Also called le turle de Mendatica, this Ligurian potato and mint ravioli recipe is a traditional dish from the Ligurian Alps, particularly the area around the village of Mendatica on the slopes of Mt Fronté, between Liguria, Piemonte and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. There, the mountain folk have a unique kitchen known as la cucina bianca della Liguria (the white cuisine of Liguria).
Pasta in Liguria.
Liguria in Northwest Italy is famous for its fresh pasta, of which there are several kinds both unique to the region and dating back hundreds of years. Corzetti and trofie are two that come to mind! Plus, Liguria is also where ravioli was invented. In fact, there are a number of traditional regional ravioli recipes. This potato and mint ravioli is probably one of the simplest and easiest to make. Full of typical Alpine flavours, these raviolis are so worth trying!
What is Liguria’s white cuisine?
Liguria’s white kitchen or cuisine is a particular gastronomy developed among the sheep farming communities of the Ligurian and Maritime Alps. It originated in the ancient pastoral traditions of the farming families who took their flocks of sheep into the mountains in the summer and brought them down to lowland farms in the autumn.
Known as transhumance, the tradition of taking livestock into the mountains to graze on summer pastures is still very common in the Alps. In fact, last year, my husband Salvatore and I accompanied local farming friends as they herded their 100 cows up to 1,700 metres above sea level where they have a summer dairy farm, which Italians call a ‘malga’. That was quite an experience!
The food in these mountain areas used to depend on what could be cultivated, foraged and produced 1,000 metres and even higher above sea level. Plus, the cooking facilities available were pretty basic. Nowadays, of course, the inhabitants and farmers of these areas have access to four-wheel transportation and better facilities.
The traditional dishes included in Liguria’s white cuisine are made from starchy foods (Italians say farinacei) like flour, rice, corn etc, dairy products, eggs, light coloured vegetables such as potatoes, cabbage, leeks, turnips etc and beans. The term ‘white kitchen’ was coined in the 1950s. But, it obviously came from the achromaticity of the food. Although wild herbs and edible plants add a touch of colour to the dishes.
The filling for Ligurian potato and mint ravioli.
However, colourless doesn’t mean tasteless! In truth, the simplicity of these potato and mint raviolis belies how delicious this dish is! Apart from the potato and mint, the filling contains eggs, local mountain cheese and grated parmigiano. Potatoes and cheese are a common ingredient in Alpine dishes, for example Swiss raclette or pizzoccheri from the Valtellina in Lombardy.
Many varieties of potato are cultivated in the Italian mountains. In fact, potatoes have long been a staple food for the inhabitants of mountainous regions where wheat doesn’t grow. Apparently, it’s possible to grow potatoes at 2,000 metres above sea level in the Western Alps!
The potatoes I used came from the Sila mountains in Calabria. These are actually my favourite Italian potatoes. They have a higher-than-average starch content which makes them more nutritious and flavourful. There are different varieties of potatoes grown in the Sila.
I used Marabel which are creamy, buttery and a bit sweet. They’re perfect for mashed potatoes and so perfect for the ravioli filling. If you can’t find Marabels, Desiree or King Edwards are great for mashing (and fillings) too! You can alo use leftover ready boiled or mashed potatoes. Just reheat in the microwave when making the filling!
Cheese is also a staple in the mountains. During the summer, the cheeses are made in the mountains in small dairy farms called ‘malghe’ or ‘malga’. Since they are made from the milk of cows or sheep grazing on mountain pastures, these really are among the best types of cheese! Nearly every Italian region has its own mountain cheeses.
Traditionally this Ligurian potato and mint ravioli is made with Toma. Toma is a soft or semi-hard cow’s milk cheese that is great for melting. You can find a very similar cheese in the French Alps called Tomme.
I used Tomino which is really just a type of Toma available in small individual portion wheels. This is a great cheese for grilling too. It’s a bit similar to brie, which I think would be a good substitute (skin removed). Alternatively, you can use other melting cheeses like fontina or provolone or even ricotta.
How to make the ravioli dough.
The dough for these Ligurian potato and mint raviolis contains soft wheat flour, egg and water. So, it’s not as rich as some egg pasta doughs. However, the water helps to make it more elastic. This dough is made the same way as other egg pasta. You need to mix the flour, egg and water together and then knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic.
After you have let it rest, you can roll it out using a rolling pin or pasta machine. I used the latter. The sheets need to be about 2mm thick (0.08in). Thin enough that you can just about see your hand through the dough sheet.
How to make the filling.
Making the filling for these potato and mint ravioli requires cooking the unpeeled potatoes in boiling salted water until they are soft. Then, you will need to peel and mash them while still hot. Be careful not to burn your fingers!
I used what Italians call a ‘passapatata’, a potato ricer. If using the same, you don’t need to peel the potatoes first. I cut them in half and put them in the ricer peeled side down. The skin stays inside the ricer when you press the potato through it.
Once you have mashed or riced your potatoes into a bowl and while the potatoes are still hot, you add the egg yolks, 2 kinds of cheese and some mint leaves and mix everything together. Add salt to taste.
How to make the Ligurian potato and mint ravioli.
When your filling and dough sheets are ready, then use a circular pastry or cookie cutter or even a glass to cut out pasta discs. These can be any size you want but are usually 8cm (3in) in diameter.
Put a heaped teaspoon of filling on each disc, then fold the pasta in half to form a half moon shape. Press out any air gently and seal the edges by pressing down with your index finger or a fork. Place the ready ravioli on a floured tea towel or tray until you have finished them all and are ready to cook and serve.
Cook and serve or freeze!
If you don’t want to cook your Ligurian potato and mint ravioli the same day, you can freeze the pasta and cook from frozen. Otherwise cook the ravioli in boiling salted water for about 8 minutes and then strain and add to a pan where you have crisped some mint leaves in melted butter. Mix and serve immediately with more grated parmigiano. Traditionally, they also add crushed and toasted hazelnuts to the dressing.
This Ligurian potato and mint ravioli is a wonderful example of Italian Alpine cuisine. It’s simple food that’s been made for generations by villagers and farmers living high up in the Western Alps. Traditionally this ravioli was made with ingredients they mostly produced or foraged themselves. I find that really romantic, don’t you?
If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out. Please write a comment here on the blog, email me or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.
Your feedback is really appreciated!
Other traditional homemade ravioli recipes you are bound to love!
- Baked fish ravioli from Liguria
- Sardinian ricotta and saffron ravioli
- Cjarsons, sweet ravioli from Friuli Venezia Giulia
- Ofelle Triestina, gnocchi ravioli from Friuli Venezia Giulia
- Piconi Ascolani, baked Easter ravioli from Le Marche
- Pumpkin tortelli from Mantova
- Cheese stuffed agnolotti del plin from Piemonte
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Ligurian Potato and Mint Ravioli (Turle)
For the pasta
- 300 g Italian '00' flour (10.5oz) or All Purpose Flour
- 2 eggs (medium)
- 75 ml warm water (2.5floz)
- 1 pinch salt
For the filling
- 400 g potatoes (14oz) I used Marabels. Desiree and King Edwards are also good. Or use eftover boiled or mashed potatoes.
- 200 g Toma cheese (7oz) (cut in small pieces) or brie, fontina, provolone or ricotta
- 2 egg yolks
- 40 g Parmigiano Reggiano (3 tbsp) (grated) Vegetarians will need to use vegetarian cheese as parmigiano contains animal rennet.
- 4-5 fresh mint leaves
- salt for potatoes and to taste
For the dressing
- 50 g butter (2oz)
- 4-5 fresh mint leaves
- freshly ground black pepper. to taste
Make the filling
- Wash the unpeeled potatoes and boil them in an abundant boiling salted water. Drain, peel and mash with the potato masher. Or pass the potatoes through a potato ricer.
- While the potatoes are still hot, add the toma (or other cheese) cut into small pieces, the Parmigiano, 2 egg yolks and 4-5 finely chopped mint leaves. Season with salt and pepper, mix everything together and let cool.
Make the pasta
- Sift the flour onto a pastry board or into a bowl and create a well in the centre. Add the egg yolks and pour in the water. Start mixing the liquid with the flour using a fork adding the flour to the liquid little by little from the outside in.
- Continue using your hands until all the flour has been mixed with the egg and water and the dough starts to stick together. Turn the dough out onto a flour dusted pastry board (if starting in a bowl).
- Knead the dough with the heel of your hands as you would for bread for 5-10minutes until it is smooth and elastic. You may need to dust with more flour if your dough seems sticky or sticks to the work surface.
- Roll the dough into a ball. Wrap it in plastic wrap or a tea towel and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
Make the ravioli
- Cut off ¼ of the dough and roll it out with a rolling pin until it is about 2 mm thick (leave the rest of the dough covered so it doesn’t dry out). Alternatively flatten the dough piece a little with your hands and pass it through a pasta machine starting with 2-3 times through the widest setting (7 for me) then through the next 2-3 settings until you have pasta sheets that you can almost see your fingers through.
- With an 8 cm diameter cookie cutter, or with a glass, cut discs out of the dough. In the centre of each disc place a heaped tsp of filling. Brush a little water or egg white around the edge of the pasta disc. Fold the disc in half and seal the edges by pressing down with your index finger or a fork. Arrange the ready ravioli spaced apart on a well-floured surface so that they do not stick to each other. Repeat with the remaining pasta and filling.
Cook and serve or freeze
- Bring a big pan of salted water to boil and cook your turle ravioli for about 8 minutes.
- Meanwhile put the butter in a shallow pan and let it melt, add the chopped mint and let it geta bit crispy. Remove the raviolis from the water with a skimmer or slotted spoon and lay them in the pan with the butter, mix very gently. Before serving, sprinkle with some Parmigiano cheese and decorate with few fresh mint leaves.
- If you don't want to cook the ravioli the same day, you can freeze it and cook from frozen. Freeze the pasta spread out on a tray. Once frozen, you can put the ravioli in a sealed freezer bag.
If you are interested in learning how to make homemade pasta and different types of gnocchi, check out my shop page for some great video online courses from my friends in Rome! Nothing beats learning to make pasta from Italians! Plus while you’re there why not order a copy of one of my pasta recipe cookbooks or checkout some recommended pasta making tools? All great prezzies for pasta lovers!