Carnival sweet ravioli represent an ancient Genovese confectionery tradition, where marzipan, in different shapes and colors, appears almost every holiday.
It is said that marzipan recipe was invented by a small group of greedy Genoese nuns who did not want to give up something sweet during Lent, a period in which according to the Catholic Church the consumption of food of animal origin (therefore also butter and milk) is forbidden. Marzipan is in fact prepared only with almonds, sugar and a little egg white to keep everything together.
In Liguria the aroma that distinguishes is that of bitter orange blossom water, of which our Region has been a great producer since ancient times.
Nowadays during Easter period we still find in pastry shops marzipan molded in the form of little rings (“canestrelli”), colored small eggs and tartelettes decorated with decorative candies. They are the so called Quaresimali.
Instead, to celebrate All Saints Day and the Day of the Dead, marzipan turns into green small fava beans.
During the whole autumn, then, the most traditional pastry shops model it in the form of chestnuts that, dipped in part in dark chocolate, resemble real roast chestnuts.
At Carnival, finally, it turns into dummy ravioli, seasoned with a sauce (jam) and parmesan cheese (marzipan or white chocolate grated), to make fun of children.
Carnival is a joke, by the way!
Some practical remarks about the sweet ravioli recipe
Marzipan is obtained by blending almonds and sugar and adding the liquids (orange blossom water and egg white) until you get the desired consistency, which is that of a short pastry, to be clear. Then, I suggest to quietly add all the orange blossoms water and then the egg white, slightly beaten, little by little, to avoid finding yourself with an irremediable (delicious however) mush.
Ravioli filling depends on taste and what you have in your pantry. I had some great Tunisian dates and I mixed them 50-50 with candied orange peel. You can also use dried apricots, prunes and a small portion of candied citron. The grated lemon zest may be replaced by that of an untreated orange.
The most difficult part is to roll out marzipan. I shall confess that it is always a feat. Three tips:
– work it cold;
– dust very well the worktop and the rolling pin with powdered sugar
– spread on a sheet of baking paper.
Finally, to get the shape of the ravioli, you can use the ravioli cutter. The almond paste will tend to stick then also dust it with powdered sugar.
You will have to quickly bake your ravioli to dry. Decorate them with jam when they are cold. To simulate the parmesan cheese you can grate a little leftover marzipan, as I did, or white chocolate.
Carnival in Genoa isn’t just about sweet ravioli. There are also the famous sweet fritter, bugie or bouxie in dialect (letterally lies). You can find here the bugie traditional recipe.
Bitter orange blossom water is a product of excellence of our territory and is protected as Slow Food Presidium. On the subject I wrote a book that tells its beautiful story and contains many recipes to use it in the kitchen but not only!
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