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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)

Preparation

  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.

 

Easter is approaching and with it the traditions of Easter sweet and savoury recipes with which we celebrate it. This year I thought I would share with you the recipe for a biscuit that I love and that was the star of the course dedicated to Italian Biscuits: I am talking about the gluten-free and traditional  Canestrelli  recipe that you can give to your loved ones with the certainty of making them happy, a perfect gift also for Father’s Day.

The Canestrelli recipe between legends and truths

Canestrelli biscruits are so famous and popular that they need no introduction, yet not many people know their history and preparation techniques.

Their origin dates back to the Middle Ages and even then they were so popular to be depicted on Genovini, i.e. the coins minted from 1252 onwards by the Genoese Republic. The value of this biscuit was linked not only to its taste, but also to the ingredients used, namely white flour and butter, which in the hinterland of Genoa, in the Val di Trebbia, were true rarities, so much so that Canestrelli were used for centuries as currency.

And the name Canestrello is also linked to notoriety as it first appeared in an official document in 1576 that reported on a hapless muleteer stabbed and robbed of a ‘basket’ of biscuits (basket being ‘canestro’ in Italian, hence the name of the biscuits), confirming the value that was attributed to this product.

Precious ingredients and… magical mistakes

While it was considered scandalous to ‘waste’ white flour and butter on a biscuit, there is no shortage of legends to explain why hard-boiled egg yolks are used in the Canestrelli dough instead of fresh eggs (in fact, shortcrust pastry made with hard-boiled egg yolks is a specific type of dough that results in cakes with a crumbly, silky texture).

One such story tells of a woman baker who, on the very day she had a large order of biscuits to prepare, did not wake up as usual. Her husband, in an attempt to help her, had hard-boiled all the eggs to have them ready for breakfast the following days. Having no time to buy more eggs, the baker decided to use the hard-boiled yolks to prepare the biscuit dough: these biscuits were so successful that they became famous throughout the region.

As is often the case in Italy, typical recipes have countless local and even family variants, and Canestrelli are no exception, so although they are recognised as Traditional Food Products (PAT) of Liguria, ingredients and preparation may vary slightly from area to area.

But what are their main characteristics?

Definitely the daisy shape that goes from a diameter of about 10cm with scalloped edges to smaller diameters to be eaten in one bite. The central hole is proportionate to the diameter, while the thickness is always quite high, at least 7 millimetres. The colour is barely golden, made even lighter by the icing sugar with which the surface is dusted.

So, are you now feeling like turning on the oven and baking some biscuits? Do you have some paper bags ready to wrap them for daddy or as a gift for Easter? Have fun with my gluten free Canestrelli!

Canestrelli senza glutine

The typical flower shape of Canestrelli

Gluten free and traditional Canestrelli

carbohydrates 64.31g per 100g canestrelli without icing sugar on the surface

Ingredients for 23 biscuits

  • 120g butter
  • 100g gluten free flour mix for bread, brand BiAglut** (wheat flour for a version with gluten)
  • 100g potato starch or corn starch*
  • 50g icing sugar*
  • 2 yolks of hard-boiled eggs
  • grated rind of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 egg white for brushing
  • icing sugar* to complete

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

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

Preparation

  1. Put the eggs in boiling water and boil them for 8 minutes; shell them and extract the hard-boiled yolks.
  2. Place the flour, icing sugar, soft butter, starch and sifted egg yolks in a bowl or planetary mixer and start mixing, add the pinch of salt and grated lemon zest, then knead until smooth and firm. Initially the dough will seem dry, but once the butter is mixed in, it will be soft and smooth. Cover the mixture with cling film and put in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  3. Roll out the shortcrust pastry to a thickness of approx. 7mm-1cm, then cut the biscuits using the flower-shaped cookie mould with the hole in the centre. Brush them with egg white.
  4. Put Canestrelli on a baking tin covered with parchment paper and bake them in a static oven preheated to 170°C for about 15-20 minutes without allowing them to get brow: it is important not to bake them too much!
  5. Let them cool down, then dust with icing sugar.

The mould for cutting Canestrelli 

Version with gluten of Canestrelli

Replace the gluten-free flour with an equal amount of wheat flour.

Why Crostini with non-liver pâté? Tuscany is the home of liver pâté and Florence has become our adopted city because it is in this splendid city that Gaia and Nico are followed by the Meyer Hospital diabetology department, directed by our splendid Doc., Sonia Toni, who is always present, even at a distance, with timely information and medical and psychological support when worries prevail.

Not surprisingly, Dr. Toni is present in this blog to answer any questions about diabetes that you may have.

So, every three months, we go to the beautiful Medici city for my children’s regular check-ups and we always try, given the distance we cover and the fact that the day cannot include other commitments, to include a little visit to the city centre and maybe a lunch of Tuscan cuisine, which we love!

On one of many occasions, I went with Gaia to Trattoria Cammillo (https://www.facebook.com/Cammillo-201813633167651/) which, despite its name, is a fairly elegant and not exactly inexpensive restaurant in the centre of Florence, very close to the Arno river with a gluten free menu. Since Gaia had never tasted the typical Crostini with liver pâté and having finally found them gluten free, I recommended that she order this dish: I must say that Gaia and livers are not exactly in the same taste sphere! I’ll spare you the tale of some difficult moments at the table, and it’s a good thing I like Crostini so much, so with a quick exchange of dishes we got out of the impasse.

So I thought I would prepare some Crostini that are in every way similar to this Tuscan speciality, except for the ingredients used in their preparation: lentils! And I must confess one thing in all honesty: they did not make me miss the original!

Crostini with non-liver pâté   

16.29g carbohydrates per 100g

 Ingredients

  • 160g mixed lentils (red, yellow and green) (will be about 400g cooked)
  • 100g red wine
  • 50g sheep’s milk ricotta
  • 50g onions
  • 30 g butter
  • 1 bunch of aromatic herbs (sage, rosemary, parsley and thyme)
  • 1 truffle (to taste)
  • salt and pepper
  • bread (e.g. these gluten free rustic loaves)

Preparation

  1. Rinse the lentils, put them in a pot with the bunch of aromatic herbs, cover with water and boil for about 1 hour until the lentils are soft enough to mash.
  2. Chop the onion finely and sauté it in a pan with butter; add the wine and cook for about ten minutes. Put the onion and lentils in a food processor, add the ricotta and blend to a cream; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the pâté in a bowl sprinkled with truffle shavings and serve with bread croutons.

Version with gluten of Crostini with non-liver pâté

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