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Holiday Ruminations, Part II

Sun Jan 6, 2008

Every Monday night when I was a freshman in high school my father and I made dinner. My mother would leave us chicken breasts, but the rest was up to us. We liked to stir-fry a lot in those days and we loved to play in the spice cabinet, opening random bottles and sprinkling on a whim, dusting the countertops a mottled pattern of ochre, crimson and green. Often we added peanut butter. We could never duplicate a dish and, to be honest, there were plenty of times we didn’t want to. But every now and then we hit our stride and the flavors were fantastic. Sometimes we ordered pizza.

While these Monday night dinners were inspiring, the best part about them was the time I spent with my dad. I think through cooking he was able to teach me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned—to let go of the outcome and enjoy the ride.

I recently went to Boston for the first time, to celebrate Christmas with my boyfriend’s family. I’d met his folks once before, at a wedding in San Diego, but spending a week at their house made me a bit nervous. Yet that all quickly subsided when I learned, upon arrival, that the Ferrazzanis had held off making cannoli until Neal and I got home so that I could help.

The Ferrazzanis cannoli are unique, light and flakey and filled with Boston cream instead of ricotta. Paul makes them bite-sized, since it seems people at a party won’t eat one big cannnoli but have no trouble eating three or four little ones. The recipe comes from his sister, Anna. Years ago Aunt Anna created a fabulous kit that included a recipe book, cannoli molds, a cannoli cutter and a pastry cloth, but for some reason it didn’t quite catch on. It was a lot of heart-wrenching, hand-ringing, hard work, so in deference to her efforts I’m not going to give away the family cannoli recipe. But if you’re interested, drop me a line and maybe we can get the kit back onto the market.

cannoli prep

Barbara and me working on the cannoli…

Neal’s dad, Paul, was incredibly patient as he explained how thick to roll out the pastry dough for the shells, then gently chastising me for not cutting my circles close enough together and wasting dough, which would be harder to roll out a second time. Neal and his mother, Barbara, got into the action of rolling the pastry around the molds as I fried them up and Paul settled them into layer after layer in paper towel-lined colanders. In all, our cannoli-making team made more than 200 cannoli shells to happily feed both sides of the family’s Christmas sweet tooth.


Cannoli frying…

The cannoli making went so well, in fact, that Paul suggested we try making ravioli.

The ravioli were a revelation. I’ve been interested in learning how to make my own pasta for a while, but haven’t attempted it for lack of a pasta machine. It was much easier than I expected, though it took the three of us to feed the simple egg dough through the hand-crank pasta roller. The sheets were long and delicate, with the light peeking through the thin pasta like ribbons of handmade lace. We filled them with a mixture of ground meat, spinach and ricotta and crimped the edges with a fork. Nonna apparently knew something we didn’t, though, since it took the three of us three hours to make around 80 ravioli and she was said to make 200 by herself while preparing a host of other things.


Cranking out the pasta dough…


Piping out the ravioli filling…


Crimping the ravs…


Fresh ravioli, ready to cook


Spinach and meat ravioli with Paul Ferrazzani marinara

The whole experience was a great way to learn about my boyfriend’s family, their personalities, their relationships with each other and about their family history. Conversation flowed easily while we were cooking and they really made me feel at home and welcome. Everything was perfectly simple, the act of coming together to celebrate the holidays like making dough out of egg and flour.

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3 Responses to “Holiday Ruminations, Part II”

  1. Alchemizzle Says:

    The ravioli never would have happened if it weren’t for you, My Dear. đŸ™‚

  2. foodwoolf Says:

    I am SO ALL ABOUT THE CANNOLI. I can’t wait to make some! We must get the recipe!

  3. Colanders Says:

    Where was this blog a year ago? Great article (Ruminations, Part II | SpicySaltySweet)! Can you believe I was searching for Colanders when I fond this post Sunday.

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About Leah



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