Last week we had a new student join our German class at Pro-Log, Berlin. We all had to re-introduce ourselves for her benefit, we did the rounds and when it was her turn, she said:
“Ich heisse Rebecca, ich bin italienish und ich bin kochin.” (My name is Rebecca, I am Italian and a chef).
My ears pricked right up at that one and when we had our 15 minute break I perched on the seat next to her and started chatting away. We arranged to visit Wittenbergplatz Market (last week) and Winterfeldtplatz Market (this week) after which she invited me over to show me how to make ravioli.
The minute we entered her cheerful pink kitchen, her pace changed, she began to move with purpose – setting her ingredients down with swift precision.
“Wow, she must be a pro.” I thought. “So how many times have you made ravioli?” I tentatively asked.
“Ravioli? Well, probably 3 times…”
“Hey that is as many times as me!” I thought.
“…a week.” she finished.
Ahhh, well, that clarified things. It turns out Rebecca’s family own a small hotel and restaurant outside Milan, close to Lake Garda called La Sosta. It’s a small operation that has been going for 40 years. When they have a huge wedding party it is Rebecca, her mother and some cousins that make all the ravioli.
I enjoy nothing more than watching a true professional practice his/her craft. Out came the wooden board for the pasta. Half a kilo of flour was measured by eye into a bowl, six eggs cracked in quick sucession.
10 turns with a spoon.
Then onto the wooden board, about 20 or so kneads.
Then the dough was divided into 4. Rebecca pushed the dough down into rough rectangles with the heels of her hands and then began to feed the pasta through the manual manual pasta machine.
She allowed me to try but after two passes I managed to crinkle and tear the sheet. “Catastropha!” She exclaimed! I passed back the pasta rolling duty, we did want to eat today after all!
I was allowed to fill and make the ravioli.
I made 5. Rebecca made 50.
“Do you want to eat some?” She asked smiling. Did I ever?!
Quick as a flash she dropped the ravioli into boiling water, threw what looked like half a block of butter into a pan with some sage leaves – brought it to brown butter stage and dished it all up with a sprinkle of Parmesan. It happened so fast I barely even had time to take a picture.
It was so delicious, I ate it slowly, savouring each bite. I could eat it all again. And I am going to! Tonight, because the thought full Rebecca sent me home with ravioli and Parmesan. I usually don kid gloves when making pasta, I use recipes from Jaime Oliver, Mario Batali and Giorgio Locatelli that only use egg yolks or whole eggs, shaping the flour into a mound and slowly incorporating the egg, a bit like making pancake batter by hand. I let it rest – I would do the boogie woogie if I thought that might in some way help make my pasta more tender and delicious. But watching Rebecca whiz through her ravioli making today, I am going to try it her way!
Jealous? Don’t be. Rebecca will soon be available for private hire, so watch this space – or drop me an email.