Agnolotti al plin
Agnolotti al plin
Perno, Le Langhe November 11,
2006 Our great winemaker friend Mario
Fontana has entertained us often at his Cascina
Fontana winery and home at Perno, high in the Barolo hills of
Le Langhe. Mario's mother Elda is a truly wonderful cook who still
knows how faithfully to prepare the traditional foods of Le Langhe.
Here she gives us a masterclass in how to prepare handmade agnolotti
al plin - the tiny stuffed ravioli that are the speciality
of the region. The recipe may seem rather complicated and fiddly,
but it isn't. It is time consuming and laborious, though, as are
most great traditional foods. However, many hands make light work,
as the saying goes, so get together with friends, open a bottle
or two of Cascina Fontana wines, and have an agnolotti al plin
Mario's mother Elda
For the stuffing
200 g escarole or spinach
200 g cabbage
200 g carrots
1 clove garlic
1/2 kg veal
1/2 kg pork
Half a chicken breast
1 stick celery
1 clove garlic
Handful of fresh rosemary
100 g cooked ham
50 g mortadella
5 or 6 heaping tablespoons of grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
Grating of fresh nutmeg
2 whole eggs, beaten
For the pasta
About 1 kg flour (in general the measurement is 1 egg for every
100 g of flour – some cooks measure an egg to a fistful of
flour – but of course the precise proportions depend on the
size of eggs, the moisture content of the flour and other such variables)
Pinch of salt
A spoonful or two of olive oil
Water if necessary.
200 g unsalted butter
Handful of fresh sage leaves
Plenty of grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
First make the stuffing. Add the escarole
or spinach, cabbage and carrots to a pot of boiling water and cook
until tender. Drain and then sautée in a frying with olive
oil and a chopped clove of garlic. Set aside.
Vegetables cooking for the stuffing
In a separate heavy-bottomed cast-iron
or earthenware pot, add some olive oil, then brown the pieces of
veal, pork and chicken breast. Add the 2 carrots, a stick of celery,
a clove of garlic and a sprig of rosemary. Add the white wine, bring
to the boil, then cover tightly and reduce to a bare simmer. Cook
until the meat is tender and falling apart, adding more liquid if
Cooking the meats for the filling
Finally chop the sautéed vegetables
and meat all together, adding a little of the cooking liquid from
the meats, as well as the cooked ham and mortadella.The result should
be a soft filling that you can use to stuff the agnolotti.
Just before filling, add the beaten eggs, grated parmigiano reggiano,
freshly grated nutmeg and salt to taste.
Now make the pasta. You can make this
either by hand, or in a food processor (our method). Depending on
the size of your food processor, add the flour and the eggs in batches
if necessary. Or else place the flour on a large board, make a well,
and add the eggs. Add a spoonful or two of extra-virgin olive oil,
a little water if necessary, and a pinch of salt. Mix well to form
a dough that is soft but consistent. Knead well, then leave to rest
at room temperature for about an hour.
Making fresh pasta
Next roll out the pasta to the second
finest setting on your pasta machine.
Pasta machines make the job easier
though some cooks still prefer to roll by hand
Lay out the sheets of rolled pasta. Using
a spoon and a knife, add small amounts of the filling all along
the length of each sheet of pasta.
Filling the agnolotti
Fold the pasta over the filling carefully
in order to cover all the filling. Then, and this is the critical
part!, squeeze the space between each raviolo using your thumb and
index fingers as if you were giving the pasta a 'pinch' (in Piedmontese
dialect they say 'plin' and this gives the name agnolotti
or ravioli 'al plin').
Folding and pinching the agnolotti
Cut along the strip of now-stuffed pasta,
then cut between each single agnolotto to separate. Put
the cut agnolotti on a large floured platter and make sure
there is plenty of space so they don't stick together.
Cutting the pasta
All that is left now is to cook the agnolotti
when ready to eat. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add salt,
then add the agnolotti. They will cook in only
the briefest time, just a minute or two (when they rise to the surface,
they are done).
The agnolotti al plin can be
served 'in brodo' that is, in a rich homemade chicken or
beef broth, or else they can be bathed in melted butter and fresh
sage, topped with grated parmigiano reggiano. For the Club
Vino visit to Cascina Fontana, we enjoyed this exquisite dish
topped with shavings of fresh summer truffles - tartufi estivi.
Another way to enjoy the agnolotti is served with a meat ragù.
As the above steps demonstrate, making
agnolotti is a time consuming affair, so Elda advises that
it is best done with a group of friends, perhaps a day or two in
advance of an important meal.
An agnolotti al plin party
Suggested wine: Cascina
Fontana Barbera d'Alba - nothing else will do!