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Sweet Fried Ravioli

Made from a spice-flavored dough, filled with ricotta cheese, cut like ravioli, fried, and showered with confectioner's sugar, there are the favorite Christmas cookies of my good friend Louis Terramagra. His Sicilian grandmother, Stella La Maraca, was from Caltinasetta, and this cookie was her hallmark. The dough is very soft, so chilling it is recommended for easier handling. To make the job even easier, use a ravioli form, which yields a dozen squares at a time. MAKES 5 1/2 TO 6 DOZEN

Ingredients

DOUGH

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon lard or solid vegetable shortening, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

FILLING

1 pound skim-milk ricotta, well drained

1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

2 tablespoons King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoons grated orange zest

Vegetable oil for deep frying

Confectioner's sugar for sprinkling

Directions

In a bowl, mix together the sugar, egg, milk, lard or shortening, and vanilla

Sift together 2 1/4 cups flour, the baking powder, spices, and salt to another bowl. Add the egg mixture and mix with your hands until a ball of dough is formed, adding additional flour if the dough seems very sticky; this is a soft dough. Wrap the dough in wax paper and refrigerate for at least several hours, or overnight. In a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, confectioner's sugar, flour, and orange zest. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the rest covered and refrigerated.

To make the ravioli using a ravioli form, divide each piece of dough in half. On a floured surface, roll out each piece into a 12-by-5-inch strip. Place one strip over the bottom section of the form. Make slight impressions in the dough with the top part of the form. Place a scant teaspoonful of the filling in the center of each impression, and cover with a second strip of dough. Roll over the top of the form with a rolling pin until the teeth of the form show through the dough. Turn the form over and shake out the ravioli. Place the ravioli on kitchen towel-lined cookie sheets and refrigerate for 15 minutes before frying.

To shape the ravioli by hand, on a floured surface, roll each piece of dough out to about 1/4-inch thick. Using a pastry wheel, cut into squares of the desired size. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of half of the squares and top each one with a second square. Seal the edges of the ravioli with a fork dipped in flour, place on towel-lined cookie sheets and refrigerate as above.

In a deep-fryer or deep heavy pot, heat the vegetable oil to 375°F. Fry the ravioli, a few at a time, until golden brown. Drain on brown paper and let cool slightly, then sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.

This recipe is from Celebrations Italian Style by Mary Ann Esposito, published by Hearst Books in 1995.

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