Eighty-five-year-old Maria loves making pasta—she especially enjoys rolling it out. She uses semolina flour from one brand, De Cecco, and a pasta flour from another, Spadoni, to create the dough she likes for cappelletti. Cappelletti means “little hats,” and they have been made since medieval times. They used to be a Christmas Day treat, but now they are enjoyed all year round. Fillings vary across Emilia Romagna. In Faenza, it is a mixture of cheeses. Maria uses equal quantities of a local soft cheese called bucciatello, Parmigiano Reggiano, and cow’s milk ricotta. If you can’t find bucciatello, swap it for any soft or semi-soft cheese that you can mash with a fork, such as robiola.
- 1 gallon meat stock (see recipe below)
For the pasta:
- 1 2/3 cups (7 ounces) 00 flour or plain (all-purpose) flour
- 3 1/2 ounces finely ground semolina flour
- 3 eggs
For the filling:
- 7 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano (preferably aged for 36 months)
- 7 ounces cow’s milk ricotta, drained weight
- 7 ounces soft cheese, e.g., robiola or bucciatello (see introduction)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Make the pasta dough as described in the Egg Pasta Dough recipe, leaving it to rest for at least an hour, or ideally overnight, before rolling.
Cut 2-inch squares out of the dough, keeping the rest of the squares covered with a tea towel so the dough does not dry out while you make the cappelletti. Maria uses a special ravioli pasta cutter for this task, but a knife and a ruler work just as well.
To make the filling, mash all the cheeses with the egg yolk and nutmeg. Place a small, marble-sized piece of the mixture into the centre of each pasta square. Fold the pasta over the cheese nugget to create a right-angled triangle. Press and seal the edges of the triangle, then bring the two smaller-angled corners together around your finger to create a “hat” and press them together firmly. Repeat until you have finished the mixture. This should be enough for about 70 cappelletti.
Warm some serving bowls and bring the stock to a simmer in a large saucepan. Cook the cappelletti gently in batches for 5 or so minutes—test one to see if they are done.
Ladle out the pasta with some of the stock onto plates and serve immediately. Pass around the grated Parmigiano Reggiano. You will have stock left over, but it can be used in other soups.
Makes 1 gallon, enough for 8 people
- About 3 pounds 5 ounces selection from chicken leg and wings, beef rib, beef neck, a piece of steak, like a skirt, and/or pork shoulder
- 1 onion, quartered
- 2 celery sticks
- 1 carrot
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 peppercorns
- Some fresh tomatoes if it’s summer, which add a pleasing color
- A good teaspoon of salt
Find yourself a stockpot which will hold about 1 gallon water. Add all the ingredients to it, then cover with enough water that it reaches 2 inches or so below the rim of the pot. (I always add the salt at the beginning because I don’t like the smell of unsalted boiling meat—salting makes the aromas savory—but you may prefer to season the stock at the end of its cooking.) Cover with the lid and bring it to a gentle simmer. Let the stock burble quietly for a good 90 minutes, skimming off any scum that forms. Turn off the heat and let the meat cool in the stock. You can use the meat in ravioli fillings, or cover it in a salsa verde to make it interesting, the way Italians do.
Strain the stock of its solids and once it is room temperature, place it in the fridge overnight. Next day, skim off the fat which will have formed on the surface. You can now use the stock or freeze it for later.
Note: How much to serve will depend on the size of your soup bowl, but estimate 7 fluid ounces/a scant 1 cup) per bowl. You need more stock to cook the pasta in than you do to serve it. You can use the leftovers in other soups.
All recipes excerpted with permission from “Pasta Grannies” by Vicky Bennison, published by Hardie Grant Books, October 2019.