Cappelletti in homemade meat broth
Bite-size stuffed pasta hats are simmered in homemade broth and served, piping hot, with a generous shower of freshly grated cheese. This is my family’s traditional first course on Christmas Eve. Making the stuffing and shaping the cappelletti takes a fair amount of time, but it is a fun project to tackle on a weekend. For a twist, use spinach enriched dough for emerald green hats, or make half with egg pasta and half with spinach.
Portions: Makes about 120 cappelletti; 6 to 8 servings
Ingredients for the stuffing:
- 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast, 6 oz/170 g, cut into 2-in/5 cm
- 1 piece boneless pork shoulder, 5 oz/140 g, cut into 2-in/5 cm pieces
- 1 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup/120 ml dry white wine
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup/55 g freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 2 oz/55 g prosciutto di Parma, finely chopped
- 2 oz/55 g mortadella, finely chopped
- Pinch or freshly grated nutmeg
Ingredients for cappelletti:
- Semolina flour for dusting the work surface
- 1 batch fresh egg pasta dough or spinach pasta dough
Ingredients for the soup:
- 1 batch homemade meat broth or homemade chicken broth
- Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for serving
Preparation to make the stuffing:
Warm the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan placed over medium heat. When the butter is melted and begins to sizzle, add the onion and garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften. Arrange the chicken, pork, and veal in the pan and reduce the heat to medium low. Cover the pan and let the meat cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the onion is soft and the meat is cooked through but not browned. Season the mixture with the salt and a few grinds of pepper. Raise the heat to medium high and pour in the wine. Cook for 2 minutes more, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the contents of the pan to a food processor and process for 10 to 15 seconds, or until very finely ground. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. In a separate small bowl, lightly beat together the eggs and Parmigiano. Add this mixture to the ground meat. Add the prosciutto, mortadella, and nutmeg and mix everything together thoroughly. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to use.
Preparation to make the cappelletti:
Cover a large work space with a tablecloth and sprinkle the cloth with semolina. This is where you will put the cappelletti once you have made them. Have on hand a 2-in/5-cm round cookie cutter for cutting out the pasta and a small bowl or glass of water for sealing the cappelletti. Divide the ball of pasta dough into four equal pieces and rewrap three pieces. Roll out the remaining piece into a long, thin strip (about 1/16 in/2 mm thick). The strip should be 28 to 30 in/71 to 76 cm long. Lay the strip on the semolina-dusted work surface. Using the cookie cutter, cut out as many circles of dough as possible. You should get about 30 circles. Spoon a scant 1 tsp stuffing onto the center of each circle. Dip a finger in the water and moisten the border of each circle. Fold each circle into a half-moon, and press the open edge to seal securely. When all of the half-moons are formed, pick up one half-moon and, using both hands, fold the top of the rounded side in toward you while bringing the corners together; slightly overlap the corners and pinch them together to seal. What you should have is a little round bonnet or hat enclosing the stuffing. This is your first cappelletto. Place the cappelletto on the semolina dusted cloth. Continue to form cappelletti with the rest of the half- moons, transferring them to the cloth as they are shaped. Continue to roll out and shape the remaining pasta dough until you have used it all. Collect the scraps as you go and store them in a plastic bag. These can be rerolled once to form more cappelletti. You should end up with 120 cappelletti. Return any unused stuffing to the refrigerator, or freeze for later use. (If you plan to serve the cappelletti within a couple of hours, you can leave them out on the tablecloth until it is time to cook them).
Preparation to make soup:
Bring the broth to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Carefully drop the cappelletti into the boiling broth and raise the heat to high to return the broth to a boil. Cover the pot until the water returns to a boil, then uncover and cook the cappelletti for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are just tender. Carefully stir them from time to time with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to make sure they do not stick together. Ladle the soup into warmed shallow, rimmed bowls, counting out 15 to 20 cappelletti per serving. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano and serve immediately.
The cappelletti may be made in advance and frozen (uncooked). Place them, in a single layer and not touching, on semolina dusted rimmed baking sheets/trays, put them in the freezer, and freeze for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until firm. Transfer them to zipper lock freezer bags or a large, tightly lidded container and freeze for up to 1 month, then cook directly from the freezer.