al plin - a masterclass
Le Langhe, Italy 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
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
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.
g unsalted butter
Handful of fresh sage leaves
Plenty of grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
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.
for the ripieno
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 necessary.
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.
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.
roll out the pasta to the second finest setting on your pasta machine.
machines make the job easier though some cooks still prefer to roll
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.
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').
and pinching 'al plin'
along the strip of now-stuffed pasta, then cut between each single
agnolotto to separate.
the cut agnolotti on a large floured platter and make sure
there is plenty of space so they don't stick together.
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).
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.
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.
agnolotti al plin party anyone?
wine: Cascina Fontana Barbera d'Alba - nothing else will do!