AGNOLOTTI ALLA PIEMONTESE
By Rosemarie Scavo
My in-laws recently asked me for some help with making a big batch of Agnolotti alla Piemontese. These delectable stuffed pasta dumplings, similar in shape to ravioli, are typical of their birthplace in the Monferrato countryside of Piedmont. I have always loved making fresh pasta and occasionally make tagliatelle and gnocchi. However, I had always put agnolotti and other stuffed pasta in the ‘too hard to make’ basket. However, as I learned during our agnolotti-making day before Christmas, with a bit of planning ahead and more than one set of hands, they can be quite simple.
Legend has it that the word agnolotto derives from the cook, Angiolino – better known as Angelot – who is said to have invented these square shaped pasta dumplings. Giovanni Vialardi, the renowned 19th century Savoy court chef, however, argued that the originalword wasagnellotto because once upon a time they were stuffed with lamb (the Italian word for lamb is agnello). A more recent theory is that the word owes its origins to ‘anulòt, the Piedmontese word for the traditional utensil used to cut this pasta.
There is no real consensus either in regards to the recipe for the dough and the stuffing. Each part of Piedmont (indeed each family!) seems to have its own recipe. For instance, some families include a lot of eggs in their dough whereas others use only one with extra water to make theirs. However, the stuffing recipes do have two important things in common. That is, the use of different meats (generally beef, pork and rabbit) and of at least one vegetable (Savoy cabbage, endive, chard or spinach). In addition, agnolotti can be served with several different condiments such as al sugo d’arrosto or con burro, salvia e parmigiano[i].
Here is a recipe based upon my mother-in-law’s, passed on lovingly throughout the ages in the lush green hills of Piedmont.
HOW TO MAKE AGNOLOTTI
For the pasta dough:
1 kg flour
6 egg yolks
water (room temperature)
For the stuffing:
400 g steamed spinach or chard
400 g shredded leftover roast beef
400 g shredded leftover roast rabbit
50 g grated Parmesan or Grana Padano
1 beaten egg
a meat mincer or a blender[ii]
a pasta machine[iii]
a pastry wheel cutter
a couple of large trays
a couple of teaspoons
Step 1. Prepare the pasta dough:
Place flour on a clean work surface and make a well in the centre by pushing flour to the sides (the well needs to be wide enough to hold the egg yolks).
Mix eggs and flour carefully. Add a bit of water if mixture is too dry and ensure that your hands and the work surface is well dusted with flour so dough does not stick.
Knead dough until obtaining an elastic and smooth consistency.
Wrap dough in cling film and place in refrigerator. Allow dough to rest for at least 1 hour (you may wish to prepare the dough the day before).
Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to rest until room temperature.
Step 2. Prepare the stuffing:
Mix shredded meats and spinach in a bowl and then pass them through meat mincer at least twice.
Place minced meats and spinach in bowl and add beaten egg, grated cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper to mixture. Mix thoroughly.
Step 3. Prepare the agnolotti:
Clamp pasta machine tightly onto work surface.
Ensure pasta machine is on its finest setting.
Dust flour on trays.
Divide dough into 5 balls.
Run ball through pasta machine several times until obtaining a fine long sheet.
Lay sheet on flour-dusted work surface. Ensure sheet is in a vertical position in relation to you. Place teaspoonfuls of stuffing vertically along the sheet with a finger space separating them.
Fold sheet over so the spoonfuls of stuffing are covered.
Use index fingers to seal the dough around each spoonful.
Run pastry wheel vertically down sheet to remove excess dough.
Run pastry wheel between each spoonful (not too close or otherwise the seal will break) to make each agnolotto.
Place agnolotti carefully on dusted tray ensuring they are not too close to each other. Dust an extra layer of flour on top.
Repeat the last 7 steps until dough is finished.
N.B. You can cook the agnolotti after preparing them or you can freeze them in airtight freezer bags. The agnolotti should be frozen when cooking.
[i]Roast meat gravy/sauce; butter, sage and Parmesan.
[ii]You may be tempted to use a blender to whizz your stuffing ingredients together but purists like my old-school in-laws prefer the consistency of the stuffing mixture with a mincer.
[iii]Many Italians use an Imperia pasta machine to make fresh pasta at home.