A Recipe for Ravioli Parmigiana From New York’s Father Joseph Blenkle
Father Blenkle became a priest after a life-changing encounter as a young man — “God, through St. John Paul II, spoke to my heart.”
A native New Yorker and currently pastor at Saint Mary, Mother of the Church in Fishkill, New York, Father Joseph Blenkle said he grew up in a devoutly Catholic household — a household where skipping church was never open for debate. “They took raising us very seriously,” he said. “My father said we go to church and get dressed for Mass. Whatever God gives us, we give back.”
He remembered how the family always began each meal, whether at home or in public, with saying grace. “Even now,” he said, “when I go out with my family, we still say grace. Jesus was present in our home. First was Mass, and the rest of life was the family.”
What eventually led Father Blenkle to choosing the priesthood started when he was just a youngster. “The diocese sent to our parish a newly ordained priest on a motorcycle,” he said. “I thought he was the best thing since sliced bread. He was responsible for the kids in our parish, and he taught me how to be an altar boy. He also told us that God listens to people’s prayers, and I thought this was very cool.”
Later, on a high school retreat to see Pope John Paul II in New York City, he had a life-changing moment. “In October, 1979, I will never forget what he said,” said Father Blenkle. “He talked about the value of Catholic education. And about the young people of America. ‘You young people of America today have turned this Garden of Stone (Madison Square Garden) into a garden of life. You young people are not my church of tomorrow buy my church of today. Now go and build my church.’ That is when I knew that day I wanted to be a priest. God, through St. John Paul II, spoke to my heart.”
After high school graduation, Father Blenkle entered a college seminary and later went to St Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York. “I brought my friends home for dinner with my family,” he said. “No one went home hungry. A big part of our faith is to sit down to a meal together — the Eucharist.”
As serious as his father was about attending church, Father Blenkle said his German mother was just as serious about her cooking. “I watched her cook,” he said, “and she really loves to cook. She taught her grandson how to make spaetzle, and she can make pancake manicotti, which is like a crêpe filled with cheese. On a snowy day, she makes homemade manicotti.”
Obviously, his mom’s cooking impassioned Father Blenkle to take up cooking seriously, and scanning the web turns up a photo of him standing in a candy store examining some chocolates. And, of course, during the pandemic he did most of the cooking at the rectory. And he has his favorites. “I love ribs, steaks, chicken, hamburger and bratwurst,” he said. “I also cook Italian food and make meatballs from scratch or I can go to Restaurant Depot and buy them in bulk.
“We had a back-to-school picnic and fed 300 people and for less than $3 per person. I also make pasta, cook vegetables and make salad. Meat, starch and vegetables — that is what my mom taught.” But, he added, “everything I cook is simple.”
He talked about a dish he learned when he served at St. Peter’s Church in Rosendale, New York. It is called Ravioli Parmigiana:
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- 9 to 12 pieces of ravioli
- 6 links sweet sausage
- 6 links hot sausage
- 8 ounces chopped beef
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Sprinkle of garlic powder to taste
- 12-ounce jar Classico spaghetti sauce
- 1 package of shredded mozzarella cheese
- Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish, optional
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the ravioli until tender. Drain, and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cook the sausages in a large skillet until browned and pour off the excess grease. Set aside. Sprinkle some garlic powder on the ground beef and cook in the skillet until browned. Season with salt and pepper.
Coat the baking dish with some spaghetti sauce. Add the ravioli, sausages, and meat to the baking dish. Pour the remaining spaghetti sauce over top and sprinkle the dish with the shredded mozzarella. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted.