Cappelletti in Brodo
It’s no secret that making cappelletti in brodo from scratch is a labor of love, but if you can’t pull out all the stops for Christmas, when can you? Cappelletti are small meat-filled pasta “bonnets,” similar to Bologna’s hat-shaped tortellini but round in shape and lacking that signature triangular peak. They hail from nearby Reggio Emilia and are the highlight of the Christmas Day meal.
The version I’m sharing here is my mom’s. Even though she was from Abruzzo, she made cappelletti every year, and I’ve followed in her footsteps. Rather than making traditional capon broth, she always used the carcass from our Thanksgiving turkey to make rich turkey broth, and I do the same. It pairs perfectly with the savory, nutmeg-spiked cappelletti.
Although making cappelletti takes considerable effort, you can do most of the work in advance, in steps. Both the broth and the cappelletti can be frozen. I make the broth right after Thanksgiving; a couple of weeks before Christmas I make and freeze the cappelletti. On Christmas Day, when it’s time to serve this most delicious soup, I simply defrost and heat the broth to boiling; then drop in the cappelletti straight from the freezer.
Serve cappelletti in brodo piping hot, with a shower of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Yield: 6 to 8 first-course servings
1. Make the stuffing: In a sauté pan, warm the oil and butter over medium heat. When the butter is sizzling, add the meat, onion, and garlic. Use a spoon or spatula to break up the meat. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes; then cover and cook for 12 to 16 minutes, until the onion is soft and the meat is cooked through but not browned. Season with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium-high and pour in the wine. Cook for 2 more minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
2. Transfer the meat to a food processor and pulse for 10 to 15 seconds, until the mixture is finely ground but not a paste. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and Parmigiano cheese. Pour this into the bowl with the meat. Add the prosciutto, mortadella, and nutmeg and fold everything together thoroughly. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to use.
4. Make the cappelletti: Dust two rimmed baking sheets with semolina flour. This is where you will put your finished cappelletti.
5. Mound the “00” flour on a clean work surface and make a well in the center. Sprinkle the tablespoon of semolina flour in the well; then break the eggs into the well and add the salt. Whisk the eggs with a fork until well combined. Begin to incorporate the flour from the inside walls of the well. Continue to mix until a wet dough starts to form. Switch to your hands and gather the dough to form a rough ball. Knead the dough for several minutes, adding more flour as necessary, until you have a smooth and firm ball. Cover the dough with a clean cloth or a bowl and let it rest for 30 to 60 minutes.
6. Using a pasta machine or a pasta rolling pin, stretch the dough to a thickness of about 1/16-inch. If you’re using a pasta machine, you will need to cut the dough into 4 quarters and stretch each piece to make 4 long, thin strips.
7. Have a small bowl of water nearby. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out as many circles of dough as possible. Spoon a scant 1 teaspoon of filling into the center of each circle. Moisten the edge of the circle with the water, then fold the circle in half to make a half-moon. Holding the half-moon in both hands, fold the top of the rounded side in towards you while bringing the corners together; slightly overlap the corners and pinch them to seal. What you should have is a little round “bonnet” or “hat” enclosing the filling. This is your first cappelletto. Set it on a semolina-dusted baking sheet. Continue to make more cappelletti with the circles of dough and put them on the baking sheets, making sure they are not touching. You should end up with somewhere between 100 and 120 cappelletti.
8. Make the soup: Heat the broth in a large pot until it is simmering. Carefully transfer the cappelletti to the boiling broth. Raise the heat to bring the broth back to a boil and cook the cappelletti for about 5 minutes, until they are tender but not soggy (taste one to be sure). Ladle the cappelletti and broth into shallow rimmed bowls, counting out 15 to 20 cappelletti per serving. Sprinkle each bowl with cheese and serve hot.