Gathered last Sunday with four generations of Italian women, we dedicated hours to crafting Nonna Dina's classic cappelletti in brodo for Christmas Day—an essential dish in Italian households. At 96, she's still passing on her secret tips, ensuring that this annual tradition remains deeply cherished.
Cappelletti in brodo, those delightful pasta pockets folded into 'little hats,' is a quintessential Italian dish steeped in tradition. Picture small parcels of pasta filled with a medley of meats, cheeses, and spices, simmering in a delicious broth. This culinary artistry traces its roots through the ages, notably in regions like Emilia-Romagna, often associated with festive occasions such as Christmas.
Crafting cappelletti is a labour of love, a family affair where generations unite, devoting hours to handcraft these pasta gems. The fillings vary but typically blend ground meats like pork, prosciutto, and sometimes chicken or beef, mixed with Parmesan cheese, eggs, nutmeg, and a sprinkle of breadcrumbs. Once these pockets are meticulously filled and folded, they take a soothing swim in a seasoned broth until they reach that perfect tender state, ensuring the filling is cooked to perfection.
Beyond its culinary excellence, cappelletti in brodo embodies the warmth of family gatherings, preserving traditions, and relishing the essence of authentic Italian cuisine. It's more than a dish; it's a symbol of heritage and connection—a timeless comfort enjoyed during special gatherings and celebrations. Here's my Nonna Dina's cherished recipe direct from Modena...
- 600g of chicken bones, a carcass or wings will work too
- 1 piece of beef shin
- 3l water
- 1 onion, peeled and halved
- 1 carrot, peeled
- 1 stick of celery
- 1 potato, peeled
- 2 cherry tomatoes
- 2 bay leafs
- 1 garlic clove
- 200g of plain flour, sifted
- 2 eggs
- 200g of minced pork
- 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
- 200g of prosciutto, thinly sliced
- 200g of mortadella, thinly sliced
- 100g of Parmesan, grated
- 2 eggs
- nutmeg, freshly grated
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 sprig of Rosemary
Begin by making the broth. In a large pot set over a medium heat, combine all the ingredients for the broth. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 2 hours.
Allow the broth to cool slightly, then remove the chicken bones/beef shin and vegetables and pass through a sieve. (I like keep the vegetables, chicken & beef & have it cold with some good olive oil & salt )
Whilst the stock is simmering, make the pasta dough. On a work surface, form the flour into a well. Crack the eggs into the centre of the well. Whisk the eggs with a fork, incorporating the flour a little at a time, until the dough starts to come together. Carry on with your hands, kneading the dough until you have a smooth, elastic ball. Flatten into a disc, wrap in cling film and leave to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge
While the pasta is resting, make the filling. Melt the butter in a frying pan set over a medium heat. Brown the Pork mince, Remove from the heat and let it cool before mixing it together with the prosciutto and mortadella, then Combine the meat with the Parmesan and eggs, then season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg
Divide the pasta dough into 3 pieces. Roll the balls out on a pasta machine, starting on the widest setting and moving progressively down to the lowest. Spread the sheets over a floured work surface. Cut each sheet into 3cm squares, then place a small amount of the filling onto each square (about half a teaspoon). 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. Whilst you are forming the pasta try to squeeze out any air bubbles, as these will expand and burst. Use a little water to seal the pasta together if needed
(I keep all pasta covered so it doesn’t dry out )
Once you have sealed all the tortellini, reheat the broth. Season to taste and, once
simmering, add the tortellini. Cook for about a minute, then remove from the heat
Divide the tortellini and broth between 6 serving bowls and top with grated Parmesan.