Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Rana Pastificio


When I lived in Italy, I never made homemade pasta because I had Giovanni Rana -- the eponymous fresh pasta brand, that is. After eating a primo piatto of brodo with exquisitely delicious tortellini at my friend Clo's home near Rome, I was dumbfounded to learn that the pasta came from the supermarket. They were the next best thing to homemade and became a staple in my Trastevere kitchen. 

After I returned to the U.S., I had to leave my beloved Rana pasta behind, but to my delight, a couple of years ago, I found packages of it being sold at a local ShopRite supermarket. 

What is now a $500 million operation all started 50 years ago with Giovanni Rana, who was born in 1937 near Verona, Italy. To Italians, he is the kindly avuncular figure that everyone wishes she had in her family.  In 1959, he began making pasta and selling it from his motor scooter to families who didn't have time to make their own. Pastificio Rana opened a few years later, and soon began to expand, with the help of family and friends.

Now it's the number one fresh pasta brand in Europe, and is expanding its sales across the U.S. Its biggest competitors are Italian mothers and grandmothers, according to founder and president Giovanni Rana.  It opened its U.S. factory in Bartlett, Illinois last year. The company also owns and operates 30 restaurants in Italy and Europe. The New York City restaurant, where I was invited to participate in a pasta making class last week, has been open since November.

The Rana family includes son Gian Luca and daughter-in-law Antonella. "I would like that my company in the USA will become bigger than in Europe," Gian Luca said. "But I think that  my mission is not only to produce business, but also to create new jobs and conditions so people can feel realized inside my company.  For me that’s my best satisfaction." 

He and his wife, who is director of their worldwide restaurants, are charged with ensuring that the pastificio and restaurant in New York City's Chelsea Market are up to the standards of founder Giovanni, who is still the international "face" of the company. His father is a man of "grande passione," Gian Luca said. 

Judging from the tables filled with diners:

and bins of beautiful fresh pasta (and this is only a small portion of what's for sale), his father has no need to worry.

The small shop inside the restaurant tempts buyers with beautiful copperware: 

And naturally, lots of pasta making tools:

The hospitality started the moment I entered, with an offer of an Aperol spritz:

And a plate of delicious and crispy fried ravioli stuffed with artichokes:

But we were there to make pasta, so our group got to work, with Antonella as our guide:

We made two types of ravioli -- one stuffed with crushed fava beans, ricotta, mascarpone and pecorino.

Making pasta by hand was not new to me, but even the first-timers caught on quickly:

And we got to eat a wonderful bowl of pasta prepared by the chefs in the kitchen -- with a sauce of snow peas, fava beans and shaved radishes.

I had never made nor eaten chocolate ravioli, so I was happy when Antonella said we'd give that a try.

Again, the chefs were preparing a dish for us with similar ravioli, and this time, they were fried. I don't have a good photograph of the finished dish unfortunately, but let me say that it was divine - served with a mixture of whipped cream, meringue bits, berries and pomegranate seeds.

The pasta we made in class was placed in bags for us to take home, and if there's one thing that could be improved, it's that the ravioli made in class would have survived the trip home better if they had been packaged in a box, with waxed paper between the layers, rather than in a bag, where they all got stuck together. They were almost unusable. I say almost, because I got to thinking I could salvage them by kneading the mass together with some flour, which I did.

I then rolled it through my pasta machine and the little flecks of fava were visible.

I cut some of it into fettuccine:

And some maltagliatti too. Thank you Giovanni Rana for coming to New York and spreading your product across the U.S. 

Right now the brand is available only in the Northeast U.S., but the list of places where you can buy the pasta in the U.S. is constantly expanding. "In a short time we hope to cover all the United States," Gian Luca said. Click here to see all the different varieties of pasta and sauces available and here to find out where to buy them. I derive no income from promoting the brand. I just think it's excellent and I want you to know about them too.

If you have a few minutes, check out this charming video where Giovanni Rana talks about how he got his start making pasta. He'll take you on a short ride through Verona to Lago di Garda, accompanied by the beautiful music of Giuseppe Verdi.

Tortelli di Ricotta e Fave, Shaved Red Radish and Pecorino

500 grams fresh pasta dough

200 gr. fresh ricotta

200 gr. mascarpone cheese

140 gr. fresh pecorino romano

100 gr. chopped fava beans (precooked in boiling salted water)

3 red radishes

40 gr. fresh fava beans and/or snow peas

30 gr. grated pecorino

40 gr. butter

100 gr. vegetable broth

salt, pepper

  • In a mixing bowl, blend the ricotta, mascarpone and grated pecorino romano cheese.

  • Add the chopped fava beans, salt and pepper and set aside in the refrigerator.

  • Roll the pasta with a rolling pin until you have a thin sheet.

  • Place a spoonful of the filling on the pasta, along the entire length.

  • Brush the dough with some water, or a little beaten egg around the filling to help seal it.

  • Cover with a second pasta sheet, press around the filling to eliminate any air pockets, and cut with a pastry wheel or specialized ravioli cutter.

To finish:

  • Place the butter and broth in a saucepan.

  • Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling water for three minutes

  • Strain the pasta then add to the broth and butter base.

  • Add the fava beans and/or snow peas to the broth.

  • Cook the vegetables in the liquid and let the sauce reduce until it becomes dense.

  • Dress the pasta on each pasta bowl with the sauce, then add pecorino on top.

  • Finish with shaved red radish.

Chocolate Ricotta Ravioli

for the dough:

5 oz. all purpose four

2 eggs

3 oz. cocoa powder

1 oz. grated orange peel

a pinch of salt

  • Put the flour in a large bowl with the grated orange peel, salt and cocoa powder.

  • Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well.

  • Put the dough on a table.

  • Knead well with both hands until dough is smooth and elastic.

  • Let the dough rest before rolling it out and cutting as needed. 

for the filling:

1.7 oz. melted chocolate

5 oz. chocolate chips

1.8 oz. ricotta cheese

1.8 oz. mascarpone

5 oz. chopped hazelnuts

14 cl. heavy cream

  • Put the ricotta cheese in a large bowl with mascarpone, chocolate chips and hazelnuts

  • Mix everything with a spatula

  • Pour the melted chocolate and heavy cream into the cheese mixture and blend well with a spatula or whisk.

  • Refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble:

frying oil

10 oz. chocolate dough

7 oz. chocolate ricotta filling

3.5 oz. heavy cream

1.8 oz. meringue

1 pomegranate, deseeded or mixed berries

2 t. confectioner's sugar

  • Roll out the pasta dough into two thin sheets

  • Using a spoon, space the filling along the entire length of the pasta, leaving space in between.

  • Gently lay the second sheet over the first layer and squeeze the dough over the filling, making sure there is no air in between.

  • Cut with a pastry wheel or use a specialized ravioli cutter. Refrigerate until ready to use.

  • Fry the ravioli in the hot oil and drain.

  • Beat the heavy cream with the confectioners sugar until thick. Break until the meringue into small pieces and mix with the heavy cream and pomegranate seeds and/or mixed berries.

  • Place the cream mixture on a plate and arrange the fried chocolate ravioli around the mixture, scattering more berries around the plate.

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  1. Wonderful recipes! I particularly like the savory ravili. Fresh pasta is just irresistible.



  2. WOW!! Of course any evening that starts with Aperol is good thing in my book. It looks like you had a wonderful time, and the dishes are all tempting. The dishes all sound great. I really MUST compliment you, thrifty lass, on figuring how to salvage the ravioli. Darn smart and quite commendable. I can not say I would have been so clever. What a great post! You've covered it all. I have never heard of this brand, but I am going to ask at my neighborhood Gelson's. They re great about following up on requests. Thanks for sharing your totally cool evening!

  3. After your facebook post on the pasta class, I sent my brother and friends there for a Good Friday meal after the car show, and they LOVED it! Thank you for that! I will try it next time we are in Chelsea!

  4. Antonella is gorgeous! The real bella donna deal, what the increasingly artificial Nigella Lawson could only be in her Nigellissima dreams! Pasta pretty gorgeous, too...

  5. I have to sadly admit that I have never made pasta. And I don't have the excuse that there is a wonderful little shop in town where I can buy it. Your posts really inspire me, Linda. One of these days I'll try my hand at it. I can imagine all kinds of wonderful ravioli fillings.

  6. Ma che post interessantissimo! Grazie cara, ricette ed esperienza che devono essere state una meraviglia! :D Un abbraccione!

  7. I'm back! That video is marvelous. Giovanni Rana is industrious, charming and quite a showman. I hope all your readers take a few minutes to watch.

  8. What a wonderful experience this must have been, Linda! Good save on the take home, smushed raviloi.

    I made fresh spinach ravioli at Easter, for those that could eat gluten, my gluten free family members had polenta. I really enjoy the process of making the dough and pressing out the raviloi, or making fresh fettuccie, but I would not object to buying fresh dough such as this if it becomes available in the west.

    The chocolate ravioli sounds like a fun and unusual dessert to try!

  9. I back ..watched the video...part one and two! Ranna is certainly charming and I love that he still has his original motor bike and basket that he used to deliver his first batches of tortellini. He certainly is a wonderful success story!

  10. What a fun experience to share with us. There is nothing like homemade pasta. I'm still learning the ropes, and need to get more comfortable with mixing the dough, with a fork. (I cheat and use a food processor). I really want to make ravioli, and I do have all the tools.
    Great save on the pasta. You made it work!

  11. This looks fabulous. When I went to Chelsea Market last month to pay the shop a visit, it was closed due to a water main break! I need to get there for a proper dinner. I am particularly salivating over the bins of unique looking tools. Fresh pasta is probably my greatest food passion -- thanks for the fava recipe! Perfect for the season.

  12. What am I doing in the Land of Lakes? I love that filling with a touch of the beans. I feel like sending them the address of all the Italian specialty markets and our high-end grocery stores immediately.

  13. I have not seen this pasta anywhere here but clicked on the link and noticed a store that's pretty far from me that sells it, but they've broke ground to build one near me, so I will be jumping for joy to be able to buy this! Great post, what a fun day and you know what? I think you got something going with the flecks of fava in the pasta dough, love that idea!

  14. I can't WAIT to find this pasta in a store, but I know that it will take forever to be distributed in the South! What a tremendous class you took; isn't making pasta one of the best things to do? I've yet to try chocolate ravioli, have always wanted to and now I know that I must!

  15. compero spesso i prodotti di Giovanni Rana, sono buonissimi !

  16. I, too, recently found Rana products in a local supermarket. What a treat! The only commercial fresh pasta worth buying as far as I'm concerned.

    Now I've got to check out their store in the Chelsea Market next time I"m in New York. I'd quite literally feel like a kid in a candy shop!

  17. Delighted to find that the pasta is accessible to me if not exactly in my neighborhood. Your rescue of the traveling pasta was genius.

  18. Looks at those bins of fresh pasta! Oh my!
    Love the idea of shaved radishes with pasta...gotta try that combo.