds in the fake sauce. Elisa was lucky enough to have a concentrated form of tomato purée only made in Sicily called “u strattu” … so I had to substitute with just plain tomato purée. All this to say that today’s blog post is a mannerist interpretation of the recipe (good enough for me).
I am including a link to the episode in question. Move to roughly 35 minutes into the programme to follow the recipe at its source! https://it.dplay.com/food-network/l-italia-a-morsi/stagione-2-episodio-13/
(1)Fresh pasta: 1 egg per 100g of durum wheat flour (or other flour of your choice) per person (Elisa made hers differently adding water even). Said rule of thumb yields a hefty portion so I used only 2 eggs/200g flour for three people at lunch that day.
(2)Filling: fresh marjoram leaves, ricotta and caciocavallo cheese
(3)Sauce: fennel seeds, bayleaf, carrot, onion, olive oil, canned plum tomatoes, tomato purée or “strattu” if you can find any !
Freshly grated pecorino cheese to top off the past once plated
THE PASTA: Well, make the pasta first. Set aside to rest before rolling it out. While it is resting you can get on with the fake sauce.
Chop up the onion and carrot.
Warm some fennel seeds and a couple of bay leaves in a sensible amount of olive oil.
Don’t wait too long before adding the carrot and onion – we don’t want the fennel to burn or overpower the flavour.
When the carrot and onion have gone kinda golden – add about two tablespoons of tomato purée.Then add one large jar of Italian plum tomatoes and a glass of water (not in the photo). Add salt. Taste. Maybe a pinch of sugar? You never know.
MAKING THE RAVIOLI
Use a glass or a cookie cutter to make the ravioli.
This is fresh marjoram. From my balcony no less ! Pssst. I do not have green fingers. Quite the contrary. The reason I have plenty of marjoram is because marjoram just grows and grows and needs hardly any attention whatsoever, year after year, whatever the weather.
Caciocavallo cheese on the left and ricotta on the right. If I’d had a ragusano cheese it would have been divine but I had to make do with caciocavallo.
Mix the two cheeses, add salt and pepper and the marjoram leaves.
Stuff the ravioli with this filling.
My daughter’s ravioli were much nicer than mine. She has more patience.
Use a fork at the end to crenellate/crimp these half-moon packets of promising gorgeousness. By the way, this is not how the TV Elisa went about it. She made little triangles and then after folding in half, she ‘pinched’ the edge.
TIME TO COOK AND SERVE !
Add yet more marjoram to the sauce.
Cook the ravioli and plonk them straight into the fake sauce in a large saucepan over a high heat.I sprinkled some pecorino over the dish just before serving the ravioli.
The plate is Sicilian too … and very cheerful and bright. Which is what we are in need of at the moment.