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A Nude Study

Ravioli without pasta? Certainly! Ravioli nudi are the pride of Florence.

When I was growing up in Florence, the ravioli we ate were not the stuffed pasta Americans know but the traditional Florentine kind, with no pasta covering whatsoever. We called these little dumplings ravioli nudi--or naked ravioli--a delicate mixture of cooked spinach, fresh ricotta, Parmesan cheese, egg yolks, nutmeg, salt and pepper, which is lightly rolled in flour, then boiled.

My mother, a loyal Florentine, never learned to cook, but she was passionate about ravioli nudi. When she was pregnant with twins, she would sneak out to her mother's home each evening after dinner for a large serving. Her mother's were the only ones that would satisfy her: when her sisters-in-law offered to prepare the dish for her, she declined. Only a Florentine could prepare ravioli nudi with a light enough hand, she believed, and her sisters-in-law were of Sienese ancestry.

Ravioli nudi have all but disappeared from restaurant menus today, so whenever I get together with my brothers and sisters, even after all these years, they beg me to make "Mama's ravioli" for them. Of course, I oblige.

Giuliano Bugialli's most recent cookbook, Bugialli's Italy (Morrow), is the companion to his current PBS series.

Published September 1999
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