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Happy Spring.

I love this time of year. Spring is like a needed cleanse that helps me refocus on what is important in my life. Spring also marks a very important time in the Raffo family where we come together to make hundreds and hundreds of Tortelli to enjoy on Easter and future family gatherings. Participating in the “making of Tortelli” event is not an option, it is a mandatory family tradition.

The word Tortelli in Italian, means “little pies” and it is a type of pasta traditionally made in Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, and Tuscany regions of Italy. It can be found in several shapes, including square, semi-circular, or twisted into a rounded, hat-like form.  

The Tortelli tradition goes way back in our family, and even though Gemma Raffo is 103, she still expects Tortelli to be made and served on Easter Sunday, topped with a nice marinara sauce and accompanied with strong red wine and fresh bread.

This morning, I called my mom and explained that I wanted to share our family Tortelli recipe in today’s newsletter. There was silence, and then I think she responded by mentioning that my dad had a dermatology appointment today at 11. After listening to the details about his appointment, I successfully pulled the recipe out of her. Anyone who has ever met my lovely mother Maria knows a few things about her: she has a thick Italian accent, she has a lot of opinions about a lot of things that may or may not be relevant at that very moment in the conversation-yet still very interesting, she doesn’t see much value in details, especially when it comes to recipes, just figure it out as you go.

My gift to you, the Raffo Tortelli recipe, good luck, they are delicious.

Maria Teresa Raffo’s Tortelli Filling

(in her own words with heavy Italian accent)

1-bag frozen Spinach  “you know, kind of big but not too big”

1-container Ricotta  “small, and not low fat, why would you do low fat Liza?”

eggs- “Oh, maybe 2 or 3 depending (um mom, depending on what?) “Ok, just do 3 eggs.”

Parmigiano Reggiano- “a lot.”

Nutmeg- “poco”

Salt and pepper

Bread crumbs- “you know, some people put in bread crumbs if the filling has too much liquid, but it shouldn’t.”

“I do not.”

“I really squeeze out the frozen spinach then sauté the spinach in some oil, butter, and garlic.”

“Make sure the filling is nice and dry or it will be a mess.”

-What makes the filling so special with our recipe? “I don’t know…  I really don’t know if it’s that special.”

-Oh, Ok. 

You know really, everyone can just look up an Italian pasta dough recipe and it will be just as good” – DOUGH Recipe:

1 egg per cup of flour “I do 3 cups of flour and 3 eggs, then 2 extra egg yolks without the egg white”

Salt “nonna Gemma never added salt. I do.”

“Create a little volcano with the flour and add your eggs into the center, then blend.  You do not need water if you use enough eggs.”

“Let the dough rest at least a couple of hours to get really beautiful. Put in a plastic bag and place in the fridge, or not.”

I love my mom, she’s the best, and incredibly entertaining for all who meet her. I hope this Spring finds you all well.

Thank you again for all of your support.



Gerolo is the name of my mother’s family farm located about thirty minutes south of Milan, Italy. I was fortunate enough to spend many long summers on that farm. It is a big part of why I love Italy, my experiences and time spent with my family there are invaluable. Arriving in Gerolo, you quickly find that you have stepped back into time. My brother and I were the only American grandchildren Gemma and Savino had, and to make matters worse, we didn’t really speak that much Italian. Although we were raised by Maria Raffo, my lovely mom, in California (which was a mini-version of living in Gerolo, naps and all) there really was no preparing us for the kind of culture shock that we would experience each and every time we would visit the farm.

We learned very quickly that Gerolo was very different than what we were accustomed to, but it quickly felt like home. Although it lacked some of the basic “necessities” we were used to like, ice cubes, hot water, screens on the windows, milk from actual containers from a store, air conditioned cars, The Price is Right, etc, it didn’t matter. It was a magical place for Glenn and I. We had nothing but time and freedom to roam the gardens and land on our bikes made in 1940, plenty of good wine on the table for our meals, our amazing Italian family close by, and daily events and meals that kept all of us close and connected each summer day. Summers were always amazing, and we always returned with a bit more appreciation to life and the little things that really mattered. Gerolo seems to always put things in perspective, especially returning to Southern California.

The photo above is one of my all time favorite photos. I believe the year was around 2006. Siena, Isabella, and Gemma Raffo walking back from one of the gardens on the property. Both girls have spent time in Gerolo, and both were even baptized across the river from our farm in a church located inside a castle called Roveleto. Gerolo will always be a very special and magical place to all of us.

The Why

So many whys in life.

Some are answered right away, some take much longer to reveal themselves.  It's a beautiful thing when you do learn why, especially, if the journey was a difficult one, and you find that your why paved a road you could have never imagined.  So many people still haven't found their why, and many of those were affected this past week in unimaginable devastation and loss.  I hope that eventually, all of our whys are answered, and in return inspire, heal, and strengthen us. 

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
- Mark Twain

My why...

Thanks to everyone for your continued support and spreading the word about The Passing Coin and Gemma Raffo. 

P.S. The coins featured above are .999 pure silver and available as an Add-On through the Kickstarter campaign!