I love making pasta. The process is so relaxing. The product, so delicious. The options, limitless.
When I was growing up my family owned an Italian restaurant called Mona Lizza (originally named Mona Lizza - Pasta, Pool & Pizza.. The 90's...). this is where I cut my chops in the kitchen. Mona Lizza was attached to our BBQ Restaurant, West Bros. They were attached by a common dish room and prep room, which made for some crazy weekend nights. Together those two restaurants sat about 350 and in the 90's, it was the place to be.
I think the opening of an Italian restaurant was sparked by my family's deep love for Italian food. I remember going to a little mafia style spot in Greenwich Village, NYC called Monte's Trattoria with my Grandparents (Dad's side) when I was a kid. My Grandfather (Mom's side) is Italian and he and my uncles on that side have been curing their own Proscuitto for as long as I can remember. When he gave me the recipe he made me promise NEVER to share it with anyone.
I remember my first trip to Italy like it was yesterday. I gained so much weight in 8 days. IT was nuts. Traveling to Italy was a revelation. The simplicity of the cooking and the focus of the ingredients really speaks to my cooking style and I loved all the outdoor markets where we were purchasing vegetables, beans, pasta, cured meats & plenty of gelato.
We were told by some friendly travelers we met about a little restaurant in Miane, Veneto Region called Da Gigetto. They apparently had one of the most important wine cellars in the Veneto region so we took the drive out into Prosecco country for lunch one day and WOW! We were glad we did.
Fresh pasta, delicate seafood dishes, garlic snails, veal liver mousse, excellent, perfectly cooked vegetable side dishes and WINE! So much wine! They took us down into the cellar after lunch and it was beyond your wildest dreams. Aged cognac and brandy, single malts, ancient wines, champagne, amaro, grappa... and you wouldn't believe how generous they were. They were dusting off bottles and pouring us this and that as we strolled through the cellar. This wine cellar also had an 80 foot natural spring well in the middle of it that regulated the humidity and gave a gentle ambiance of the spring feeding below. The walls of the dimly lit, giant stone stair case down were lined with empty magnums of high end vintage champagne. Without a doubt, these guys knew how to party.
We were so impressed that we drove back for lunch the following day and when we did, the menu was completely different. That got me excited, so after lunch I inquired about a stage with them and they obliged. So the next night my Grandpa drove me back out into the country so I could work a shift in their kitchen. I use the word work lightly (I don't think they wanted to let me touch anything cause they didn't want me to fuck anything up, honestly). Never the less, they had a chef's uniform ready for me when I arrived. The chef, Marco, told me to take pictures of everything. He stuck a spoon in my pocket and said to taste everything and ask as many questions as I wanted. Anything I tasted that I liked he would give me the recipe on.
He gave me a complete tour of the grounds. Chef's garden, outdoor reception area outside of the catering kitchen that was located across the cobblestone street and under the cherry blossom trees. I remember when we walked into that kitchen it smelled strongly of bananas. That's what we were there for, to retrieve the bananas from the food dehydrator. They were for a new dish he was working on for a private party that was coming to dinner that night. The dish: a pre-cursor to dessert.. Mustard Gelato with Banana Cake and Dried Banana. Sounds crazy, but it worked. The mustard in the gelato was just right and sweetened by the brown sugar and sweet banana in the cake. It really was an affirming night in my career. I knew I was right where I was supposed to be. Although I don't speak Italian and I couldn't understand what they were talking about, I knew by their tonality and body language that they were talking about the same things we talk about. There was plenty of joking around and ball busting going on too.
That trip was principally responsible for the menu at Julienne. Da Gigetto changing their menu every day was absolutely crazy to me and I loved everything about it. A daily menu where the focus of the menu is on the ingredients. Our local Farmers Market here in Santa Barbara played right into this strategy and Julienne was an expression of that freshness and constant change.
Pasta is one of the great staple foods of life. I love ravioli because they are fun to eat and they are so versatile. You can fill them with anything and you can eat them with sauce or without depending on what you fill them with. Kids love to eat them and they cook super fast and can be kept in the freezer and they can be there for you if you are in a time crunch or just feeling lazy. I make them all from scratch and I thought I would share my recipe with you below.
Egg Pasta Recipe
500g AP Flour
60mL Olive Oil
12 ea Egg Yolks
(This is a 1.5X Batch pictured for any wise guys counting egg yolks in the bowl)
This is called the well method because you make a well out of your flour.
Then you drop all your wet ingredients into the well and slowly mix in the flour.
After about 5 minutes of kneading, it will look like this and then it needs to rest 30 min.
I roll it through my pasta maker in the typical fashion. Roll down to 5.
I don't use any kind of Ravioli mould... I just make them by hand, the old fashioned way.
When they are finished I hold them in the freezer until I am ready to cook them. If you hold them in the fridge the pasta hydrates from he moisture in the filling and it will gum up your pasta. So you want to keep them frozen until you cook them, always.
Thanks for reading!! I hope you enjoyed the story!
Ravioli will continue to be available in the add ons section of the store. They are great with the CSA bags that I bring from the farmers market as well!