As you know, in Italy we have countless types of filled pasta, each of them with different names, and often the same type can have different names from province to province or even from village to village sometimes 🙂
Casoncelli are one of those, they are the ones typical of my area of origin 🙂 and they are very very good!
And differently than most of the other filled pasta, there are not really “codified” recipes, even if we can define some “guidelines”. And some sources say that it seems that casoncelli have an older origin than most of tortellini, cappellacci, agnolotti, etc.
First of all, generally they are divided in 3 types: the Casoncelli from Bergamo, the ones from Brescia and the ones from Val Camonica, but they don’t really exists these 3 types 🙂 the 3 areas are bordering to each other, so on the borders the recipes mix, and from village to village there can be differences, and every family has its own recipe too.
Indicatively, in Bergamo area they often fill them with amaretti, raisins, lemon zest (but these 3 ingredients not always, and probably it’s a relatively recent addition), Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic, breadcrumbs and beef meat and they have usually a half-moon shape; in Brescia area traditionally they fill them just with Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano, breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, nutmeg but in the reality nowadays many recipes have been enriched and there is often much more meat, as homemade salami, cured ham, lardo and/or mortadella, or also beef stew, and they can have various shapes, as a candy shape (famous are the ones made in the village of Barbariga), a triangle shape or a square shape; in Val Camonica they are similar to the ones in Brescia (well, Val Camonica is part of Brescia province), and in the villages that stay in the upper part of the valley they use to add also potatoes.
Moreover, Casoncelli is the italian name but in the reality almost everyone call them with local dialects names: Casonséi, Cadonhéi (that’s how I call them), Caronséi, Calsù, Caicc and probably some other names too 🙂
There is also a particular variant, typical of a small village in Bergamo province (Parre), whose name is Scarpinocc: they have a simple filling made with cheese, breadcrumbs, eggs, butter and spices, and they have a particular shape which reminds the shape of old traditional shoes used in the past in that area.
But for sure they all have the same sauce in common: almost everywhere they are served with a “simple” sauce made with melted butter, Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano and sage (sometimes with pancetta too), or a bit less frequently a sauce made just with melted lardo and Parmigiano Reggiano (as you probably already realized, it’s a caloric mountain dish 😀 ). It’s a recipe for the feasts usually, so few times a year, and there is no feast if there is no tasty and fulfilling food, right? 😀 so those few times let’s make it great 😀
(In the bordering high mountain areas on the eastern side there are also the “Casunziei”, in Dolomites area, they have almost the same name but there the filling is completely different, with red turnip, spinach, other vegetables, poppy seeds so it’s a completely different thing).
My mom’s recipe it’s not with cured ham but it includes always a percentage of our own salami (not smoked), when it’s still fresh and not too much aged, and that makes a difference 🙂 here in Hungary I don’t have it always, so I use to substitute the salami with Parma cured ham, or San Daniele ham.
This can be easily a main dish in a Sunday, but we also use to prepare them boiled in broth (chicken, hen, rooster, capon, beef, etc.) and served as a First Course in the soup (in that case we make them in a bit smaller size).
It’s a recipe that takes a bit of time and it messes up the kitchen a bit, so I mostly make them in feast time (as I already said), and it’s not a bad idea to prepare some more to freeze and to use another time too (even if the fresh ones are the best).
Let’s see how to make them 🙂
INGREDIENTS (7/8 people):
For the pasta:
- 700 g white flour (I used 300 g of a less refined “Tipo 1” italian flour and 400 g of normal white flour)
- 7 yolks
- warm water, about 300 g (but it can vary from flour to flour, you add water until you obtain a dough which is not too hard and not too soft), or if you want you can use all the egg whites rather than water, you’ll have a more elastic result.
- a pinch of salt
For the filling:
- 200 g Parma ham or San Daniele (so not smoked hams), or in alternative an italian sausage is a good option too
- 150 g Mortadella
- 150 g breadcrumbs
- 150 g Parmigiano Reggiano
- 2 eggs
- 70 g lardo, not smoked
- one bunch of parsley
- 3 cloves of garlic
- nutmeg (a little)
- freshly ground black pepper
- salty hot water, 2-3 glasses, use it until the filling is compact but not too hard and not too soft
For the sauce:
- 200 g butter (if possible, mountain butter is the best choice)
- sage leaves
- freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- The first step is to prepare the dough: sift the flour, add the yolks (at room temperature), a pinch of salt and start mixing all together, then add the warm water in more steps, until the dough reaches the correct consistence, and then keep working it well and energetically on the table for about 8/10 minutes (developing properly the gluten that will give the correct texture to the pasta, if it seems too soft don’t add extra flour but keep working hard, the gluten will develop and make it good), until the dough is perfectly smooth and no more sticky, then give to it a round shape and cover it in a plastic wrap (but put some flour on it) and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
- While the dough is resting, prepare the filling. First cut the lardo into thin slices and then hit it multiple times with the blade of a thick knife (the one to break bones is perfect) until you obtain a cream, then melt it in a pan.
- Then cut the ham and the mortadella very small (you can use a robot too) and then put in a bowl, add the breadcrumbs, the freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, the squeezed garlic cloves, the melted lardo, the finely chopped parsley, the nutmeg, the egg, the pepper and mix well together, then add the salted hot water until the filling reaches the correct texture: it has to be quite homogeneous, not too hard and not too much wet otherwise it will make the pasta too much wet, with the risk to break it.
- Now the dough is ready to be spread out: if you are able to make it very thin with the rolling pin you can do it (with flour on the table), otherwise use a pasta machine. Cut the dough in 3-4 smaller pieces and spread them out one by one, keeping the others under a clean towel (so they don’t get dry). The pasta must not be too much thin, if you use the pasta machine stop at the second smaller size (n.6 in usual italian machines), about 2 mm is ok.
- Then cut the spread out pasta into squares of about 6/7 cm, add a ball of filling in the center of each square and close them: you can simply close them in a rectangular shape, or in a triangle shape and then you bend the top of the triangle under the filling and then with your two index fingers you push on the two sides next to the filling, sealing well the pasta. And take care not to leave any air inside, otherwise they will break while boiling.
- You do this until you finish all the filling and the pasta (if some pasta remains don’t worry, you can keep it in the fridge until the day after or in the freezer, and you can use it in soups for example), and when you shape each Casoncello you lay them on trays where you have previously put some flour (so they don’t attach), and lay them down in a way that they don’t touch each other, then keep them covered with clean towels until the time you have to boil them.
- Now that the bigger job is finished, start boiling the water in a pot, with salt, and meanwhile take also a pan and melt the butter for the sauce, with sage leaves.
- When the water is boiling add the Casoncelli: they will be ready in 4/5 minutes about, they will be floating when ready (the time depends on the thickness of the pasta and which flours you used, but after 4/5 minutes take out one and try it to see if it’s ok). But don’t put too many all together unless you have a huge pot: it’s better to divide them, when some are ready you drain them and then you add others.
- Once they are cooked, drain them, put in the dishes (or a in single big dish to serve on the table, if you prefer), add a generous sprinkle of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano, and lastly pour the hot butter with crunchy sage leaves.
- Enjoy! They are delicious, right? 😉
PS: if you prepare more than what you need, you can keep them in the fridge or in a cool room for about 12 hours, otherwise put them in the freezer in this way: first you put a tray with Casoncelli in the freezer, in about 30 minutes they will be already cold enough not to attach to each other and then you can store them in freezer bags or boxes.
To count how many you need, personally if I’m hungry I can eat also 25 of them, but count 15/18 per person, especially if you serve also other things (appetizers, desserts, etc.).