What are agnolotti?
Agnolotti or agnolotti del plin, angiolino (angelòt) or even ravioli (agnolòt or gnolòt in Piedmontese dialect) are stuffed pasta from Piedmont, a region in northwest Italy near the French border.
These pastas are stuffed with a mixture of roasted or braised meats and cooked herbs (erbe cotte) such as spinach, chard or a mixture of wild herbs, endives or cabbage. Agnolotti can also be stuffed with local cheeses such as Castelmagno.
Agnolotti, like tortellini from Emilia-Romagna, have a special feature: they are made with a single sfoglia, that is to say a single layer of dough folded over itself. In the case of agnolotti, we can speak of ravioli, as this word historically defines pasta stuffed with meat.
What is the origin of agnolotti?
Agnolotti originate from the regions of Monferrato, Alexandria and Asti. It is also found in Pavia, in Lombardy. The most well-known version of them is the so-called al plin or del plin version from the Langhe region (where the famous Barolo wine is produced). The term plin from the regional dialect means “pinched”, because to shape these stuffed pasta, the dough is literally pinched.
Initially, spit roasted meats were used to make agnolotti stuffing. Since then, this recipe has been so popular that meat is cooked specifically for agnolotti.
How to make agnolotti
The preparation of agnolotti is quite long but it is possible to make them in large quantities and freeze them so that they can be enjoyed for several meals. The stuffing is composed of a mixture of meats such as pork and veal, as is often the case in Italy, to which rabbit is added, which is very popular in the Langhe region.
The meats are cooked with aromatic herbs typical of the north of the country, like sage, rosemary, bay leaf, as well as broth. Once cooked, they are finely cut, then spinach, broth, nutmeg, which is also widely used in the region, as well as parmesan, are then added. The addition of eggs makes it possible to obtain a smooth stuffing that holds well together and is therefore easy to handle. It must be cold before being used to stuff agnolotti.
The dough is prepared with flour and eggs. It is important to use a flour rich in gluten because it will be more elastic. Once shaped, the dough must be put to rest so that the gluten hydrates and gives all the necessary elasticity to the dough.
The agnolotti are shaped on strips of thinly spread pasta. The dough is folded back on itself and the stuffing trapped with a pinching gesture which allows for a tight seal.
Once made, the agnolotti must be cooked quickly or be frozen, to prevent them from drying out. To freeze stuffed pasta, simply place it on a plate lined with parchment paper. They must then be placed in the freezer for around twenty minutes. Once cold, they can be stored in a special bag or a small box. To cook them, no need to defrost them, just immerse them directly in boiling water.
Cooking fresh agnolotti is done in the same way. Never add olive oil to the cooking water, this would have the effect of forming a kind of sheath around the pasta, preventing the sauce from sticking.
Once cooked, the agnolotti can be transferred to a sauce.
What are the variants of agnolotti?
There can be many different agnolotti stuffings and sides, and the differences are often regional.
In the town of Calliano, in the province of Asti, agnolotti are stuffed with donkey meat. Donkey or mullet meat is still regularly consumed in northern Italy today.
In Canavese and Valle d’Aosta, agnolotti are stuffed with fontina, a cheese produced in the region and which melts very easily.
The sauce accompanying agnolotti can be a sauce made from meat juice and tomatoes, called sugo di arrosto. More simply, a butter flavored with sage can be enough to coat them.
A broth or a meat consommé can also be used to cook and enjoy them, this version is often prepared for Christmas, for example in northern Italy where a capon consommé is prepared to cook stuffed pasta like agnolotti or tortellini in Emilia-Romagna. This consommé can be enriched with Piedmont’s star product, Alba’s white truffle. Finally, in Alto Monferrato, agnolotti can be served in a mulled wine sauce.
- 5 cups flour
- 8 whole eggs
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1 beaten egg white
- 12 oz. veal shoulder , cut into pieces
- 12 oz. pork loin , cut into pieces
- 1 boneless rabbit leg
- 10 oz. boiled spinach
- 8 oz. grated parmesan
- ½ cup white wine
- ½ onion
- 3 eggs
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 leaves sage
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 cups vegetable broth (or beef broth), boiling
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- Freshly ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 12 oz. veal shoulder , diced
- ¼ cup red wine
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon tomato coulis
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic , chopped
- ½ onion , chopped
- ½ carrot , chopped
- ½ stick celery , chopped
- Freshly ground pepper
- Rolling pin
- Pasta maker
- In a stewpot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the olive oil and then add the veal, carrot, celery, onion and garlic.
- Add salt and pepper.
- Cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add the wine.
- Let the alcohol evaporate well, stirring constantly for 5 minutes, then add the tomato sauce.
- Add half of the broth and cook over medium / low heat for 50 minutes, gradually adding the other half of the broth.
- Once the sauce is cooked, strain it and reserve it inside the pot.
- In a stewpot, heat the sunflower oil, and brown the onion and garlic.
- Then add the veal, rabbit and pork. Mix for a few minutes then add the white wine.
- Add the herbs, cover and cook for 25 minutes over low heat before adding half the broth. Mix well.
- Continue cooking, gradually adding the remaining boiling broth, if necessary.
- Once the meats are cooked, add the spinach and mix well.
- Increase the heat if necessary to reduce the liquid by mixing regularly.
- Transfer all the contents to a large cutting board, finely chop them using two large knives and place them in a bowl.
- Add the parmesan, eggs, salt and nutmeg. Stir to obtain a homogeneous mixture. Reserve.
- Pour the flour on a work surface and dig a well in the center.
- Break the eggs in the center of this well. Add the water and salt and knead until you get an elastic dough.
- Reserve in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 5 equal pieces.
- Roll out the first dough into a rectangle of dough using a rolling pin and keep the others well wrapped in cling film so that they do not dry out.
- Lightly flour the lowered strip of dough then put it through the roller on the widest setting, fold the dough strip obtained on itself and put it through the roller again, still on the widest setting but in the other direction .
- Then continue to put the dough through pasta maker, decreasing the thickness gradually to reach a thickness of about 3 mm.
- Place the strip obtained on a lightly floured work surface, flour lightly.
- Using a pastry bag, place small balls of stuffing at regular intervals, about an inch (3 cm).
- Brush a strip of dough over the balls of egg white.
- Fold the dough on itself to cover the dough balls.
- With your fingers pinch perpendicularly to seal the dough between each ball of stuffing (for traditional ravioli, the dough is pressed horizontally, while for agnolotti, it is pressed vertically, perpendicular to the work surface).
- Seal the dough by expelling the air around the ravioli.
- Using a pastry wheel, cut the dough, neither too close nor too far from the filling.
- To finalize the shaping and separate each ravioli, cut firmly using the pastry wheel.
- Lightly flour the agnolotti and reserve them on a sheet of parchment paper placed on a board.
- Cover well with a cloth and set aside in the refrigerator for a few hours, if necessary.
- Repeat the operation with the remaining dough pieces and the rest of the stuffing.
- In a large pot of boiling water, boil the agnolotti for 3 minutes, and once they have risen to the surface of the water, drain them.
- Place the stewpot on high heat and gently toss and cook the agnolotti.
- Serve hot.