A Behind-the-Scene’s Look at Ravioli Making

(This item was first published Nov. 24, 2010. My family gathered again this fall to make ravioli for the Holidays. For me, it remains a rare time to get together with cousins and other kin from the extended Digitale family, to catch up with one another and to remember our childhood.)


As a boy, I never ate a Thanksgiving dinner without homemade ravioli. Our extended clan always gathered at my grandparents’ home in Jackson, Calif. in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Sitting around the kitchen table with my cousins, I would watch the ravioli’s brown meat gravy flow across the plate into my grandmother’s turkey dressing. Then it would mix with the thicker turkey gravy that had covered my mashed potatoes.

It was the same meat gravy my grandfather would use for risotto, the rice dish that for me will always remain the heart and soul of Italian comfort food. But ravioli was deemed king by my grandparents, and it became part of every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.

My grandparents have been gone for more than a quarter century, but their three daughters and my mother kept alive the laborious tradition of making ravioli. And in time their daughters and daughters-in-law came alongside them. Two years ago I took part, holding the baseball-bat-sized rolling pin that my grandfather had used to roll out the ravioli dough. The experience nearly gave me blisters.

I am indebted to my aunts for keeping alive this connection to my grandparents, John Digitale and Gerna Kirkwood Digitale.

Below is a video I made of our 2009 gathering, when my clan made 1,700 ravioli in one day. Listen and you will hear an aunt explain how in the days before freezers my grandparents would make the ravioli the night before their dinners and then place the stuffed pasta on boards to dry before cooking.

Here also is a photo of this year’s gathering (2010), when we made close to 2,500 ravioli!

Thanks to Peter Anderson of Anderson Photography for taking photos of our ravioli making.

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