Butternut Squash Cappellacci
Cappellacci di zucca (butternut squash cappellacci) is a symbolic dish of Ferrara, a historic town in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. The first reference of this dish dates back to 1584. The name and shape of this unique stuffed pasta is derived from the dialect caplaz which means “little hats” and is in reference to the straw hats once worn by farmers who worked the fields. And, although “pumpkin” is the direct translation of zucca, squash too falls under this term in Italy.
These cappellacci are made with an egg pasta dough and filled with a ripieno, or “filling” of roasted butternut squash, Parmigiano Reggiano, an egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and a hint of nutmeg. Typically they are served with butter infused with sage leaves, a meat ragu or tomato sauce.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cut the butternut squash in half. Remove the seeds and slice. Lay on a baking tray and bake for 30-40 minutes until soft. Cut off the skin and put the pulp in a large container. With an hand immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add the egg and mix well. Transfer mixture to a pastry bag.
Pasta dough by hand:
Put the flour on a large clean work space and create a crater shape. Add the eggs and gently whisk with a fork. Gradually incorporate the flour from the sides. Gently mix together until a ball of dough starts to form. Knead for 10-15 minutes until elastic. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Pasta dough in a stand mixer: Attach the dough hook to the stand mixer and add flour, salt and eggs. Mix on low for 5 minutes until the dough comes together as a ball and is smooth. Wrap with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Rolling out the pasta:
Attach the pasta roller accessory to the stand mixer. Divide the dough into 6 pieces, press them into flat rectangles. Lightly flour each side. Pass one of the pieces through the machine on speed 1 on no.0. Fold the ends towards each other and pass it through again. Continue to pass the dough through, reducing the thickness from no. 0 to 7. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can roll out the dough with a rolling pin until it’s thin enough to see light through it.
Forming the cappellacci:
Put a sheet of pasta on a lightly floured board. Use a pastry cutter to cut squares roughly 2 ½ inches. Put a heaped teaspoonful of the mixture in the center of each square. Fold one corner of the pasta to the other to make a triangle, push out any air from the center to the edge before sealing. Fold and press the ends of the triangle and together with your thumb and pointer finger so they seal together.
Cook the cappellacci in salted boiling water for 6-7 minutes. In the meantime, melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat and add the sage leaves. Once the cappellacci are cooked, drain and toss in the skillet. Mix to coat. Serve with grated Parmigiano Reggiano.