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.

cappelletti in brodo

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.

Capon stock 

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 brodo

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
  • salt

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)


  1. 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.
  2. Cover the pastry with foil and leave it to rest while the filling is prepared.
  3. 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.
  4. Add all the other ingredients and mix to obtain a filling with a rather hard consistency.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Serve the cappelletti with the stock piping hot and, if desired, sprinkle them with grated Parmesan cheese.

degustare i cappelletti in brodo

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.


Preparing the Stracotto stew for Christmas Cappelletti is a big responsibility because expectations for the most anticipated meal of the year are always very high. This is how I prepared it to bring my whole family to the table… definitely feeling everyone’s eyes on me!

First of all, the stew should be prepared with three types of meat: beef, veal and pork. It’s a bit like doing no wrong to any of these meats, which at different times of the year brighten up our tables with extraordinary dishes.

As the name stracotto implies, the meat is cooked for such a long time that it falls apart simply by piercing it with a fork.

Once ready, the stew is blended or finely minced and the boiling cooking juices are used to wet the breadcrumbs that will be used to prepare the legendary Christmas Cappelletti, the meat-filled version of Anolini in broth.

And believe me, the type of filling is by no means an irrelevant matter! The tradition of eating one type of stuffing instead of the other is so ingrained that restaurants are obliged to put one or the other version on the menu according to boundaries dictated by custom, or else the menu would flop completely!

Here then is how to prepare Stracotto for fans and supporters of the meat version of this stuffed pasta, namely Cappelletti.

Stracotto for Christmas Cappelletti

negligible carbohydrates per 100g


  • 350g beef
  • 350g pork
  • 300g veal
  • 300g red wine
  • 50g onions
  • 50g carrots
  • 30g celery
  • 30g tomato paste
  • 30 g butter
  • 1/3 clove of garlic
  • 3 cloves
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • water
  • salt


  1. Put the butter in a pan or earthenware casserole and melt it; add chopped onion, carrot and celery and brown it.
  2. Add the tomato paste and a third of a clove of chopped garlic, let the paste caramelise slightly, then place the three types of meat in the vegetable base, sealing the meat on all sides. Stick a clove into each piece of meat.
  3. Add the wine and pour in enough water to cover the meat, season with a pinch of salt, put the lid on and leave to cook on a low heat for at least 4 hours.
  4. After the time has elapsed, remove the cloves and add salt to taste. Remove the meat and put it in a food processor. Strain the cooking juices through a colander, add the remaining vegetable pieces in the colander to the meat in the processor and chop finely.
  5. Heat the liquid from the stew well and use it to scald the breadcrumbs of the Cappelleti filling.


Version with gluten of Stracotto for Christmas Cappelletti

The recipe contains only naturally gluten free ingredients, so no adaptation is necessary for its version with gluten.

Spongata is a typical Christmas cake whose preparation evokes sweet memories of family gatherings around the kitchen table and that is part of the Advent calendar of the Italian Food Blogger Association, which gives us a typical family recipe in every box.

For years, ever since diabetes and celiac disease have joined our family, I haven’t prepared it because of the challenge the traditional recipe poses in terms of sugar: so here is my gluten free and ‘sugar light’ Spongata.

Spongata: a sugary challenge

This year, for the first time, my daughter Gaia asked me: “Mum, what does Spongata taste like?” I was speechless, not because I couldn’t describe the taste of this sort of tart filled with nuts and spices, but because I had never thought of preparing it in a gluten free and, above all, low-sugar version… probably too busy trying to make a Panettone and Pandoro worthy of the name!

Well, since we can finally find gluten free Panettone and Pandoro on the market today that are much better than a few years ago, the focus has shifted to this humble, but fantastic Christmas preparation (as an alternative idea for the holiday season, try my Celebration Sacher).

My family tradition

When I was a child, the preparation of Spongata was a kind of ritual because these cakes were cooked in large quantities to enrich the baskets of food products to give as gifts to employees, collaborators, relatives and friends.

Spongatas were prepared long before Christmas. Once cooked and perfectly cooled, they were first wrapped in a sheet of parchment paper to protect them, then in an airtight bag (and maybe even in gift wrap to give them prestige) to allow all the flavours to mix well and achieve the perfect dough texture for consumption.

The preparation of the filling started a few days before the planned date of the big bake because ‘the longer the filling is left to macerate, the better the taste’. However, this filling is generally very rich in simple carbohydrates due to the presence of plenty of honey and sugar, even icing sugar to cover the surface once cooked.

So here is my ‘sugar light’ version, which remains however very high in calories!

My ‘sugar light’ recipe

The pastry I used is a gluten free adaptation of my friend and course assistant Lucia’s family recipe because in her version the sugar was really already reduced to a minimum. The filling, on the other hand, is an adaptation of my family’s recipe where 150g of honey and 2 heaped tablespoons of brown sugar in the filling have been replaced by 150g of jam: in this way, the filling manages to stay together a little despite the absence of the definitely stickier honey.

Another small note concerns breadcrumbs: in many recipes from the province of Parma they are added in the filling, but this ingredient has never appeared in my home version, so you won’t find it in this Spongata!

Finally, the surface. It is traditional to sprinkle the baked cake with a lot of icing sugar because the surface is hardly homogeneous: the name Spongata derives from the Latin word ‘spongia’, meaning sponge, precisely because of the irregular appearance reminiscent of a sponge. In keeping with tradition, I wanted to top one of my Spongatas with icing sugar to take the photo, but I kept the second one ‘au naturel’ and, I confess, I like it even better.


38.11g carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients for the crust for 2 Spongatas of 18cm in diameter

  • 250g flour mix for bread, brand BiAglut**
  • 125g butter
  • 50g sugar
  • 40g white wine
  • 1 tsp baking powder*
  • a pinch of salt
  • water as needed
  • Ingredients for the filling
  • 150g fruit Mostarda*
  • 150g coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 150g jam without added sugar (your favourite flavour)*
  • 100g coarsely chopped almonds
  • 25g pine nuts
  • 25g raisins
  • a small glass of liqueur*
  • cinnamon powder*, cloves and nutmeg

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)


  1. Soak the raisins in liqueur.
  2. In a bowl, place the chopped fruit Mostarda with the aid of a rocking chopper or knife, then add all the other ingredients, including the soaked raisins and liqueur. Adjust the flavouring to your liking, cover the bowl with cling film and let the filling rest for at least a day.
  3. The next day, prepare the crust. Combine all the ingredients for the crust and knead adding the necessary water to obtain a smooth, homogeneous and rather soft dough. Cover the dough with cling film and place it in the refrigerator to rest for about 15 minutes.
  4. Divide the dough into 4 parts and roll them out with a rolling pin. Line a mould with one part and fill it with half of the filling, distributing it evenly. Then close with a second disc. Prick the surface with a fork and bake in a convection oven preheated to 200°C for about 30 minutes. Bake and allow to cool completely, then dust with icing sugar if desired.
  5. At this point, seal your Spongatas tightly with a sheet of parchment paper and place them in a closed bag or cake tin until ready to use… which could be several days later!

My sugar-light Spongata

Version with gluten of Spongata

Replace the gluten-free flour with equal amounts of wheat flour, adjusting the amount of water.