Behold the artistry and craftsmanship of Ron Smith! He has taken Four Cheese ravioli to a whole new place…your Easter brunch, lunch or dinner! Stripes of beet, spinach and turmeric pasta are layered over the base pasta to give these beautiful ravioli a look so festive you will want to hide them in the yard for the kids to find! But don’t…
We know we love the rich, earthy bitterness of the exotic spice saffron in pasta, risotto and seafood dishes, but what exactly is it, and why is it so expensive?
Saffron derives from the flower of the Crocus sativas plant. Each plant makes three or four blossoms, and each blossom produces only 3 stigmas that form the thready strands that are harvested, dried and packaged for culinary use. It’s easy to see why the price of saffron can range from $30 – $300 / ounce, depending on the type and quality.
Most saffron comes from the Mediterranean area, with Iran, Greece and Morocco leading production, but saffron production in Afghanistan has begun to compete with other markets.
Not only used in cooking, saffron has a long history of traditional medicinal uses as well. It is know to have anti-carcinogenic, antioxidant and anti-mutagenic (anti-mutation) properties, and the stigmas, as well as the flower petals have been used to counteract depression and slow the processes of macular degeneration and retinosis pigmentosa.
There is a long-standing belief that Marco Polo was the one who introduced pasta to Italy from China. While he is credited with bringing many of the advancements that characterized the Age of Enlightenment in Western Civilization, it is widely held that pasta in Italy dates back to ancient Roman culture.
The Romans made a baked dish called langane that closely resembles modern lasagna, and boiled pasta as we know it appeared in the Jerusalem Talmud in the 5th century. Some short time later, Arab traders began producing dried pasta, which eventually reached the northern Mediterranean coast through Sicily. Mainly traditional Sicilian dishes contain Arab influences like nutmeg, cinnamon and dried fruits.
With the first factory production in Sicily in the 12th century, pasta spread quickly across the European continent because it stayed fresh for a long time and traveled well. With the development of mass mechanical production in the 14th century, pasta went from being a relative luxury to an affordable dietary staple.
In the late 1800’s, Italians immigrating to U.S. brought their pasta making recipes with them. It is interesting to note that Thomas Jefferson brought macaroni back with him from a trip to Italy, as well as drawings of the pasta machine he observed there. He eventually re-designed a pasta machine that proved to be easier to operate and more durable than the one he had procured from Italy.
Most of you know we make our fresh pasta from a very traditional recipe of semolina, local eggs and water, but how many of you know exactly what semolina is? To be honest, I had to do a bit of research myself the first time I was asked.
Semolina is the milled endosperm of the durum wheat kernel. That really clears things up, right? The endosperm is the tissue around the plant embryo inside the seed kernel. It is full of nutrients intended to supply food to the the seed through germination, and those starches and proteins are also nutritious for human consumption as well.
Durum wheat is a species of wheat that is high in protein and relatively low in gluten. While not conducive to the rising process of most bread and pastries, durum is perfectly suited for pasta-making, and is also known as “macaroni wheat.”
Hope this was helpful. It’s always good to know what we are eating!
When we first started offering heart-shaped ravioli at Pasta & Co., we made them by hand. We would gather up friends willing to work for food and have wine-infused assembly line parties into the wee hours.
That was 15 or more years ago. Now we have a heart-shaped ravioli die and produce them mechanically like the rest of our ravioli, which is probably a good thing because I don’t think we have enough friends willing to help hand make the hundreds of pounds of hearts we crank out now.
We offer three kinds every year: Lobster, Artichoke & Sun-dried Tomato, and Quattro Formaggi (4 Cheese). This year, pre-ordering ended February 9, but we always have plenty on Valentine’s Day, on a first come/first served basis. Just come early because they go fast—especially the Lobster.
Ever since the original owner Marilou Morales planted it in 1992, the pretty little evergreen tree with the white flowers has been a topic of conversation and curiosity among our customers. The happy little tree (happiest, in fact, when the rest of us are miserably tolerating triple digit Texas summers) is a Mexican Olive Tree.
The Texas native is a common site in the southernmost tip of the Rio Grande Plains of south Texas, but rarely seen north of San Antonio, as it freezes to the roots in cold winters. Our tree must be particularly hardy, because I have seen it completely frozen over in ice more than once.
Next time you’re by the shop, take a closer look and you’ll probably find an olive or two. Just don’t try to eat one; this particular species is ornamental, and its fruit isn’t edible.