Cappelletti in brodo
“The Tortellini in Brodo that first night was a dish they would talk about for years. Oh, how it nourished them and pleased them, gave them resilience for all the unexpected moments to come,” writes my friend Sarah Winman in her book Still Life, describing a meal that her little fictitious gang ate for their first Christmas in Florence.
Since reading about it in Sarah’s book, that tiny passing reference, I have been overcome with the desire to make some. Food has that capacity. A memory from long ago can be ignited so easily and it can take you back to a different place. Much of the detail can be lost in the mists of time but a dish, a flavour, a texture fills you with a longing that must be sated.
It has been a long time since I have made such a dish. I love that it is a northern Italian speciality at Christmas, which means it suits this infernally cold weather we are having at the moment perfectly. I also love the Italian tradition that pasta-making is a family pursuit that everyone gets involved in, often three generations standing around the kitchen bench, rolling pasta and forming little tortellini.
In this recipe I have actually opted to make cappelletti. The difference being that tortellini are made from a round piece of pasta and cappelletti are made from a square. I find it so much easier to take my pizza wheel to the rolled pasta dough and cut squares rather than getting the round cutter out. And it’s so much less wasteful.
Cappelletti are also traditionally made a little larger and since I don’t have an army of willing helpers around my kitchen bench, I don’t have to make quite so many of them. The other lovely thing is that the filling traditionally uses mortadella. Mortadella seems to be going through a renaissance at the moment and is becoming one of the hip things on the deli shelf.
The “brodo” is as important as the pasta. I use a roasted chicken broth enriched with a little reduced veal stock, but a lovely robust, clear chicken broth would definitely suffice.
Time: 2.5 hours preparation + 2-3 minutes cooking
- 1-1.2 litres excellent clear chicken broth, seasoned to taste
- 200g of plain flour, sifted
- 2 eggs
- pinch salt
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 100g pork or pork and veal mince
- 100g prosciutto, thinly sliced
- 100g mortadella, thinly sliced
- 50g grated parmesan
- 1 egg
- freshly ground black pepper
- nutmeg, freshly grated
- parmesan for grating
- I tend to make pasta in a stand mixer. Fit the paddle to the machine, place the flour in the bowl. Whisk the eggs with a pinch of salt and add to the flour. Mix until it forms into a dough, remove from the bowl and knead a little. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes. The pasta dough can also be made in a food processor or on the benchtop. Here you would place the flour in a mound on the bench and then make a well. Mix the eggs together with a fork, pour them into the well. Start by incorporating a little of the flour at a time with the fork until you can use your hands. Knead until you have a firm dough. Wrap and rest as before.
- To make the filling, melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the pork/veal mince and cook until lightly browned and cooked through. Chop both the prosciutto and the mortadella and then add the cooked mince. I like to hand-“mince” these all together on a board with a large chef’s knife.
- Once thoroughly minced together, place in a bowl and add the parmesan and egg. Mix well again and season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Alternatively this can also be done in a food processor. But be careful not to puree it – the filling delights in a little texture. Chill until ready to use.
- With a pasta machine start to roll out the pasta. Flatten the dough into a rectangle, and feed through the pasta machine on the widest setting a number of times. Folding and refolding each time to develop strength. Then roll through the machine at 3, 5 and 7. At any point when the length gets too unwieldy for you to handle, cut it in half and proceed. Dust the bench with a little flour or semolina if you have sheets of pasta resting there. Roll your sheets through the last setting of 8. Dust the bench again so the sheets don’t stick, and then cut into six-centimetre squares. Place a scant teaspoon of filling on each square, fold the square diagonally in half onto itself to form a triangle, then fold it again so that the corners at the bases come together to form a pocket. Use a little water to seal the pasta together if needed. Place the formed cappelletti on a tray dusted with flour or semolina. Continue until all the cappelletti are formed.
- Bring the broth to the boil, add the cappelletti and cook for two to three minutes, until al dente.
- Lift the pasta out with a slotted spoon, divide between six bowls and then pour over the broth. Grate a generous amount of parmesan over the top at the table.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 2, 2022 as "A square meal".
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