Ravioli (c. 1272 - 1307) ★★★

You may have noticed I tend to make early 20th century recipes most often on this blog. Why? Well, I think for three reasons:
1) Ingredients. Some really old recipes have obscure or difficult to find ingredients. It is easier to whip out some flour and sugar and eggs and make a cake than go out searching for galangal and golden syrup.
2) Taste. Modern tastes like modern recipes. Older recipes can be really, really weird to the modern tongue and it can be a little daunting.
3) Translation. Older recipes are commonly written either with hardly any instructions, in some barely legible Old English, or in a foreign language. This makes it difficult to accurately translate for the modern kitchen.

However, I decided to step a bit outside my comfort zone and try this recipe dated from the 13th or 14th century. I picked a recipe for ravioli, which seemed pretty straight forward and surprisingly in line with modern tastes. Ravioli is one of the earliest forms of pasta, and could be filled with sweet or savory fillings. Ravioli was an Italian invention, so its interesting to note that by the 13th or 14th century it had reached as far as England. There are many different claims as to the "inventor" or first mention of ravioli, but it's hard to really say which is truth, especially with a food which exists in so many cultures - wontons in Asia, Jewish kreplach, and gujia in India, for example.

I needed to do a fair amount of research though, as even recipes with the same names can look very different from their modern counterparts. For example, what type of cheese was available during this time period? What other ingredients went into the pasta dough?

Original Recipe:

The Verdict:
These ravioli were very different from what I normally eat, but not bad! The taste takes some getting used to because they are quite flavourful. Mr. Man really liked them, but agreed that they were a bit strong. He said that with some modifications these could become a favourite. Part of that is likely because there were no specified amounts so I just sort of eyeballed it. The scallions and sage were the most potent. If you want to make these but don't want it quite so strong, I would suggest using dried sage and onions, or just pureeing the herbs and scallions together so it mixes in consistently with the cheese.

Dough: I did some research, but couldn't find any recipes for 13th or 14th century pasta dough recipes, so I settled on one by Scappi from the 16th century. I followed the recipe for stuffed pasta, but used only 1 teaspoon of rose water. I kind of wish I hadn't, because it was a little odd for my tastes. Other than the rose water, this dough was super simple and had a great texture! This recipes makes enough for 2 people, as part of a meal, i.e. you'll probably want a salad or something on the side.

Filling: I opted for fresh herbs, because it seemed nicer, but I'm not sure if fresh or dried would have been used. I guess maybe both, depending on the circumstance. As I mentioned above, the sage and scallions can be a bit strong, so I would suggest modifying the filling to suit your tastes. Also, I used about 1/2 cup butter, 1 1/2 cups ricotta, 2 tablespoons of each herb, and 1/2 scallion, but it made WAY WAY WAY too much filling. Like, enough filling for a whole lasagna. Unfortunately, I have no idea what measurements would make enough for this amount of pasta dough, so if you want to make this you're kind of on your own (sorry!). If you do make it, please let me know in the comments!

Cheese: The recipe calls for cheese as a topping and as a filling, but does not specify varieties. There are several kinds of period-appropriate hard cheese listed at Gode Cookery. I decided to go with ricotta for the filling and mozzarella for the garnish, but I'm not sure if that's what would have been used in the British Isles at the time. It was hard to find any information Anglo-Norman cheese specifically, other than they ate it.

Cooking: I've read that in Medieval times, pasta was boiled in stock or almond milk. It was also boiled to a much softer consistency than what we generally enjoy today. Over time a sturdier texture was desired, until we reached the modern "al dente" style. It is not unique to pasta - it seems like many old recipes call for soft or mushy foods. I wonder if it's because they all had bad teeth? Or just cultural differences? Anyway, the recipe was pretty vague about cooking, but since it suggested reheating the boiled ravioli once they had cheese on top, I decided to boil them in stock and then melt the cheese under the broiler in the oven. It worked out great, except that I ended up not having stock or bouillon on hand. I added salt and pepper to the water instead and just pretended it was stock.

Overall, I give this recipe three stars, mostly because I know the same directions would be better knowing what I know now after making the recipe once. Omitting the rosewater and fiddling with the filling a bit would probably make this 4 stars.

Modernized Recipe:
(Adapted from Two Anglo-Norman Culinary Collections Edited from British Library Manuscripts Additional 32085 and Royal 12.C.xii)

1 cup + 2 tablespoons FLOUR
1 teaspoon SUGAR
1/2 teaspoon SALT
1 tablespoon UNSALTED BUTTER, melted
3.5 ounces WATER, room temperature

CHEESE, soft cheese for filling and hard cheese for grating
BUTTER, room temperature
PARSLEY, finely chopped, pureed, or dried
SAGE, finely chopped, pureed, or dried
SHALLOTS, finely chopped or pureed

1. On a flat work surface or in a large bowl, mix the flour with the sugar and salt. make a well in the center and add the melted butter. Slowly add the water, little at a time, stirring in the flour with your finger and using your other hand to keep the liquid from spilling out. You may need less or more water depending on the weather and where you live. Roll the dough into a ball and knead it for at least ten minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Cover in plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the ingredients for the filling.
2. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, or use a pasta machine. Cut desired shapes - I used circles. Put a small amount of filling - I used about 1/2 teaspoon - on one circle, wet the edges, and press another circle on top. Set aside and repeat. Re-knead and roll out leftover dough if required.
3. Bring a pot of broth to a boil and add the ravioli. Cook for about 5-7 minutes or until tender. In an oven-proof dish, grate a layer of cheese. Place the boiled ravioli in the dish and top with another layer of cheese. Put in the oven and broil until cheese is golden brown and melted.

Adler-France, Chrid. "Medieval Pasta: History, Preparation, and Recipes." Homepage of Chris Adler-France. N.p., 26 Feb. 2005. Web. 23 June 2013. <http://www.katjaorlova.com/PastaClass.html>.

Muusers, Christianne. "Italian Pasta from the Sixteenth Century." Coquinaria. N.p., 03 Mar. 2011. Web. 25 June 2013. <http://www.coquinaria.nl/english/recipes/scappipasta.html>.

Olver, Lynne. "Pasta." The Food Timeline. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 June 2013. <http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodfaq2.html#pasta>.

Anje graduated with a Honours Bachelors degree in History with a minor in Museum Studies. She currently lives and works in Japan's least populous prefecture as an assistant English teacher.