If there is one recipe that is the symbol of our Christmas, it most certainly is the recipe for Cappelletti in meat stock because it accompanies not only Christmas Day, but also the preceding period of busy preparation and anticipation.
And the recipe for Cappelletti is part of the advent calendar of the Italian Food Bloggers Association which presents a typical family recipe for every box.
Making Cappelletti in meat stock: a family affair
The preparation of Cappelletti is a family affair: yes, because the whole family gets involved during Christmas holidays and everyone is assigned a task based on their culinary skills, an indispensable contribution to this almost sacred ritual.
There are two types of these beloved stuffed buttons: those stuffed with stew and those stuffed with cheese (called Anolini), each of which has its own convinced and adamant admirers.
Tradition has it that for the most important feast of the year, the stuffing with meat stew should be preferred, so Cappelletti are going to be prepared. Stracotto is prepared several days in advance also because, as its name implies, it takes so long to cook. Precisely for this reason, the cooking juices, with precious flavours and aromas, are used piping hot to moisten the breadcrumbs (unlike cheese stuffing where broth is used for this purpose).
Although the ingredients are few and the recipe is always the same, the stuffing (together with the meat stock) is the element that most determines the success of the Christmas lunch because the stracotto will never be perfectly the same as the previous year’s, nor will the Parmesan cheese and bread we use be identical, so the tasting committee has a task of great responsibility. One of the most vivid and amusing memories I keep of the “Cappelletti factory” is the ritual of tasting the filling by the men of the house who, excluded from all household chores, could not help but be involved in the approval of the filling: an additional pinch of aged Parmesan cheese, a bit less of nutmeg, in short, an invisible recipe hidden in the memory of tastes.
The traditional dough: 100g flour for 1 egg
My grandmother’s rule has always been this, a proportion that we cannot maintain in the preparation of gluten-free dough, which requires more hydration and therefore more eggs.
The dough must be bright yellow due to the careful selection of eggs with the yolk having an intense colour to ensure an even, golden dough. My grandmother’s powerful arms (now often replaced by my own) would push her wrists so that they would sink into the resistant mass of flour and eggs, which would eventually surrender, becoming docile and smooth, ready to receive the precious explosion of flavour of the filling.
My mother was (and still is) in charge of rolling out the pastry into thin, almost transparent strips and my aunt presided over the precision work of distributing the filling. And then, the workforce still available was given the task of cutting with round, smooth or ribbed stencils, and the patient arrangement, especially by the children of the house, in perfectly aligned rows; so that the precise number of Cappelletti prepared was readily known and flaunted with acquaintances and friends in fun competitions in search of Guinness records.
Last but not least, the stock. Again, for Christmas, the choice of ingredients is very accurate and detailed: a rich piece of beef, a large beef bone, a free-range capon and the essential vegetables for colour and fragrance, namely onion, celery, carrot, garlic and parsley. Slow cooking, careful skimming of the foam on the surface and an eye on the cooking of the meat that will be the second dish of the day: the boiled meats accompanied by homemade sauces, sweet and spicy.
Once the stock has been strained and the salt has been adjusted, the last effort before the pleasure and the feast: throw in the cappelletti and cook them, keeping them at a gentle simmer to prevent them from opening and releasing their filling. So here they are, the adored and legendary “floaters“, as Parma natives like to call them.
Cappelletti in meat stock
37.31g carbohydrates per 100g raw cappelletti, without stock
Ingredients for the egg pasta for 4 servings
- 300g flour for fresh pasta Molino Dallagiovanna** (for gluten-free version, see below)
- 4 eggs
Ingredients for the Cappelletti filling
- 150g stew meat
- 75g breadcrumbs, brand Nutrifree**
- 40g Parmigiano Reggiano, 36 months, grated,
- 35g Parmigiano Reggiano, 24 months, grated,
- 1 egg + 1 yolk
- meat stew liquid to wet the breadcrumbs, salt and nutmet
Ingredients to complete
- 2.5 litres approx. of meat stock, preferably prepared using capon
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
**Ingredients specific for celiacs
*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on Prontuario AIC)
- Prepare the dough: make a well with the 2 flours, crack the eggs in the centre, add a pinch of salt and start by beating the eggs with a fork; gradually incorporate the flour until you can knead the mixture using your hands. Continue mixing with a fork until the dough is stiff enough to be kneaded by hand. Continue working the pastry until it is smooth and compact.
- Cover the pastry with foil and leave it to rest while the filling is prepared.
- Bring the stock almost to the boil, then pour small amounts of it over the breadcrumbs, stirring so that the liquid is perfectly absorbed. When all the breadcrumbs have been soaked, mix well and leave to cool for about ten minutes. It is important that the breadcrumbs are wet, but still well separated and not creamy.
- Add all the other ingredients and mix to obtain a filling with a rather hard consistency.
- Cut the pastry into slices, flatten them with a rolling pin, then roll them out into thin strips, 30-40cm long and about 7cm wide with the pasta sheeter. Place mounds of filling of a suitable size for the ring you are using in the centre of the pasta sheet, spacing each 2cm apart.
- Fold the pastry over lengthwise, press the pasta sheet around the perimeter of the filling with your fingers and cut out the cappelletti with the cutter.
- Put a pot of stock on the stove and when it comes to the boil, lower the flame, remove from the heat for a moment (to prevent the broth from spilling out when pouring the cappelletti) and throw in the cappelletti. Let them cook until the pasta dough is of the desired consistency.
- Serve the cappelletti with the stock piping hot and, if desired, sprinkle them with grated Parmesan cheese.
Version with gluten of Cappelletti in meat stock
Replace the Molino Dallagiovanna fresh pasta fix flour with an equal amount of wheat flour, kneading it with 3 whole eggs, while all other ingredients remain unchanged.