Today We’re Making Agnolotti del Plin

I’ve been fortunate to visit Italy several times and, in the past, my goal was to eat my way up, down, and across the peninsula, Sicily included. Safe to say: “Mission accomplished.” This last visit was different, though, and probably due to my joining WordPress. I wasn’t satisfied to just enjoy my meal, I wanted to know its ingredients and, if lucky enough to have an English-speaking wait person, its preparation. If you saw the FaceBook entries I published during that trip, most were photos of the meals we enjoyed. With a notoriously bad memory, this was the easiest way to record those dishes and, hopefully, jog my memory months, even years, later. Such is the case with today’s agnolotti … kinda.

*     *     *

Agnolotti served*     *     *

While in Bologna, one night I ate at a small restaurant that I chose because it was crowded with locals and had a nice outdoor seating area. Coming from Chicago, eating supper outdoors in mid-May is something you don’t pass up if the opportunity presents itself. I ordered the tortellini and asked my waiter how they were prepared. Looking puzzled, he disappeared and returned with a woman I was to learn was a sous chef. In broken English — that was still far better than my Italian —  she answered my questions and before leaving, mentioned that she was from Piedmont, Piemonte, coincidentally the region of Italy that is home to agnolotti. I asked how she made her agnolotti, she smiled and said that the filling for the tortellini I had ordered was very similar to her own agnolotti filling recipe. Our entire conversation didn’t last 5 minutes — it was a busy night — but she did give me its list of ingredients before returning to the kitchen. When my dinner arrived, I took a photo and made a note of her ingredient list.

Jump ahead now to last month, November. Traditionally, it’s the time for my last visit to Michigan before Winter sets in. While there, I like to fix Zia a birthday dinner and maybe even a Christmas dinner, since I won’t be with her for either events. This year, I wanted to serve her agnolotti for her birthday dinner. The only problem with that plan was that I had never made agnolotti before.

The Saturday before I left for Michigan was the last day the Chicago area’s farmers markets were open. When I returned home, I realized that there wasn’t much time for me to make a test batch of agnolotti. I was to leave in a few days and had much to do beforehand. Not wishing to use premium ingredients for something that would be little more than a kitchen experiment, I dug around my fridge and freezers for ingredients and that’s how today’s filling came about. Well, having bought a bunch of lacinato kale, cavolo nero, at the market that morning certainly didn’t hurt matters any. Let’s be clear. I seriously doubt this is in any way a traditional Piemontese recipe. I will say, though, that it was surprisingly good, good enough to convince me to share the recipe along with this instructional post for making Agnolotti del Plin. When I make the filling again — and I will make it again — I won’t grind it so thoroughly and will use it to make ravioli.

*     *     *

As you know, stuffed pastas are popular in Italy, with ravioli, tortellini and cappelletti being the most common. Agnolotti are a stuffed pasta that, as I mentioned, originated in Piedmont and are almost always handmade. Their filling consists primarily of roasted meat, though exceptions abound. (This is consistent with the filling recipe that I was given at the restaurant.) I was surprised to learn that traditionally, freshly cooked agnolotti were eaten as-is, without any form of dressing/sauce at all. The family ate them, one at a time, from a large serving at the table’s center.

Agnolotti del Plin are formed by pinching the dough in-between the individual agnolotto, “plin” being the Piemontese word for “pinch”. As you’ll soon see, once pinched, the agnolotti are cut and ready to be cooked. There is another way to make agnolotti and you’ll see how that’s done in a future post. This one is already getting too long.

*     *     *

Pinching Agnolotti*     *     *

How to make Agnolotti del Plin

with a Chicken Gizzard Filling

Agnolotti con i Ventrigli del Pollo

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (450 g) chicken gizzards, trimmed and chopped
  • 3.5 oz (100 g) Tuscan kale (cavolo nero), trimmed of thick ribs — any kale may be substituted
  • 1 large (1.5 oz, 35 g) shallot, diced
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Mom’s Pasta Dough — recipe HERE — rested 30 minutes before use

Directions

for the filling

  1. Heat equal parts butter and olive oil (no more than 3 tbsp total) in a deep frying pan over med-high heat. Once hot, add the shallot and sauté until translucent – about 3 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, roughly chop the cleaned & trimmed kale leaves before placing them in the pan with the shallots. Season lightly with salt & pepper and sauté until wilted.
  3. Allow to cool and drain as much liquid as possible from the cooked kale before placing it in a clean kitchen towel. Wring out as much liquid as possible. Set aside.
  4. In the same frying pan, melt another 2 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the chicken gizzards, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until fully cooked – about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. Once cooled, place the cooked gizzards into a food processor and process until well ground.
  6. To the chopped gizzards in the food processor, add the cooked kale, ricotta cheese, Pecorino Romano cheese, egg, nutmeg to taste, and season lightly with salt & pepper. Process until smooth. This is critical.
  7. Remove and refrigerate several hours or overnight so that the flavors will blend.

for the agnolotti del plin – also detailed in the slideshow that follows

  • Using a jumbo egg-sized piece of dough, pass it through pasta rollers until thin. My rollers are at the widest setting at “0” and I roll the dough up to and including the no. “7” setting.
  1. Place the dough strip on a lightly floured work service, trimming both ends to make an elongated rectangle.
  2. Fill a pastry bag with the filling and pipe a line of filling about an inch from the dough strip’s edge.
  3. Use a water bottle to mist — or a pastry brush to lightly moisten — the dough on the side of the filling farthest from you. Do not get it too wet or it may split during subsequent steps.
  4. Carefully take hold of the dough’s edge and pull it over the piped filling.
  5. Use your fingers to press/seal the flap to the moistened dough, eliminating as much air as possible as you work you way down the strip.
  6. Use a pastry brush to moisten the top of the seal. – optional (sea Notes)
  7. Gently fold the filling roll over the moistened flap – optional
  8. Use your index fingers and thumbs to pinch the filling roll at inch intervals.
  9. Use a pastry wheel or very sharp knife to first trim away the excess dough
  10. Use the same tool to cut the agnolotti at the center of each pinch.
  11. Place the agnolotti in a single layer on a baking sheet that has been dusted with corn meal. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. If they are to be cooked relatively quickly, nothing further needs to be done. If they are to be cooked in a couple of hours, they should be placed in the fridge until dinner time. If the are to be cooked later than that evening, place  the baking sheet in the freezer and,once frozen, place the agnolotti in bags or some other container suitable for freezing.

*     *     *

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*     *     *

Serving Suggestion

I really hadn’t thought this all the way through and was caught scrambling for a sauce once the agnolotti were made. I turned to an old favorite that, as luck would have it, helped me to continue to clean out my fridge before leaving for Michigan.

  1. Bring to a boil a large pot of salted water over high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, in a deep fry pan, melt a few tbsp of butter over medium heat. Add about twice as much heavy cream and heat until the butter is melted. Add enough Pecorino Romano cheese to thicken the cream mixture. Add an amount of plain, meatless tomato sauce equal to the amount of cream added earlier. Stir and keep hot until the agnolotti are cooked. If the sauce thickens too much, add a bit of the  pasta water to thin it. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.
  3. Once the water is boiling rapidly, add the agnolotti and stir. When the water returns to the boil, lower the heat and gently cook the agnolotti.
    • If the agnolotti are fresh or refrigerated, they are fully cooked when all of them float to the surface of the pot of water — just a few minutes.
    • If the agnolotti are frozen, they will take a few minutes longer.
  4. If in doubt whether your pasta is fully cooked, sample one.
  5. Once cooked to your satisfaction, use a spider strainer to remove the agnolotti from the boiling water and add them to the simmering sauce.
  6.  Gently stir to coat the pasta with the sauce and serve immediately, garnished with more grated Pecorino Romano cheese and, fresh parsley and/or basil, if desired.

*     *     *

Agnolotti Served 2*     *     *

Notes

YouTube contains quite a few videos showing agnolotti del plin being made. Some folded the filling roll over a moistened flap, as I did in steps 6 and 7 above. I thought that would ensure the pasta was fully sealed. I also skipped those 2 steps with a subsequent dough strip. Later, I cooked them both, fresh and frozen, and neither opened up while being boiled. In short, it made no difference whether you folded the filling roll over the sealed flap. You can follow the method you feel most comfortable doing.

Make sure the gizzards are fully cooked. “Rare” gizzards are not a good thing.

Because the filling is to be piped, it must be ground in a food processor, or similar device, until very smooth. The filling may block the piping bag’s tip if not ground fully.

When making the tomato-cream sauce, if you haven’t any tomato sauce on hand, a couple tbsp of tomato paste may be substituted.

The tomato-cream sauce used to dress these agnolotti is simple to make and can be used for a number of stuffed pastas. I often season it with a bit of nutmeg but, this time, the agnolotti filling already was seasoned with the spice and I didn’t want to over do it. A little nutmeg goes a very long way.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

calamari-salad3Continuing with a review of seafood dishes suitable for A Christmas Eve feast, today’s I’m highlighting Mom’s Calamari Salad. It’s a snap to make and is a welcome addition to any celebratory meal, Christmas or otherwise. Another reason for selecting this dish is that its post contains links to a number of seafood dishes and recipes, in case your Feast of the Seven Fishes is minus a few fins. All of this may be yours simply by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Garbanzo Bean SoupMy Grandmas’ Garbanzo Bean Soup

*     *     *

Advertisements

No baloney, it’s Mascarpone!

Hard to believe that this is already the 4th cheese of the series. We’re in the home stretch now but there’ll be no sprint to the finish line. No, I’ll continue to go slow so that any who want to jump on this cheesy bandwagon will have plenty of time to do so. If you’re thinking of giving it a go, I’ll repeat what I’ve said in the comments following each cheese post: start with the ricotta cheese recipe. It’s the easiest, there’s less chance for error, and the ricotta is the best you’ve ever tasted. Not only that, but working with ricotta gets you experience with handling curds, a must when making cheese. So, get yourself a couple quarts of whole milk, some white vinegar, and make a batch of ricotta. Once you do, you’ll realize that none of the cheeses I’ve covered thus far are at all difficult to prepare.

Those who have followed this series may notice the similarities between today’s recipe and that of my ricotta. The main difference between the 2 recipes is the amount of milk fat in the dairy products used. In the case of ricotta, warmed whole milk separates into ricotta & whey with the addition of white vinegar. To make mascarpone, combine equal amounts of heavy cream with half-and-half, warm, and use lemon juice to separate the mascarpone from the whey. In both instances, the curds are strained and the resulting cheeses are ready for use in your favorite recipes. Yes, it is that simple and those of you have made the ricotta know exactly what I mean. Best of all, it is far cheaper to make mascarpone at home than it is to purchase it from your grocer. For example, the dairy products I used cost about $4.50 and resulted in 16 oz. of cheese. An 8 oz. container of mascarpone costs about $7.00 at the same store. Needless to say, since coming across this recipe on the Fankenhauser Cheese Page, I’ve not bought a bit of mascarpone from any store.

So, what can you do with all of that homemade mascarpone in your refrigerator? Well, add a little confectioner’s sugar and heavy cream, whip it, and the result may be served with berries in a variety of ways or used as a luscious topping for your favorite dessert. Use mascarpone as the creamy base for a number of delicious pasta dishes, perfect as primi or secondi piatti. Combine it with your favorite cheeses (cheddar, Monterey Jack, Asiago, etc.) and use the mixture to stuff jalapeños to make poppers.  And of course, use it to prepare tiramisu, the quintessential Italian dessert. Given mascarpone’s creamy texture and relatively mild flavor, the only limit to its uses is your own imagination.

*     *     *

Hand-Cut Pappardelle with Spinach, Pecorino Romano, and Mascarpone

*     *     *

Before beginning, please refer to my Cheesy Stuff page. Chock full of cheesy details, it provides information about ingredients, cleaning/sterilizing equipment, spices & seasonings, a few tips, and sources for supplies and information.

*     *     *

Home-Made Mascarpone Cheese Recipe

yield: slightly more than 1 lb. (485g)

Ingredients

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 pint half-and-half
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. Place the cream and half-and-half into a clean, sterile pot with a lid and heat over low to med-low heat until it reaches 185˚. Stir frequently to prevent cream from scorching on the pot’s bottom. A double-boiler works fine, too.
  2. Add lemon juice and stir until thoroughly combined.
  3. Cover and maintain 185˚ temperature for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mixture should show signs of thickening.
  4. Remove from heat and place covered pot into the refrigerator overnight.
  5. The next morning, the mixture should have thickened more and you should see traces of the whey beginning to separate from the curds. .
  6. Cover a large strainer with a clean, sterile handkerchief.
  7. Gently pour the curds into the handkerchief.
  8. Grab the handkerchief’s 4 corners, tie them, and use them to hang like a sack over the sink or a large pot. If your kitchen is exceptionally warm or if it has drained a few hours and still not to your liking, place everything into the fridge to drain.
  9. Drain until the mascarpone is the consistency you prefer. To hurry the process, carefully twist the “sack” to force the whey out of the cheese.
  10. Place cheese into container(s) and refrigerate. The mascarpone will remain fresh for about 1 week but is best when used immediately.

*     *     *

Notes

Unlike some of the other cheeses, you can use ultra-pasteurized dairy products to make mascarpone — but I would avoid them if possible. You’ll get the best tasting cheese if you use raw dairy but it is illegal to sell raw milk in many States, including Illinois. With raw dairy products off of the table, you’re left with pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized products. Although both processes negatively affect the mascarpone’s taste, it’s worse with ultra-pasteurization. So, I only use ultra-pasteurized products when I’ve no choice.

Some sites and cheese recipes call for using tartaric acid instead of lemon juice to separate the curds from the whey when making mascarpone. This additive can be bought online and is available at a couple of the resources I’ve listed on my Cheesy Stuff page. I have never used it and am perfectly happy with the mascarpone that results from using lemon juice.

Coming Attractions

Here is the recipe for the Pappardelle with Spinach, Mascarpone and Pecorino Romano Cheeses dish pictured above. Recipes for the remaining pictured dishes, as well as Aunt Lil’s tiramisu, are forthcoming.

Feta cheese is next in this cheesy series.

*     *     *

Inspired by the Fankhauser Making Mascarpone At Home webpage.

*     *     *

Don’t tell Philadelphia that we’re making Cream Cheese

This is my 3rd, cheese-related post of the series. Unlike its predecessors, unlike almost all of my prior blog entries, there is no side story, no anecdote, to tell. Yes, Mom sometimes served us cream cheese but don’t all Moms do the same? Although it’s true I’ve made this cream cheese for Zia, it’s hard to build a story around her saying, “I like it.” Looking beyond the 2 Bartolini Girls, there just aren’t any cream cheese yarns to report coming from the old two-flat. Moving more to the Present, in all of my sleepless nights, cream cheese never played even the smallest of bit parts. To be honest, I don’t even recall a single instance where I snacked on cream cheese in the wee hours of the morning. Most shockingly — and, for once, disappointingly — Max has never done anything to disrupt or despoil my cream cheese operation nor its end-product. And Lucy doesn’t speak cheese, so, she is of no help whatsoever. As a result, I’ve got nothing. Nada. Butkis. So, then, how did I come to make cream cheese? One day about 2 year ago, while looking at the Fankenhauser Cheese Page, I clicked on the words Cream Cheese. Within days, the Bartolini kitchens were making cream cheese. Hardly the quaint tale of a bygone time that you’ve come to expect, now is it?

So, with no story to tell, I’ll get right to the business at hand. The ingredient list mentions that salt is optional but strongly recommended. I would definitely add salt should you decide to make this cheese. Not only will it prolong the cheese’s shelf-life, but it tastes so much better. Believe me, a salt-free cream cheese is one, extremely bland cheese. Beyond the salt issue, there’s but one thing more worthy of mentioning. While I was away, guest hosting for Jed at sports-glutton.com, I happened upon his post dedicated to the fine art of making NYC-style bagels. Thanks to Jed and that post, the Bartolini kitchens actually baked all the bagels pictured within this post.

By the way, home-made mascarpone is next on the cheesy schedule and, like today, I’ve got nothing.

Before attempting to make this cheese or any within my recipe collection, please refer to my Cheesy Stuff page. Chock full of cheesy details, it provides information about ingredients, cleaning/sterilizing equipment, spices & seasonings, a few tips, and sources for supplies and information.

*     *     *

Home-Made Cream Cheese Recipe

yield: 2 pounds

Ingredients

  • 1 quart whole milk – never ultra-pasteurized
  • 1 quart whipping cream – never ultra-pasteurized
  • 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk – no substitutes
  • 1/2 tablet Rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup distilled water
  • 1 to 2 tsp table salt, more or less to taste – optional but strongly recommended

Directions

  1. Place the milk and cream into a clean, sterile pot with a lid and heat over low to med-low heat until it reaches 70˚ . Stir frequently.
  2. Add buttermilk, mix thoroughly, cover, and set aside for 15 minutes.
  3. Add rennet, stir, set aside for at least 8 hours, or overnight, at a room temperature from 70 to 75˚.
  4. If properly prepared, the mixture should have gelled after waiting the specified time. Sprinkle the salt over the top of the gelled mixture. Briefly use a whisk to gently stir the mixture, creating pea-sized curds.
  5. Cover a large strainer with a clean, sterile handkerchief.
  6. Gently pour the curds into the handkerchief and let drain for 30 minutes.
  7. Grab the handkerchief’s 4 corners, tie them, and use them to hang like a sack over the sink or a large pot. If your kitchen is exceptionally warm, place everything into the fridge to drain.
  8. Drain until the cream cheese is the consistency you prefer. To hurry the process, carefully twist the “sack” to force the whey out of the cheese.
  9. Place cheese into container(s) and refrigerate. The cream cheese will remain fresh for about 1 week, less if unsalted.

*     *     *

Notes

Because of its relatively short shelf-life, I rarely mix other ingredients into my cream cheese unless it will be used up entirely within a day. To do otherwise, I feel, opens the door to contaminating the cheese because of a slightly over-ripe berry or piece of fruit.

I’ve tried cooking with this cream cheese and it “broke,” liquified, both times. I have used it successfully, however, in a variety of refrigerated cheesecakes and spreads.

*     *     *

Adapted from Emeril’s Homemade Creole Cream Cheese

and

     the Fankhauser Making Cream Cheese webpage.

*     *     *