Gourmet Lisa: Cheese Raviolis and Meat Sauce

Just kidding dad, I won’t be sharing the secret family ravioli and sauce recipe with the world here on the Internet. 🙂

I will say that ravioli making is how I got my “Gourmet Lisa” start. Growing up each year I watched my dad not really use a recipe, but put it together based on the taste until the right amount of salt, pepper, basil, parsley, etc. blended together for the sauce, dough, and cheese filling. Oh, and calls to his mom each year also helped.

So for me, nothing quite says “holiday” like ravioli or lasagna making. It was definitely just the thing I needed to put me into the Christmas spirit this year too.

Oh and John or Cara, if you are reading this, the raviolis we owe you for those keyboard tracks are finally coming your way.

Ravioli making is pretty much an all day process and yeilds hundreds of the scrumptious little cheese packages at the end. So here’s a photo essay to show what goes on:


First up is sauce. We got to my dad’s house after church and it was already simmering on the stove. So we walked in and were pleasantly greeted by the aroma. Mmmm. This sauce is like the meat sauce of all meat sauces. There is ground beef, meat balls and Italian sausages in it. Plus various veggies. It is pretty chunky. My dad always starts it in the morning and slow cooks it all day long. We  take “breaks” throughout the day to stop and snack on sauce and bread.

The next step is to make the filling. We usually do a pretty simple Ricotta cheese filling, but last time we made raviolis my dad said he wanted us to experiment with a spinach filling. So this year a small portion of the batch has this new spinach filling I came up with. Purely an experiment.


New spinach filling.


Plain filling. The little green specks are herbs.

Next up is to make the dough. I don’t actually have pictures of this process because Bean decided to be a little fussy at that point and so I had to tend to her needs. Once the dough is made, my dad pulls off chunks of it and rolls it out really thin. He spoons the filling onto the dough and then starts cuting out the raviolis.

And then that’s when the rest of us get in on the action using forks to seal them all up. It becomes this flurry of hands cutting, forking, reaching, grabbing, and handing off.

As each one is finished we put it on a plate. When the plate is full I take it into the house.

We have a clean sheet spread out on one of the beds and we start laying out the raviolis. I’m not really sure what purpose laying them out serves other than it is a place to put them while we work on the rest and so we can count them all. This year we made 83 spinach and 198 plain cheese.

After we’re all done making them, we divy them up into foil packages to be passed out and shared with various friends and family members. We also are sure to enjoy the fruits of our labor.


Cooked spinach raviolis.


With sauce.

So the spinach filling was pretty good. Not much different from the plain cheese though. You can kind of taste the spinach, but the Ricotta is pretty overpowering. Definitely needs a little more experimentation to bring out the flavor, I think. I was satisfied with the first round of experimentation though.

Anyway, mostly the day is about being with family. My dad and his friend (pictured above) did the raviolis one year all by themselves and it only took about 2 or 3 hours. Somehow when we all get together and are talking and hanging out it takes a bit longer. I think it is probably more fun that way though.


Bean and her grandpa on her first ravioli making day.

This is definitely a tradition I hope to keep alive. While I won’t share it here, I actually do have the basics of the recipe written down and tucked away in my recipe box. Hopefully I can pass the tradition along to our kids and they will do the same.

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