Going back to the origins of ravioli is like immersing yourself in a culinary saga with a bouncy plot. Food historians are still struggling to find out which of the Persians (of the Sassanid Empire) or the Chinese (of the Tang dynasty) invented, between the VIe and the VIIe century, the delicate art of stuffing sheets of pasta – some with almond paste folded into a half-moon shape and fried, others with mutton and medicinal plants (the famous jiaozi).
According to’Oxford Companion to Food, a food encyclopedia edited by Alan Davidson in 1999, the first mention of ravioli on the European continent dates back to the 14th century – in the personal correspondence of a Tuscan merchant. Six hundred years later, each region of Italy has its own recipes, which come in as many forms with various names: agnolotti in Piedmont, cappelletti in Emilia-Romagna, or even pansotti in Liguria.
Italian ravioli are traditionally shaped by hand, using a serrated roller that allows each piece to be cut out of the dough like so many little edible stamps. To make the task easier – and to obtain regular edges – we invented the ravioli stamp: a cookie cutter with a cast aluminum body that ensures a neat, clean and precise cut.
At just 30 years old, Madeleine Maisonneuve and Maxime Cuilleret have just opened their first business. A stone’s throw from the bubbling Aligre market (Paris 12e), Maison Cuilleret is a bright little shop in which both pass on their contagious passion for kitchen essentials and vintage crockery. A wide selection of old plates, tureens, sauce boats, serving dishes or even glasses and carafes – picked up by them in manufacturing depots all over France – is exhibited here in bulk, from floor to ceiling, with old-fashioned charm. from a painting by Chardin.
Among the many utensils that complete the picture, their ravioli stamps – made in Italy – are a bestseller. The first model is round, the other square. This Monday, closing day, the couple transformed the sales area into an improvised kitchen laboratory. Through the glass, passers-by observe the scene with wide eyes. On the table, Maxime Cuilleret installs his rolling mill from which he comes to extract a thin and long sheet of dough. On the surface of the latter, he methodically spreads a few circles of stuffing: a mixture of ricotta, mint, lemon zest and olive oil – according to a recipe he brought back from the island of Pantelleria, Sicily.
He encloses everything in another layer of dough then, with his fingertips, sculpts a succession of small plump mounds. The expert grabs his cookie cutter and, using strong hand pressure, prints half a dozen ravioli with perfectly serrated edges. Gently unmolded, they will cook for about seven minutes in a large bath of bubbling salted water, before ending up drowned in tomato sauce and parmesan cheese – in the hollow of a blue, green and white floral plate.
Marcato ravioli stamp, square or round, €9.90. maisoncuilleret.fr