It makes me cheerful to know that right now, the kitchens of San Mario are bustling with Nonnas making their Christmas pasta, cappelletti in brodo. Pasta is being hand rolled by expert hands, and being filled with a mix of beef, pork and chicken with some parmesan and nutmeg (and other family secret ingredients, of course), before being shaped into delicate cappelletti which will be served in a Christmas capon broth (a capon is a castrated cockerel and an incredibly flavourful bird). It is a gorgeous dish, rich and light and delicate all at once. I want it for Christmas lunch also.
I visited San Marino recently to explore their Christmas markets and gorgeous food and drink culture, as I love to do. San Marino is an old (and tiny) republic on top of a hill surrounded by Emilia Romagna, near to Le Marche and the sea with just 61 square kilometres and a population of over 33,000 people. Founded (officially) in 301, three ancient towers survey the land below, and small medieval streets wind through the city just beneath the towers, at 749m above sea level. The city itself has only 4,438 people living in it, and is connected by winding roads and a funicular to the land below. It has a lovely laid back charm and is extremely welcoming. The San Marino food identity is similar to Emilia Romagna which surrounds it, but they produce many of their own specialities and a remarkable amount of wine (over one million bottles), all of which I enjoyed exploring.
On my first morning in San Marino, I cooked with local chef Luigi Sartini at his restaurant, Ristorante Righi. Righi actually is two restaurants, a Michelin starred restaurant upstairs, and an osteria downstairs with a lovely terrace on the main square overlooking the enormous Christmas star and the parliament. Together we cooked some local dishes, chief among them the traditional Cappelletti in Brodo served at Christmas, as described above.
The flavour of these cappelletti is remarkable. The meat is cooked until just pink and still very rare before being minced with some seasonings and cheese and tucked into their little hat shaped pasta pockets (they are called cappelletti because they look like little hats), so that it retains all of its juices and flavour. The broth is decadent, you can of course substitute chicken broth if you can’t get your hands on a capon.
Have a wonderful Christmas, and enjoy the Cappelletti!
- 200g pork shoulder, skin removed
- 200g beef (I would suggest a steak cut like sirloin)
- 200g chicken thigh
- 80g culatello
- 300g casatella (a soft white cheese - substitute 250g mascarpone if not available)
- 100g parmesan
- zest 1/2 lemon
- whole nutmeg
- extra virgin olive oil
- 4 eggs, 400g pasta flour, generous pinch sea salt
- 1.5l good chicken or capon broth - traditionally it is a combination of beef and capon
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heart and fry the pork, beef and chicken until just coloured.
Mince the meat with the culatello. In a bowl mix with minced meat with the parmesan, a generous grating of nutmeg, lemon zest and casatella (or mascarpone). Fry a little to taste and season as required. Store covered in the fridge until the pasta is ready to be filled.
It is best to do this on a wooden surface, like a pasta board. Or you can make it in a mixer with a dough hook. The amount of flour depends on the humidity, so start with about 350g and add the 4 eggs. Put the flour on the board and make a well in the centre. Crack the eggs in here and using your fingers or a fork, gently break the eggs and mix them, and pull the flour in a circular motion until well combined. Add more flour as required, and water if it gets too dry but with care you shouldn't need to add water.
Knead until the glutens are stretched and it feels more elastic (you can pull on the dough and it stretches). Wrap in cling film and leave to rest for half an hour.
Roll on a wooden board with a rolling pin or use a pasta machine, until thin but still firm (about 6 on a pasta machine or the thickness of a normal coin).
Using a sharp knife or pasta wheel, cut into one and a half inch squares. Put half a teaspoon of filling in each and shape as per the video above. After a few tries you should be good to go!
Heat the broth and then add the cappelletti to it. When the cappelletti floats it is cooked.
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