Home Italy Revisited Bookshelf Plays About Mary Melfi Contact Us
X Italian Pasta Dishes
Ravioli (Square envelops, folded over with lamb's brains)
Originated from: Italy
Occasion: Special times
Contributed by: Taken from "Simple Italian Cookery," by Antonia Isola (Harper and Brothers, 1912)

Printer Friendly Version


One lamb's brains, parboiled in slightly salted water
Small quantity of curds
One egg
Salt and pepper
Dash of nutmeg
A little grated Parmesan cheese

Tossing sauce
Tomato sauce



"Put the flour on a bread-board. Make a hole in the middle of it, and break the eggs into it. Add the water and the salt, and mix all together with a fork until the flour is all absorbed and you have a pasta which you can roll out. Then take a rolling-pin and roll it out very thin, about the thickness of a ten-cent piece. Leave it spread out like this until has dried a little. Then double it over a number of times, always lengthwise, and then cut...."

Ravioli with Brains

Take one lamb's brains and parboil in slightly salted water for five minutes. Put into a bowl with a small quantity of curds, one egg, salt and pepper, dash of nutmeg, and a little grated Parmesan cheese, and mix all together. Then put by teaspoonfuls on the pasta as in preceding recipe.

[Take a teaspoon of the mixture and put into the extended pasta, about two inches from the edge. Take another spoonful and put it about two inches away from the first spoonful. Continue to do this until you have a row of teaspoonfuls across the pasta. Then fold over the edge of the pasta so as to cover the spoonfuls of mixture, and cut across the pasta at the bottom of them. Then cut into squares with the meat in the middle of each square; press down the paste a little at the edges so the meat cannot fall out. Continue to do this until all the meat and the pasta are used up.] Put the little squares of pasta in boiling salted water, and serve with tomato sauce."


This recipe was taken from "Simple Italian Cookery" written by Antonia Isola (pen name for Mabel Earl McGinnis) and published in English in the United States by Harper and Brothers in 1912. It is believed to be the first American cookbook that contains Italian recipes. For the complete cookbook see www.archive.org. For a variety of recipes from this cookbook see Italy Revisited/"XXX Italian Cookbook by Antonia Isola".... P.S. I certainly didn't try this recipe as I am a bit squeamish these days about eating animals' internal organs, but I have to admit, that when I was a child, my mother often served lamb's brains and I had no problem enjoying them. Back in the 1960s my mother (As did many other Italian-Canadians) prepared the head of a lamb for supper. It was generally sprinkled with tomatoes, breadcrumbs and herbs, and then baked. The brains were considered the best part of the head, a delicacy actually. I vaguely recall that my aunt, Zia Teresa, would sometimes serve the lamb's brains, fried. However, no one in my family, used the lamb's brains to make ravioli. But then, no one in my family made ravioli, period. What ravioli were eaten came from a local shop -- from a bag, frozen, of course. Back in the 1960s there were no specialty pasta shops that made ravioli, nor were there any ravioli pasta makers. Now, of course, all is available, except perhaps for ravioli stuffed with lamb's brains. Not too many Canadians, or Italians for that matter, care for animals' internal organs. Sadly, most of us (including myself) would rather throw the stuff out -- what a waste! Photo and notes: Mary Melfi.

Back to main list