This recipe from Ferrara, a town in the Romagna region, is nearly five centuries old. We chose this celebrated version of pumpkin-filled pasta (and there are many!) because all the ingredients are readily available outside Italy—and it’s truly delicious.
- SERVES: 4
- LEVEL: Roll Up Your Sleeves
- 3 pounds butternut squash or baking pumpkins
- 1 egg
- 4 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons finely ground amaretti cookies or breadcrumbs
- 3 1/2 ounces butter
- A dozen sage leaves
- Salt and pepper
- If you are making your own fresh pasta, start with kneaded dough made (1 pound of flour and 5 eggs). Allow dough to rest for half an hour or more, then roll it out in thin layers with a rolling pin. Work quickly to avoid drying out the dough. You can also use an electric dough kneader.
- Cut the squash in half, or quarters, depending on its shape and size. Eliminate all the seeds and filaments, then wash it and put it in a hot oven at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. The squash has to be very tender, so if necessary let it bake a little longer. When it’s soft (test it with a fork), pull it out and cool to lukewarm; remove the skin with a knife and wrap the squash “meat” in a kitchen towel for a few hours in order to eliminate all the water. Then, place the squash in a bowl and mash it well with a fork or potato masher. It should pureed, but avoid using a food processor. Add the egg, 1 ½ ounces of parmigiano, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the amaretti/breadcrumbs. Mix well to obtain a homogeneous and fairly dry mixture.
- (The picture is not of Cappellaci, but rather Mezza Luna. You may find, as we did, cappellacci too diifcult for first timers)
- Roll your dough out quite thin, one layer at a time; keep the rest of the dough covered with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. With a cutter wheel, cut the dough into 3-inch squares. By hand or with a spoon, place a small amount of filling in the middle of each square. Then fold each one into a triangle and seal it well with your fingers. Join the three corners firmly, turning up the edges to give it the shape of a hat. Continue in this way until you have used up all the filling. Lay the cappellacci on a flat surface sprinkled with semolina or rice flour to avoid sticking.
- In a large pot, bring a gallon of water to boil; add a handful of salt, and then the cappellacci a few at a time. Stir them very gently and cook for 5 minutes or so, depending on the thickness of the dough. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the melted butter and sage in a saucepan: warm the butter until it foams slightly. Add the sage just as the butter begins to brown—immediately remove from the flame. When they are ready, drain the cappellacci using a colander or sieve and toss them in the saucepan with the butter sauce for 2 minutes.
- Serve with Parmigiano.
- Drizzle finished dish with balsamic vinegar.
- Add almond cookies instead of breadcrumbs, and a small amount of Mostarda di Mantova (or Cremona), which is a unique preparation made with a little mustard extract and candied-fruit jam. It’s really special!
- Instead of the butter and sage sauce, serve with a slow roasted pork and sausage ragù. The pork marries beautifully with the sweetness of the squash.