My baby. My baby just turned 21. He can now vote, smoke, drink, buy lottery tickets, serve his country, drive, be solely responsible for his actions, etc. How can this possibly be? I am sure I only blinked. How did we get here so fast?
I look at him and still see that beautiful little boy who I brought home in a little bundle, picked wild flowers for me, who I fed the seagulls with on early summer mornings at the beach, who ran into bed with me during thunder storms so I wouldn’t be afraid.
Hard to believe that this 6’1″, 130 lb (soaking wet), 21 year old MAN standing before me is the same teeny, tiny pre-mature baby I first held in my arms so long ago.
I love the adult he has become. I like the person he is. He is gracious. He is kind. He is gentle. He is tender-hearted. He is a talented musician. He is bright, funny, charming (in an ability to sell ice to Eskimos kind of way). Don’t get me wrong, he can also be surly, sulky, a bit fresh, and occasionally takes his mother for granted.
They’re in such a hurry at that age. Ready to go out and make the world their own. Never looking before they leap. I truly am ready to let him go when it’s time. I tell him all the time that he isn’t ready to go out into the world yet, he hasn’t finished baking. This garners a crooked smile and a sigh. I pray that we taught him enough to take care of himself, to know when to walk away from a situation, that our home is always his, that there is no shame in asking for help, that love is and will be there for him but don’t confuse it with lust, just because you can doesn’t mean you should, anything worth having is worth working for.
I still go into his room at night to turn off a light or TV, make sure he’s covered, perhaps just gathering up my plates and glasses that seem to have disappeared into that abyss. I stand at the foot of the bed, gazing at that sweet face. There is my baby, gently sleeping. I knew he was still in there somewhere. It always reminds of a quote from a book I bought him years ago – Love You Forever (which I still cannot read without crying).
I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.
One night as I stood there, I started to recite those words – as I often do – he must have been just falling asleep. As I got to the last line he said – your baby I’ll be. Can you say heart melt?
This next part is for Tommy, but you can all read along too …
But on this, your 21st birthday, my darling boy, I want you to know – I am proud of you. Actually, I am in awe of you. You are talented. You are smart and quick minded. You are silly, and funny, and whimsical – never lose those qualities. You can do anything you set your mind to. I will always be here to mend a button or a broken heart. A mom hug heals all wounds and is the safest place on earth. You own my heart and soul.
I may have taught you to walk , read, spell and add (sort of), to dress yourself and let’s not forget the potty, but you taught me to love unconditionally, to forgive instantly, that nothing is more important than family, to not take myself so seriously, to not be selfish, to give until it hurts, and so much more. You helped me mature into the person I have become. Thank you for growing up with me and raising me so well.
To put it plainly – you had me at hello.
Okay. Enough. Mush. My son’s favorite meal in the entire world is my Great Grandmother Rosie’s ravioli. While our family’s restaurant Papoo’s was open, Tommy spent a lot of time there with my Grandmother working during the summer. She always thought he was too skinny or it was too hot for him to be outside selling ices. She stuffed him full of ravioli, 2 and 3 times a day. They had a blast together. I guess after 7 granddaughters, a great grandson was a breath of fresh air. They laughed and giggled and talked. They shared secrets. With the restaurant now closed (I still feel a twinge as I type that) we have been in serous Grandma Rosie’s Ravioli withdrawal. Now, the silly part of that withdrawal is I have had the recipe for years! But, what better way to celebrate Tommy’s birthday and keep our family remembered and front and center than making this dish for him.
Okay, let’s get started. My Great Grandmother’s recipe called for an eggless pasta dough. I cheated. I bought sheets of pasta dough. There are no actual measurements. There was no way I would risk having a disaster on my hands for Tommy’s birthday. And besides, I hate to roll things out. I have no pasta maker. So, Pasta Fresca to the rescue. While, they don’t sell the eggless pasta, their pasta dough is pretty good AND it’s already in sheets and ready to fill.
My Great Grandma Rosie was Genoese and the traditional filling for ravioli from this area is called Ping, a mixture of pork and beef and spinach and cream cheese (which most likely was marscapone cheese) and Parmigiano Reggiano and eggs. I have some measurements, but not all, much is by eye. If you’d like my approximate proportions, please feel free to get in touch with me.
Day One – This is going to be a breeze. The filling is delicious. The texture is perfect. Boy, there sure is a lot of filling there. Oh, wait! The recipe makes 150 ravioli. 150!? Am I insane? Well, no it’s Tommy’s birthday.
Well, the insanity came from the stupidity that I was going to hand cut the ravioli using a 2″ square ravioli stamp that cut one ravioli at a time. I have my gigantic wooden cutting board on my dining room table. What that didn’t cover I covered in parchment paper. Let’s sprinkle some cornmeal so the ravioli don’t stick. I have a mess and I haven’t even begun.
Place a sheet of the pasta on the board. Brush all the cornmeal off. Place little blobs of ping. Brush off another sheet of pasta. Place second sheet on top of first. Press down between the blobs.
Cut out each raviolo. Press the edges together. OKAY! I HAVE 6! Yes, 6! 6 Ravioli in only 20 minutes.
I was on the phone with my Mom through part of this process. She readily agreed with me that I was insane to be cutting each raviolo individually with my handy dandy 2″ square ravioli stamp.
Two hours and 24 ravioli later I was going to chuck the project. And along came Mom. By the way, those 24 much-too-large ravioli were inhaled that night. Sweep up the cornmeal, roll up the parchment, put the board away, vacuum everything!
‘Sweetie, I am happy to lend you my ravioli molds. You will never be finished this way. And besides, those are much too big and not the way your great grandmother made them.’ My savior. Like a true trooper, my mother met me in Bloomingdale’s the next night and lent me her Ravioli Maker and Press.
Now, the word ‘lent’ here is rather ambiguous. I know she THINKS she lent them to me, but the truth is, they are now mine! MUUUUUUUAHAHAHAHA. Much like the scene in Mr. Holland’s Opus when Mr. Holland remarks to his son Cole about how good the car he lent him looks. The boy looks at his father, wags his finger and states, ‘Yes, but you can’t have it back.’ So go the ravioli forms.
Next morning, out comes the wooden board, the parchment, the cornmeal, the filling and the pasta. Please let this be simpler. This actually turned out to be a life saver! My mother
has had three forms and one press. The press part makes indentations in the pasta to nestle the filling. With the size of the dough I had I was able to make 21 ravioli at a time!
Dust, dust, dust. Dust, dust, dust. Dust the cornmeal. Dust the cornmeal. (Song stuck in my head – Shake your Booty – now to be stuck in yours)
Line the dough up on the forms. Press an indent into each.
Fill each indent. Tiny cookie scoop to the rescue again!
Dust the cornmeal off another sheet and place on top. Here is where the magic happens! A rolling pin. A simple rolling pin rolled across, with a little pressure, and there you have 21 ravioli. Pull away the excess pasta.
Now all the ravioli had to do was dry. I made 130 in less time than the initial 24 took to make.
The sauce was simple. Garlic and oil. Crushed tomatoes. A dash of cream. The ravioli are so rich, they really required nothing more than a simple tomato sauce or butter and cheese.
These were fabulous. The Ping was perfect. Exactly what I remember from childhood, including the mother
cursing grumbling in the kitchen, only then it was mine. Once you get the ‘factory’ rolling this is actually an easy process, and now I have a freezer full of ravioli.
Happy birthday, my love. This labor of love was slightly easier than the last – 21 years ago. And don’t worry, ‘Glamor Girl’, I gave our boy a kiss from you, too.