Ravioli from the Cookbook of Sabina Welserin

September 26, 2015 at 8:59 pm | Posted in Cooking, Miscellaneous | Leave a comment

Rabiolin (Ravioli) from the cookbook of Sabina Welserin

Das Kochbuch der Sabina Welserin is a manuscript cookbook dated 1553. It contains 205 recipes ranging from simple comfort foods to more elaborate preparations. Many of the recipes appear to be slight variations of one another (there are six versions of apple tart, for instance), while others vary widely from marzipan to bratwurst.

I chose to make chicken ravioli. The English translation, done by Valoise Armstrong is as follows:

To make ravioli

Take spinach and blanch it as if you were making cooked spinach, and chop it small. Take approximately one handful, when it is chopped, cheese or meat from a chicken or capon that was boiled or roasted. Then take twice as much cheese as herb, or of chicken an equal amount, and beat two or three eggs into it and make a good dough, put salt and pepper into it and make a dough with good flour, as if you would make a tart, and when you have made little flat cakes of dough then put a small ball of filling on the edge of the flat cake and form it into a dumpling. And press it together well along the edges and place it in broth and let it cook about as long as for a soft-boiled egg. The meat should be finely chopped and the cheese finely grated.

To begin I roasted a chicken for the meat. When that was completed, I chopped it “finely” until I had about two cups, and put it in a bowl. Next I blanched the spinach. When it had cooled a bit, I squeezed the excess water out of the mass of spinach. While the recipe does not call for this step, previous experience with using cooked spinach in recipes suggested to me that the extra moisture would make my end result too watery. I chopped the spinach and added it to the chicken. There was just slightly under two cups of spinach.

I added the salt and pepper before adding the eggs, as I wanted to test the seasoning. I ended up adding salt twice more, though I think the second time I may have added a bit too much. I added pepper once more. Although I did not use measuring spoons, I would estimate I put in about two teaspoons of salt, and about one and a half of pepper. Then I added the eggs.

For the pasta part, the recipe calls for us to “make a dough with good flour as if you would make a tart.” I was a little uncertain about this when I first read it, as my experience with tart pastry tends to be of the butter and flour variety, which would not hold up well as ravioli dough. However, one of Sabina Welserin’s further recipes for making pastry dough for shaped pies sounds an awful lot like the egg/flour pasta recipes I am used to, so I decided to follow her advice.

To make a pastry dough for all shaped pies

Take flour, the best that you can get, about two handfuls, depending on how large or small you would have the pie. Put it on the table and with a knife stir in two eggs and a little salt. Put water in a small pan and a piece of fat the size of two good eggs, let it all dissolve together and boil. Afterwards pour it on the flour on the table and make a strong dough and work it well, however you feel is right. If it is summer, one must take meat broth instead of water and in the place of the fat the skimmings from the broth. When the dough is kneaded, then make of it a round ball and draw it out well on the sides with the fingers or with a rolling pin, so that in the middle a raised area remains, then let it chill in the cold. Afterwards shape the dough as I have pointed out to you….

Technically it was fall, and not summer, but I had a meat broth ready and waiting for the raviolis, so I decided to use the summer method. However, the broth had almost no “skimmings” in it. I did still have the pot that I had roasted the chicken in, and that had a considerable amount of fat on the bottom, so I borrowed some of that fat for the broth/fat mixture to spread on the dough.

Once the dough had been made, I used a rolling pin to spread it out thinly. Then I dropped the egg/spinach/chicken mixture and made small “dumplings” out of them.

The cookbook does not give a specific recipe for broth, which is not surprising considering that broth was such a basic recipe that pretty much everyone would have been assumed to know how to make a simple version. The references to broth in other recipes often seem to indicate simply boiling meat in water, sometimes with herbs or other spices thrown in. Lacking clear direction, I chose to make a very simple broth by boiling the chicken carcass that was left after chopping the chicken for the filling. I added an onion, salt, and pepper to the broth.

I cooked the raviolis for about two minutes, roughly the time it takes to soft-boil an egg. And then they were done!


Salting “to taste” is still a skill I am working on. I tend to add too little salt, then a little more, and a little more until it is suddenly too salty and I can’t take it back. (Or at least I can’t when I’m trying to follow a recipe and have already used up all of my limiting agent, in this case the entirety of the spinach.)

Cooking the ravioli in broth rather than plain water was surprisingly tasty. Whether because it was fresh pasta, or simply because the broth is that much better, I found the ravioli dough really picked up the flavors of the chicken broth.


Online English translation by Valois Armstrong, accessed September 15, 2015 http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Cookbooks/Sabrina_Welserin.html


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