A visit to our producer Castellaro Bergaglio was nothing less than an extraordinary immersion into the foods, culture, hospitality and customs of this picturesque part of Piemonte. Marco Bergaglio, the consummate host, made certain that we had a most in-depth understand and planned our trip accordingly.
Our final meal together, set in the picturesque tasting room at the winery, was something we had been anticipating for several days – Ravioli a Culo Nudo al Gavi. Gavi Ravioli takes full advantage by featuring the heralded white wine reflecting the town’s name.
Historical references to the origins of the dish date back to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Due to its strategic position, Gavi’s history has always been meshed with that of Genoa’s. Legends state that merchants carrying salt & spices traveled the road from Genoa with a first stop in Gavi. Upon arrival at the top of this steep hill, the tired merchants were offered filled pasta squares containing aromatic herbs and sheep’s cheese bathed in chicken broth from a local inn, the Hustaia du Raviò owned by the Ravioli family. Over the years the recipe evolved to contain a variety of meats and incorporating the local wine Gavi into both the pasta dough and as a sauce of sorts. Today the recipe is guarded by the prestigious organization the Ordine Oberdengo of the Cavaliers of Ravioli – Order of Obertengo of the Knights of Ravioli founded in 1973 by Carletto Bergaglio .
As with any regional specialty dish, each family has their own special version for these prized ravioli. There are however some basic requirements which include a thin pasta dough, borage when available but this may be substituted with spinach, sausage meat, and always marjoram.
For the better part of the past year or so I was determined to reproduce this local dish, specific only to the commune of Gavi, close to the Ligurian border in Piemonte. Gavi also refers to the white wine made from the cortese grape, indigenous to the area.
Beginning with the pasta dough, Gavi is the liquid of choice along with the binding agent provided by eggs.
This is a region in which meat plays an important role in the local diet. A hearty meat filling scented with boragine or borage & marjoram gives the filling a distinctive flavor.
Once the filling has been made, forming the ravioli is not unlike forming your favorite ravioli recipe .
The ravioli takes little to no time to cook and is served immediately bathed in room temperature Gavi.
- 5 ounces of ground veal
- 4 ounces of ground pork
- 4 ounces of mild Italian style sausage meat
- 1 pound of ground beef
- 4 stalks of fresh marjoram, about ½ a commercial bunch - leaves removed and set aside to use
- 1 cup of borage leaves or fresh baby spinach - packed
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil - quanta basta
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 4 ounces freshly grated Parmigiana
- Gavi - quanta basta
- 3 slices good quality Italian bread, crusts removed and soaked in either Gavi, milk or water
- 4 large organic eggs
- 1 clove of garlic peeled and sliced
- Room temperature Gavi for the sauce
- 3 large organic eggs
- 400 grams all purpose or 00 flour
- 2 to 3 Tbs. Gavi
- 1 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Fill a medium sized pot with cold water and bring to a boil, add a bit of kosher salt and blanch the borage or spinach leaves for one minute, drain. Run under cold tap water, drain thoroughly and squeeze out all remaining water until dry.
- Place the blanched leaves, garlic clove and marjoram leaves on a cutting board and chop together finely - set aside.
- Melt the butter and about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet until the butter has melted and the skillet is hot. Add the veal, pork, sausage meet and beef breaking up the meat with a spatula as you begin to cook. The meat needs to brown to develop flavor, maintaining the heat on medium or medium-high depending upon your stove. You will continue to need to break the pieces of the ground meat up with a spatula. Once the meat is evenly browned, with a nice golden color throughout, you should notice browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. At this point add a bit of Gavi, perhaps ¼ of a cup or so to deglaze the pan; this will provide important flavor to the filling. Once you have deglazed the pan, remove from the heat and allow to cool completely before proceeding further.
- Once the meat is thoroughly cooled place the crustless slices of country bread into a shallow bowl and cover with Gavi, milk, or water to soften. The bread will absorb the liquid in a fairly short period of time - about 5 to 10 minutes. When the bread has become soft and malleable, squeeze it to remove any residual liquid, break apart into fine pieces and add to the browned meat. This is best accomplished with you fingertips, continue the mixing with your hands.
- Make a well in the center of the meat and bread mixture and add the 4 eggs, Parmigiano, chopped greens, some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix using your hands until the filling is an even combination of all of the elements. You may complete the filling the day before you intend to prepare the ravioli, refrigerate overnight.
- Mound the flour on a counter or table, making a well in the center. Place the whole eggs, Gavi and olive oil in the center.
- Have a fork, strainer, and bench scraper at hand. With a fork, first mix together the eggs and other liquids. Begin to incorporate the flour from the inner rim of the well, always incorporating fresh flour from the lower part, pushing it under the dough - keeping the dough free from sticking to the work surface.
- When about half the flour has been absorbed, start kneading the dough, always using the palms of your hands, not the fingers. Continue absorbing the flour until enough of the flour has been incorporated to result in a smooth, pliable and not too stiff dough. The flour that remains unabsorbed should be passed through a sifter to remove the hard bits of dough and reserved. The total amount of flour to be used will depend upon the humidity in the air. Divide the finished dough into 3 pieces and wrap each well with plastic wrap, allow to sit for 15 minutes.
- Attach the pasta machine to a table or counter by tightening the clamp at the bottom. Set the wheel for the rollers at the widest setting. Unwrap one piece of the pasta dough. Turning the handle, pass the dough through the rollers. Fold the piece of dough into thirds and press down. Sprinkle using the remaining flour and repeat the rolling and folding, eight to ten times. By this time the dough should be very smooth; these steps take the place of hand kneading.
- Move the wheel to the next notch, which places the rollers a little closer together. Pass the dough through the rollers once, do not fold. Move the wheel to each successive notch, each time passing the dough through the rollers once. Stop when the layer reaches the desired thickness, on my machine it is the second to the last setting. The pasta must be as thin as possible however you don't want to risk it being too thin and ultimately the filling coming out in the cooking process.
- Lay the finished pasta sheet on a counter lightly dusted with some of the residual flour and allow to rest for about 10 minutes. The pasta sheets are now ready to be filled using either a ravioli mould or simply by dotting a strip of the pasta with a spoonful of the filling and folding the edge over to seal & cut. Always use a bit of cool water to facilitate a seal, gently brushed at the edges of the ravioli. Once they are formed set aside on a floured cotton towel.
- Fill a large pot with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Have the Gavi Ravioli close by, along with some kosher salt, a hand held strainer, and a warm platter. Place the serving bowls inside the oven, temperature at 200º. A bottle of room temperature Gavi should be close by.
- Once the water comes to a rolling boil, add a nice handful of salt, and gently place the Gavi Ravioli into the boiling water. The ravioli will take only a short time to cook, 1 to 2 minutes; they will rise to the top and should be drained well and immediately placed on a heated platter.
- Assemble the serving bowls, transfer 5 or 6 ravioli in each bowl, depending upon the desired portion, add about ⅓ to ½ cup of room temperature Gavi to each portion, garnish with a bit of borage or marjoram and service immediately.
- Any leftover filling makes an excellent stuffing for vegetables enhanced with a bit of cooked rice and topped with marinara sauce.