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X Italian Pasta Dishes
Ravioli alla Fiorentina (Balls of cheese and beetroot)
Originated from: Florence, Tuscany, Italy
Occasion: Special times
Contributed by: Taken from "The Cook's Decameron" by W.G. Waters (William Heineman, 1920)

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A beetroot, boiled, chopped
Four eggs
One ounce of grated Parmesan
One ounce of grated cheddar
Two and a half ounces of boiled cream or milk
A small pinch of nutmeg and a little salt

Tossing Sauce
Parmesan cheese and gravy


"Wash a beetroot and boil it, and when it is sufficiently cooked throw it into cold water for a few minutes, then drain it, chop it up and add to it four eggs, one ounce of grated Parmesan, one ounce of grated cheddar, two and a half ounces of boiled cream or milk, a small pinch of nutmeg and a little sat. Mix all well together into a smooth firm paste, then roll into balls about the size of a walnut, floor them over well, let them dry for half an hour, then drop them very carefully one by one into boiling stock and when they float on the top take them out with a perforated ladle, put them in a deep dish, dust them over with Parmesan and pour good gravy."


This recipe was taken from "The Cook's Decameron: a Study in Taste, containing over two hundred recipes for Italian dishes," by Mrs. W.G. Waters. It was published by William Heineman in 1920. P.S. Paste-less ravioli -- now here is a shocker! Who was to know that back in 1920 a cheese ball flavored with beetroot could be called ravioli? Of all the Italian collection of recipes published at the turn of the last century, I find Mrs. Waters' the least authentic. That's just an opinion, of course, and that opinion is highly prejudiced. Having been born in Southern Italy, I have certain expectations of what good Italian food is (e.g., lots of tomatoes!). Mrs. Water's collection of Italian recipes obviously favors Northern Italian cuisine, but also, in my humble opinion, presents Austrian-German dishes as Italian ones. For example, she often suggests that this or that pasta dish be tossed with gravy. As no recipe for "gravy" is given in her book, it's hard to say what she means by that, but as far as I know few Italians, from the South or from the North, toss their pasta dishes with "gravy." That said, it's quite possible that in 1920, when her book was published, Italians in the big cities, especially those close to the Austrian border, did make the recipes she presented in her book.... Photo and notes: Mary Melfi.

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