Dreaming of Amalfi – Lemon Ravioli

Amalfi paining by Chef Paulette

Amalfi paining by Chef Paulette

I just finished this painting of a view of Amalfi. When I’m deep in a painting of a beautiful Italian scene I feel myself in that place. I can even smell the air. Feel the sea breeze. My palate gets nostalgic, too. So I’m remembering the lemony ravioli we had on our last trip to Amalfi in 2014. It was at a restaurant in Maiori. A place right on the beach.

lemon ravioli in cream sauce at a restaurant in Maiori

lemon ravioli in cream sauce at a restaurant in Maiori

Lemons are huge in Amalfi and grow everywhere. The cuisine is filled with lemons, too (this where limoncello comes from).

Amalfi lemon

Amalfi lemon

This ravioli lemon-filled dish was so spectacular I figured out how to make it and we’ve cooked in class several times.

lemon ravioli-making in class

lemon ravioli-making in class

Try this immersion into lemon love. Ravioli with lemon-scented ricotta filling and a very lemony cream sauce.

Lemony-Ricotta Stuffed Ravioli w Lemon-Cream Sauce

For the dough:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra

¼ teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the filling:

1 lb. ricotta

½ cup grated cheese

zest of 3 lemons

salt & pepper to taste

For the Sauce:

2 lemons

½ stick unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)

1 cup dry white wine

2/3 cup cream

salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup grated cheese

Make the dough: Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl, and shape into a mound. Create a “well” in the mound and add the eggs. Using a fork slowly mix the flour into the egg, until the dough comes together and most or all the flour is mixed in. Gather the dough and knead it on a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, shape into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Make the filling: Mix the ricotta, grated cheese, and lemon zest. Combine well. Season with salt & pepper.

Make the ravioli: Cut the dough into four pieces. Work with one piece at a time and keep the other pieces covered in plastic wrap. Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle, and roll through the pasta machine, changing the numbers from thick to thinner (lower to higher) one at a time until you reach the next-to-the-last number on the machine. Dust the sheet with flour in between every couple of numbers to keep it from sticking in the machine.

Lay the sheet on a table. Place scant ½-teaspoons of filling in row on the bottom half of the sheet, about an inch apart. Fold the top half over the bottom half. Press all the edges closed to seal well. Cut in between to make the individual ravioli. Place the finished ravioli on a flour-dusted sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.

Make the Sauce: Zest the 2 lemons. Then quarter each lemon, cut off the peel entirely and minced the lemon pulp, discarding any seeds. Melt the butter in a medium sauté pan. Add the zest and pulp. Heat till hot. Add the wine. Cook until simmering. Add the cream. Stir to combine. Cook on medium low heat until cream is bubbling and slightly reduced. Season with salt & pepper.

Cook the ravioli: Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Salt water. Drop in the ravioli and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Spoon half of the sauce into a large shallow serving bowl. Add a few small spoonfuls  of pasta water to dilute sauce a bit. Add ravioli, top with more sauce and gently coat. Serve with some grated cheese.

My Paintings of Italy

Venice View

Venice View

My new obsession. When I’m not in the kitchen, I’m at the dining room table with paint tubes sprawled, aluminum pans for palettes, a small blue plastic colander to hold up one end of my canvas on the table (maybe one of these days, an easel), and I paint.

Positano

Positano

I haven’t taken lessons. I just dive in. I choose a paint brush, play with blending colors, and start to work. A painting slowly emerges. Not perfect. But I like it anyway. It makes me smile. And I see the spirit of the place reflected back at me from the canvas.

Rome's Spanish Steps

Rome’s Spanish Steps

I’ve been around a lot of art in my life. My parents took me to museums when I was little. And I remember distinctly a series of large books at home, each with color plates of a master artist: Degas, Van Gogh, Lautrec, Renoir, Monet…I used to turn those pages for hours. Each painting imprinting in my mind.

My mom painted. I remember the small red hearts and designs on my white child-size furniture. And her canvas paintings of flowers I still have hanging on the wall. She painted a large freehand mural on our living room wall of arching willow trees. When we sold that house we were sure that’s what sold it.

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello

When I lived in NYC I used to haunt the Metropolitan (it was down the street from where I lived), paying 50 cents to get in (they always had a “suggested” admission, but you can pay what you like, so I could go often). And just wander, looking at paintings, old and modern, sculpture, mostly ancient. I loved the Whitney Museum of American Art. And MoMA. And the Guggenheim.

Guggenheim Museum - my very first painting

Guggenheim Museum – my very first painting

When I lived in Rome I took art and architectural history classes. Professors had us meet them right at the site of, say, a Palladio building, or up into the rafters of a church to see the ceiling frescoes.

Then I started writing for museums. Audio tour scripts. And worked with curators from art museums all over the country. We discussed the content to be translated into short audio messages for each painting of an exhibition. How to look at it, what to see, composition, color palette, details of the artist’s life and historical context.

Umbrian Hill Town

Umbrian Hill Town

My once-husband, Peter Selgin, is a painter. I watched him paint. And I saw how he turned reality into art and didn’t worry about creating exact representations (although he could do that if he wanted). But poetic ones.

Grand Canal

Grand Canal

There has been a quiet tug inside me for a long while to paint. I have often wanted to give it a go. But told myself to wait…that it would be a good thing to do when I’m 90… when I might have some free time! But last year I let the tug inside sneak out and I gave it try. I had never held a brush in my hand but I’m so glad I picked one up. The hours I spend on painting are completely free, completely poetic hours. The kind of hours we must all find ways to live.