Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ravioli making - Little Italy, Baltimore

We learned how to make homemade ravioli from the experts at St. Leo's Church in Baltimore's Little Italy. Among the many experts was 95 year old Lucy Palmere Pompa who holds the title of "Ravioli Queen of Baltimore" (featured here in a City Paper story). By her own estimates, she's probably made 1 million ravioli in her lifetime.  

Thomas and I with our high school Italian Club friends and the Ravioli experts.  95 year old Lucy Palmere Pompa (far right) holds the title of "Ravioli Queen of Baltimore"  
The ravioli making event is the precursor to the St. Leo's annual ravioli and spaghetti dinner on Sunday, November 3 from noon to 6 pm, a bi-annual fundraiser that supports the church's many community service projects. 

Since the dinner requires almost 12,000 ravioli, volunteers are needed to make the pasta in the days prior to the event (meatball making is the day before the dinner). No experience necessary. The St. Leo ravioli experts are happy to share their knowledge. Charles and I organized a group of students from our high school Italian club to volunteer for this event which was held in the kitchen basement hall of the Sons of Italy lodge #2286.

The very first thing we did was wash our hands.  Then, we paired up with ravioli experts for some lessons then we started on our own ravioli making journey. 

Ms. Lucy carefully made the pasta dough in the
kitchen's oversize mixer. Then, the dough balls are cut in slices and put through the kneading machine where it spits out perfect size ribbons of pasta sheets. 

                         The pasta sheets were spread out on the tables. Then, very carefully, we put a spoonful of a seasoned ricotta cheese mixture. This may seem easy but it's not. Each cheese spoonful must be the same exact size and spaced exactly a few inches apart. Otherwise, when the dough is folded over the cheese, it will be too big or too small - this will lead to the ricotta leaking when its boiled.

Next, we folded one edge of the dough over over the cheese mixture to make what looks like a log with bumps. Then, we used a soft karate chop action to press down the dough around the scoops of filling to form a pocket. This gets all the air out of the ravioli.

Finally, we used a pasta cutter that looks like a funny rounded edged wheel to cut out each ravioli.  This too has to be precise because the goal is to have each ravioli uniform so each batch cooks at exactly the same amount of time. 

After cutting, a fork is used to make the details around the ravioli edges. 

The finished product is placed on a commercial size tray dusted with cornmeal each containing exactly 60 ravioli, six down and ten across. 4,839 ravioli were made the day we volunteered. 

 At the end of the ravioli making, all the volunteers were treated to a delicious spaghetti & meatball lunch courtesy of the event organizers.

 As we were finishing lunch, we were told WBAL TV (Baltimore Channel 11) had arrived to film a story about the ravioli making.  The organizers asked us to be part of the filming and interview.  It was such an honor to be standing next to the ravioli experts such as Mrs. Lucy.

When the TV story airs, we'll add the video here.

Don't forget - the ravioli & spaghetti fundraiser dinner is on Sunday, November 3. If you want more information, call St. Leo's church at 410-675-7275.  Click here to watch a video from WJZ TV Baltimore Channel 13 about last year's dinner.

GRAZIE to all the St. Leo and Sons of Italy ravioli experts who helped us learn the fine art of ravioli making. We really appreciated your patience and knowledge. We look forward to volunteering again. 

- Charles