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Buon Natale: Holiday cooking made interesting with Italian traditions PDF Print E-mail
Written by Darci Tomky   
Most local families will enjoy something like ham or turkey with all the fixings at their special Christmas meal this holiday season. Elvira Krogmeier, on the other hand, has a much different idea!

Krogmeier, a full-blooded Italian, has grown up with traditional Italian food served at Christmastime and is excited to keep the tradition going with her family another year.

Her parents, Matteo and Rachele, journeyed from Italy to Ellis Island, N.Y., finally settling in the small town of Abingdon, Ill. where Matteo worked at a pottery factory.

The five sisters and one brother in Krogmeier’s family were all born in Illinois, but of course they grew up in a very much Italian home—speaking Italian, eating Italian food and keeping Italian customs.

Years ago, Elvira Krogmeier’s family sits at the table in her parents’ house,
enjoying a traditional Italian Christmas meal complete with homemade cheese
ravioli. Pictured from left are Elvira’s sister Antoinette, Elvira, her father Matteo,
her mother Rachele, her sister Mary and Mary’s husband Jerry.

The kids learned English at school, and their parents eventually picked up some English as well, but the language as well as American traditions were still foreign to them.

Krogmeier said her mom couldn’t understand why “you Americans celebrate the feast of the chickens” at Thanksgiving, since that holiday wasn’t observed in Italy.

At Christmastime, this Italian family had a tree, decorations and presents just like other families, but step into their kitchen on Christmas Day and it’s a tradition completely different from American customs.

Christmas lunch for Krogmeier could be a lasagna dish or homemade cheese ravioli served with an Italian meat dish.

The recipes, passed down from her mother, take Krogmeier two days to complete.

When her kids and grandkids tell her how delicious the meal is, she responds, “Well it only took me two days to fix it!”

They not only enjoy the Italian food, in fact, they have come to expect it!

Krogmeier is proud to have passed down the Italian cooking traditions to her children and their children, noting almost all of them know how to make these homemade recipes.

“You have to know how to do this or it’ll be gone!” said Krogmeier.

She explained the interesting process of preparing her traditional Christmas meal.

For the meat dish, Krogmeier said her mom always used a round steak, seasoned with garlic, fresh parsley and grated romano cheese. It is rolled up and tied with kite twine.

The meat is fried in lard or oil. Once cooked, it simmers for two hours in a kettle of tomato sauce and garlic. The roll is then sliced and served with tomato sauce on top.

Refer to the accompanying “recipe card” for Krogmeier’s mouth-watering homemade cheese ravioli. She reminds readers the recipes are never exact as she tends to not measure ingredients but simply guesses at what looks right.

Side dishes could be foods like tossed salads, buttered corn or relish trays.

As far as sweets go, Krogmeier mentioned Génoise, a sponge cake used in Italian and French cooking. In this dessert, cake is layered with créme au buerre, a homemade vanilla pudding-type mixture.

This Christmas, Krogmeier has decided to bake lasagna for the small family gathering at her house. No doubt the food will be a delicious reminder of her wonderful Italian heritage. Buon Natale!

Homemade Cheese Ravioli A Traditional Italian Dish

Like any good cook, Elvira Krogmeier doesn’t measure ingredients
for her delicious Christmas Day Homemade Cheese Ravioli.

Ricotta Cheese Filling
Cook one gallon of whole milk on the stove, stirring constantly. When it rises up, pour about one cup of white vinegar on the milk, causing it to clump. After clumps form, turn off the heat and pour water along the edges of the pan. Dump the chunks into a collander to strain, then let it sit for several hours. Press the cheese through the colander so it becomes more stringy. Add salt, pepper, two eggs, chopped parsley and romano cheese and mix with your hands. Refrigerate.

Noodle Dough
Use a regular noodle dough recipe for the ravioli. Roll out the dough. Spoon mounds of ricotta on the dough. Fold the dough over the cheese. Dip the top of a glass in flour and use it to pinch down around the mounds of ricotta. Place the ravioli cutouts on a floured cookie sheet and refrigerate overnight.

Cheese Ravioli
The next day, cook the prepared ravioli in boiling water. Layer a casserole dish with tomato sauce, ravioli and romano cheese, repeating until full. Cook 35-40 minutes, serve and enjoy!