Donna Dooher’s breakthrough dish was handmade ravioli
Some recipes are universal; most memories are not. The process of shaping raw ingredients into something palatable — and the events that surround this endeavour — can lead to all kinds of unforgettable moments: kitchen disasters, severed digits, epic struggles with newfangled culinary gadgets and, sometimes, personal triumphs. So why not ask some of the city’s top chefs for their most memorable recipes? Why not, indeed? No, really — that’s what we did, and will continue to do weekly.
This week, we asked Donna Dooher, executive chef at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, for her “breakthrough dish.” Dooher found this particular recipe for homemade ravioli in a 1967 edition of House & Garden's New Cook Book. She was 14 years old.
"This was really the first recipe I ever tackled from a cookbook. The book belonged to my mother but was rarely used. She was, after all, feeding six children three times a day, so many of these recipes never saw the light of day. I was about 14 years old when I tried the recipe. My great grandmother and grandmother were fabulous Italian cooks and I had watched them make pasta many times over the years but had never tried it on my own. The book served as a guide. I actually went on to cook a lot more of the recipes that were in the book and it's now in tatters from years of diligent use. The pasta was delicious and I served it to my girlfriends at a sleepover."
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cold water
Sift the flour into a bowl; make a well in the center. In it place the eggs, salt and water. Work in the flour with the fingers until a ball of dough is formed. If too dry, add a little more cold water. Knead the dough on a board until very smooth and elastic. Cover with a bowl and let rest 15 minutes, while preparing the filling.
1 cup ground cooked veal or chicken
1/4 cup finely chopped ham
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 recipe egg pasta
Mix together the first seven ingredients for the filling. Divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger. Roll out each piece paper thin. Lift dough and sprinkle board and rolling pin with flour when necessary. Brush the smaller piece with beaten egg and, at 2" intervals, place a little of the filling. Cover with other piece of dough. Cut into shapes with a pastry wheel, knife or fluted round cutter, then gently press out air with smooth top of smaller cutter. Be sure the edges are sealed. Let dry for one hour.
Cook in deep boiling, salted water about seven minutes, or until they rise to the surface. Drain and serve with melted butter and grated Parmesan cheese, or with tomato sauce. Serves four to six.