I learned a lot about cooking, tradition and family from my Grandma. She was undeniably the best cook in the Batali household and her ravioli were legendary. This time of year, when we celebrate tradition, I think about her calves brain ravioli with oxtail ragu and how pure and perfect her pasta-making technique was.
Makes about 48 Ravioli
2 pounds calves brains, soaked in cold water to cover for 2 hours, outer filament removed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large red onions, sliced
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 bunch red swiss chard, cut into ½ in ribbons
1 cup fresh ricotta
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pasta dough (optionally homemade)
To make the Ravioli
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, bring about 6 quarts of water to a simmer and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Add the brains and poach for about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, in a 12 to 14-inch sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook slowly till softened. Add sausage and cook until the pink is gone, about 8 minutes. Add chard and stir through to mix with sausage and then cover and cook 15 minutes until the chard gives up its water. Remove lid and cook until dry, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.
When the brains have cooled, chop them fine and place them in a large bowl. Chop the onion/sausage/chard mixture fine (or use a food processor) and add to the bowl with the brains and add the ricotta, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside.
Divide the pasta dough into 4 equal portions and roll each out to the thinnest setting on a pasta machine. Lay 1 sheet of pasta on a work surface and use a pastry cutter to make 12 (2 ½- by 1-inch) rectangles. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the brain filling on one side of each rectangle and fold the dough in half to form a square. Press firmly around the edges to seal. Continue with the remaining pasta and filling. These can be set aside on a baking tray, the layers separated by dish towels, and refrigerated, for up to 6 hours.
To prepare dish
Bring about 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Meanwhile, In a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan, heat about 3 cups of the oxtail ragú.
Gently drop the ravioli into the boiling water and cook at a gentle simmer for 3 minutes. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water. Add the ravioli to the sauté pan with the ragú. Toss very gently over medium heat to coat the ravioli with the ragú, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide among six heated bowls and grate pecorino over each bowl. Serve immediately.