While I’m pretty sure that Ancestry.com — or any of the popular genealogy sites — would concur that I’m exactly 0% Italian, I’ve always felt like an honorary Italian because of how much I adore their food, the culture, their love of art, the reverence for buildings more than 100 years old, and the list goes on and on…

Oh, and don’t forget the gelato, which I know technically falls under “food,” but can we just take a minute to appreciate how great it is and give it its own category?

And because Italian food plays such an integral role in my latest novel, aptly titled The Honorary Italians, I like to brush up on my skills from time to time by taking cooking classes. Yesterday I channeled my inner Italian grandmother (nonna) by making ravioli from scratch.

There’s something so incredibly satisfying about kneading the dough by hand, and it still astonishes me that one of my all-time favorite foods, pasta, is comprised of little more than flour, eggs, salt and a smidge of olive oil.

After giving the dough a chance to relax, we patiently rolled it through a hand-cranked pasta machine eight times, enough until we could practically see right through it. Of course what makes ravioli so special are the fillings, and yesterday’s crop definitely didn’t disappoint.

Since Fall is supposedly right around the corner, something that won’t technically happen in Texas until early November I’m guessing, we filled the first ravioli with pumpkin and ricotta and bathed them in brown butter sage sauce which made me so excited for Thanksgiving. These were pillow-y perfect goodness that almost made me forget it was 96 degrees outside.

The second batch of ravioli were decidedly more traditional: three cheese with a chunky tomato sauce topped with pancetta. The addition of gorgonzola made them slightly funkier than most three-cheese fare, and the addition of pancetta (Italian bacon) balanced the cheese out nicely.

Rounding out the meal was a total showstopper of a salad (and yes, I realize that I just described a salad that way). Instead of the usual lettuce or arugula, we used thinly shaved Brussel sprouts that were dressed with a homemade citrus vinaigrette and topped with toasted walnuts, grapefruit and orange segments and pomegranate seeds. It’s not a combination that would’ve immediately occurred to me, but it was unexpectedly perfect with our pasta.

A couple of hours later when class was over, I was back in my car, heading home, still basking in a bit of Italian reverie. Feeling inspired, I’m thinking it probably won’t be long until I dig out my pasta machine from the back of my kitchen cupboard and see what magical ravioli combinations I come up with.

How about you? What pasta combinations are your favorite? If you were making ravioli what would you stuff them with? I can’t help wondering how Nutella would be…could sweet ravioli become a thing?