A Time for Tradition

I've been friends with "Sweet" Sarah (the current Pastry Chef at The Wood Tavern) for some years now.  She's part Italian and ever since I can remember, when the holidays rolled around, she and the women of her family would get together and make a ton of ravioli for their Christmas celebration.  This year, when I was invited, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to join in on the tradition!

The kitchen was bustling Monday morning as 4 generations of Ballard women (thanks to the recent addition of baby Allia), extended family and close friends began to prep for ravioli making - while enjoying champagne and h'ordeurves of course.  Great-Grandma Anna Ballard and her cousin Anna Capurro oversaw the production. 

The first thing that needed to be done was to make the filling and dough.  The filling is made of ground pork and beef, spinach, swiss chard, onion, olive oil, day-old bread, parmesan, eggs, warm spices, salt and pepper.  The spices are what makes this recipe unique and let me tell you, the filling was quite delicious and full of flavor.  Below is a photo of Tara (a journalist) kneading the dough.  Last year Tara wrote an article "Make 1,000 Ravioli?  It Must Be the Holiday Season."  of this family tradition that was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle.

L to R: Anna C. overseeing the grinding of ingredients for filling, Mixing in cheese, eggs and spices, Tara kneading the dough
These family heirlooms have been passed down for generations - long rolling pin, a rolling pin to form ravioli and a 3'x6' wooden board to roll on

We're now ready to get started rolling out the dough by hand!  It takes a bit of time to get the elastic dough to stretch out, but it's not difficult.  Plenty of flour and some patience will get the job done.  Speaking of which, the dough is thin enough when you can see the board through it!  Also, rolling the dough into a square makes for less waste when forming the ravioli. 

Once the dough is thin enough, it's scooted toward the edge of the board and part of it is draped over the edge for easier workability.  Filling is then spread over half of the dough leaving a nice strip along the edge uncovered.  It is then sandwiched with the other half of the dough.

The rolling pin used to form the ravioli is then lined up with the fold of dough, again to make sure there is as little waste as possible.  It is slowly rolled over the dough with lessened pressure as you go along making sure not to push the filling out.  The ravioli is then cut along the scores left from the form.  They are then transferred to a sheet pan and frozen before being bagged a kept for Christmas. 

Anna B. usually runs a very tight ship keeping a count on all the ravioli made.  This year however, twice as many were made, so I was able to take some home.  I was truly honored to be able to join the Ballard family and take part in their rich family tradition, a tradition that according to Nancy was kept alive by her daughter Sarah and her passion for food.

Thanks so much to the Ballards for welcoming me into their home.  I had a great time and learned so much.  I also walked away with some great blackmail material on Sarah!  Now the only thing that's left is to EAT.  I will wait until my weekend so that I can go all out...


  1. i love to make these some time too, looks like a fun project!

  2. We can do it on a Monday after the holidays!