Celebrations, Traditions and Good Eats!

making ravioliRecently I got together with my side of the family to make ravioli for our Annual Ravioli Night with The Cousins dinner. We incorporated this tradition a few years ago when a dear close cousin of mine past away. Her mother, (my aunt) and my mother, were not only sister in laws they were best friends. They would always cook together and be together during the holidays so all of us cousins wanted to do the same thing along with our own families. We use their cherished ravioli recipe that has been handed down to all of us.
making ravioli Making ravioli for a crowd is probably not the smartest thing to do, you really have to be organized. We make and form the actual ravioli on trays which gives them a consistent look, size and seals them perfectly. I do this a couple of weeks ahead of time and then all get put into the freezer. I make all the dough and the fillings the night before we gather together so everything is ready to go, I use my trusty food processor method for the dough which always works perfectly and never fails me.

When morning comes around, all I have to do is take the dough out of the fridge and get to room temperature. Ten batches of dough yields 400 ravioli, I’m going to cut that down a bit for next year, we finally figured out the right amount to make so there will still be enough leftover for everyone to take a container home.

making ravioli We set aside the whole day to make them, only stopping for lunch in between and a few coffee breaks, this year we made 200 meat and 200 cheese.
homemade ravioli Once we get our mojo working properly the ravioli start coming together quickly. We all have our jobs, I usually do the rolling of all the dough with my pasta machine then after they’re formed I’ll get them into the freezer and then when frozen solid I’ll put them into freezer bags.

homemade ravioli I did a blog post a while back on making ravioli for a crowd, here’s the link there’s some good tips on how to get it done efficiently.

cooking ravioliOne thing I didn’t want to do is have pots of water boiling on my stove with 30 people in my house, so the night before the actual party all that messy work is finished.  I also make sure that days before my sauce is all pre-made and ready to go.

I boil each and every one of the ravioli the night before the party and place them single layer on commercial quality full size foil sheet pans that I get from a restaurant supply store, they work great plus it’s a throw away with no clean up!
cooking ravioli After they cool down I cover the pans with heavy duty foil and keep them cold overnight. When it’s party time all I have to do is pop the whole pan in the oven at 350 degrees F. for 15 minutes, they get perfectly warmed and the pans are great for serving but more importantly there’s nothing major for me to do on party day with a house full of people.

aftermath of boiling 300 ravioli No one sees the disaster on my stove from the night before with all the boiling going on, that’s a good thing! Believe it or not it gets all clean and shiny in time for the party!

ravioli partyRavioli Night with The Cousins is now an annual event in my house, we do it a couple of weeks before Christmas and we all look forward to it every year!
homemade ravioli Can you see why I love those big pans? I can get 60 to 70 ravioli single layer on one full sheet pan, they’re great for a big party.

homemade ravioliWe keep our menu simple, it’s basically the same every year, meat and cheese ravioli, a couple of different salads, good bread, my brothers famous sausage and peppers and chicken that he makes on a charcoal grill. There’s plenty of wine and tons of desserts.
meat raviolicheese raviolitoasting with homemade limoncelloAnother tradition that is now added to our annual Ravioli Night with The Cousins is my daughters homemade limoncello, it’s the best and truly one of the highlights of the night, she makes it every year with much love and care and we all look forward to sipping it. We toast to those who aren’t with us any longer and to all our families here and now. The younger cousins kept doing multiple toasts throughout the night, it was so much fun!  That’s my daughter, upper right hand corner picture, bottom center holding a glass. Thanks V!

It may seem like a lot of work to pull this all off but I can honestly say that it’s worth every bit, and besides we’re creating memories and traditions for a lifetime!
Christmas dinner

And last but not least I’ll leave you with a photo of our Christmas dinner as it might be something you would want to create for New Years Eve. Crab stuffed shrimp, I’ve made it before but this time I made a lemon aioli for dipping the shrimp, it added a ton of flavor and was a nice compliment. Corzetti pasta with pesto was on the side along with a salad, but the one thing I’m super excited about more than anything else is that I finally figured out how to make a proper lobster tail and how to get the meat out of the shell in one piece! I watched a You Tube about it and it all came out without a glitch, literally!

So if you’re staying home on New Years Eve and want to make a special elegant meal I would highly recommend this lobster tail and my crab stuffed shrimp along with a nice bottle of champagne to celebrate and bring in 2014!   Salute!


Limoncello Cookies Made From Homemade Limoncello

limoncello cookiesOh my, I’m so excited to share this cookie recipe with you! If you don’t have a bottle of limoncello in your home right now please go out and get one so you can make these cookies for Easter. Let me see if I can describe them to you, buttery, crunchy, refreshing, bright with an explosion of  lemon flavor! The perfect cookie to welcome in spring.
Making limoncelloFortunate for me I still had a bottle of homemade limoncello that my daughter, her friend and her cousin made back in September. It was quite a project and fun for me to watch since I’ve never ever made it myself. Much planning went into it beforehand, she was on a mission to find the best organic lemons she could find, lemons free of chemicals and wax because the peels would be soaking in alcohol for weeks.
Making limoncelloPeeling the yellow skins off the lemons take time and patience, it’s something you can’t rush because you have to be careful not to get any of the white pith beneath it otherwise your end result will be bitter, and you don’t want bitter limoncello. Their goal was to have it all completed and ready to sip for the holiday season. I’m happy to say they reached their goal.

As you can see even her dog was there for moral support!Homemade limoncelloThe essential oils of the lemon peels infusing with the alcohol is such a dynamic combination, creating the most vibrant liqueur. I don’t want to sound like a bragging mother but this was the best limoncello I’ve ever had! It tasted so fresh with a wonderful smooth finish to it. After giving out some bottles as gifts they now have people begging them to make more. Homemade limoncello I hoarded one last bottle, it was hidden away in my freezer, making limoncello cookies was a good excuse to bring it out!Sipping limoncello Of course I had to sip some while I was baking!glass of limoncello Look at that color, liquid gold, slightly thick and perfectly sweet. It screams blue skies and sunshine!frosted limoncello cookiesThe limoncello is mixed right into the frosting so with every bite you take you’ll have a burst of lemony flavor. I promise you, these will be devoured if you make them for Easter, but you need to double or triple this recipe for sure!
frosted limoncello cookieThe dough is shaped into a log then refrigerated for a while, sliced and baked. I tried to shape my log into an oval so they would look like eggs, or you could just cut them rounds.limoncello cookiesMelt in your mouth goodness! Happy Easter to all!

Limoncello Cookies Made From Homemade Limoncello
  • 1¼ cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • grated lemon zest of 1 lemon
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • 5 tablespoons limoncello
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon for garnish on frosting
  1. In a medium bowl, combine salt and flour. Set aside.
  2. With a mixer cream together butter and sugar until fluffy and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and mix until combined, then vanilla and the zest.
  3. With mixer on medium low, slowly add the flour/salt combo. Mix until the flour starts to incorporate. Don't over mix, cookie will be tough.
  4. roll dough into a 2"x 12" log, ( it will be soft at this point) or oval to resemble eggs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. ( refrigeration is key, dough needs to be firm).
  5. When ready to bake remove wrap and slice dough into ⅓ thick cookies, place on parchment and bake at 350 for 13-17 minutes. You want the edges to become golden. Cool before icing on wire racks.
  7. In a medium bowl, combine powdered sugar, limoncello and lemon juice. Stir until fluid but thick.
  8. Brush or dip cookies into frosting, garnish with zest and allow to dry about 10 minutes.
  9. Makes 24 cookies but I would double or triple this recipe!
  10. Recipe adapted from, In Sock Monkey Slippers