The word cappelletto means little hat, which is what this pasta should resemble; they're from Modena. They are traditionally served in broth, as are their cousins, tortellini (the difference lies in the stuffing); indeed, the traditional North Italian Christmas dinner starts with cappelletti in capon broth.
If you plan to serve cappelletti in broth, you should have about two quarts of broth. You can, of course, also serve either cappelletti or tortellini dry, with meat sauce, cream sauce, or butter.
Prepare the filling by making a fine paste from:
- 1/2 a chicken or capon breast (or four ounces of lean pork) sautéed in butter and minced
- 1 cup fresh ricotta
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano
- 1 whole egg plus 1 yolk
- A pinch of nutmeg
- Grated lemon rind (not too much, and only if you like it)
- A pinch of salt and pepper
- If the ricotta is very soft, leave out the egg white; add another yolk if the mixture comes out too stiff. Taste the mixture and correct the seasoning.
For the pasta, follow the instructions for home-made pasta, using 2 1/4 cups of flour and three eggs, or purchase several sheets of store-made fresh pasta.
To make the cappelletti, roll out a thin sheet of pasta on a well-floured surface. Then use a round cookie cutter to cut out 2-inch diameter circles of dough. Put a level teaspoon of the stuffing in the middle of each circle and fold the circles over to make half moons, dampening the edges of the disks a little to make sure they stay stuck together. Then wrap the half moons around your little finger, giving them a half-twist to turn up one pair of corners and pressing the other pair together to make little rings. With this recipe you should get between four and five dozen cappelletti.
Gently boil the cappelletti in the broth until they are done, 3-5 minutes (the pasta should be al dente). Fifteen to twenty cappelletti in a brimming bowl of broth should be sufficient for a healthy eater, though you may be tempted to eat more. Artusi, the late dean of Italian gastronomes, mentions hearing of people who ate as many as a hundred cappelletti at a sitting, but also notes that some of them died thereafter.
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