FOOD: Try your hand at homemade pasta

casoncelli with crispy sage and brown butter has “something for everyone,” says chef Marc Vetri.
casoncelli with crispy sage and brown butter has “something for everyone,” says chef Marc Vetri. PHOTO COURTESY OF VETRI CUCINA
This basic pasta dough combines five ingredients: flour, semolina, egg yolks, water and extra-virgin olive oil.
This basic pasta dough combines five ingredients: flour, semolina, egg yolks, water and extra-virgin olive oil. PHOTO BY EMILY RYAN

TAKING SHAPE

Enjoy that homemade dough in other shapes too.

Fettuccine: thick, ribbon-like pasta

Lasagne: wide, flat-shaped pasta

Linguine: “little tongues,” narrow, flat pasta

Ravioli: square or round pillows of pasta

Spaghetti: “a length of cord,” America’s favorite shape

Tagliatelle: long, ribbon-like pasta, very similar to fettuccine

Source: National Pasta Association

Celebrate fall with a homemade pasta dish that’s sure to please. Whether you’re a pasta pro or first-timer, award-winning chef, author and restaurateur Marc Vetri has you covered.

Treat friends and family to his casoncelli with crispy sage and brown butter – “a ravioli-type dish traditional to Bergamo in northern Italy.”

“You can find it there year-round, but I especially like to make it in my kitchen in the fall months,” explained the founder of the Vetri Family of restaurants. “The smell of the sage and the amaretti and the pancetta cooking together just reminds me of all the best things about fall.”

With meat, raisins, crushed amaretti cookies and more, “it’s savory; it’s sweet; it’s got something for everyone,” Vetri described.

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“It’s a hearty taste of fall and a taste of one of the great culinary regions of the world.”

Casoncelli with Crispy Sage and Brown Butter

This is the first stuffed pasta I learned to make at Taverna Colleoni dell’Angelo. The preparation, a type of ravioli, is local to Bergamo and has evolved among cooks over many decades. Years ago in the region, when times were lean, ravioli were made with whatever scraps of meat were left over. The scraps were cooked in red wine and then ground up and mixed with herbs, raisins, crushed cookies or whatever was on hand to bulk up the filling. Today, of course, casoncelli is more refined. When choosing meat scraps for this recipe, use a mixture of lean and fatty pieces. If you are buying meat solely for this recipe, use shoulder (chuck) cuts or dark poultry meat for the most flavor. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Ingredients

Casoncelli:

4 ounces boneless pork shoulder or scraps

4 ounces boneless veal shoulder (chuck) or scraps

4 ounces boneless beef shoulder (chuck) or scraps

4 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thigh or scraps

2 ounces salami

2 ounces prosciutto

¼ cup olive oil

½ carrot, peeled and finely chopped

½ onion, finely chopped

½ celery stalk, finely chopped

1 cup dry red wine

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Leaves from ½ bunch of sage (8 to 10 small leaves), finely chopped

2 large eggs

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup raisins

¼ cup crushed amaretti or other almond cookies

Freshly grated nutmeg

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound basic pasta dough (see below)

Crispy sage and pancetta:

1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter

4 ounces pancetta, julienned

20 small leaves fresh sage

Instructions

For the casoncelli: If you have purchased pork, beef, veal and chicken for this recipe, cut them into uniform chunks, so they will brown easily. Cut the salami into chunks and the prosciutto into strips. Heat 2 tablespoons on the oil in a big sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the pork, veal, beef, chicken, salami and prosciutto and cook, turning as needed, for 15 to 20 minutes or until the meats are deeply browned (almost burned). Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a separate sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the carrot, onion and celery and cook, stirring now and then, for 8 to 10 minutes or until browned. Add the cooked vegetables to the meat, pour in the wine and scrape the pan bottom to loosen any browned-on bits. Cook for 2 minutes and then add the garlic and sage. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes or until so brown that you need to scrape it off the bottom of the pan (if it looks like you’ll need to soak the pan for a day afterward, it’s ready). Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool to almost room temperature.

Using a meat grinder fitted with the ¼-inch (fine) die, grind the cooled mixture, capturing it in a bowl. Add the eggs, Parmesan, raisins and cookie crumbs and season generously with nutmeg and with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly with your hands. Cover and refrigerate until needed. You should have 2½ to 3 cups filling.

Make the pasta dough and roll out as directed. Lay a pasta sheet on a lightly floured work surface and cut in half lengthwise to make 2 long sheets each 3 to 4 inches wide. Spray the sheets lightly with water. Place ½- to ¾-inch balls of filling at 1½-inch intervals down the center of both sheets. Starting at the short end of 1 sheet, pick up the long edge and fold it over the filling to meet the long edge on the other side. The fold should occur at the right edge of the filling. Continue along the length of the sheet, folding the dough over the filling. Gently press down the dough around each ball of filling to eliminate air pockets. Using a 2½-inch round cutter, cut out a series of half-moons, placing the cutter off center so the folded edge of the pasta bisects the equator of the cutter. Hem each half-moon by folding and rolling the outside edges in. Turn each half-moon up on the curved edge you just rolled. Use your finger to flatten each center slightly so the half-moon will stand up on the curved edge. Slightly pinch the pasta on either side of the filling to make “wings.” The finished pasta should resemble a piece of wrapped candy. Transfer the casoncelli to a baking sheet lined with floured waxed paper, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

For the crispy sage and pancetta: Put the butter, pancetta and sage in a sauté pan over low heat and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the pancetta and sage are crispy. The butter should also be browned at this point. Remove from the heat before the butter burns and keep hot.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, in batches if necessary to prevent crowding, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until just tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the casoncelli to a warmed, shallow bowl. Pour the butter over the pasta and sprinkle with the bits of crispy pancetta and sage.

Prep ahead: The filling can be made up to 6 hours ahead, covered and refrigerated, or it can be frozen for up to 1 month. The casoncelli can be frozen in a single layer, transferred to zippered plastic bags and stored in the freezer for up to 1 month. Cook directly from the freezer, adding 1 to 2 minutes to the cooking time.

Improv: If you don’t have all of the fresh meats for the filling, replace them with 1 pound veal shoulder. You can also use pancetta or other cured meats instead of the salami and prosciutto.

RECIPE COURTESY OF IL VIAGGIO DI VETRI

Basic Pasta Dough

My pasta dough is a little wetter than others I see. That gives you more time to work with it before it begins to dry out. If you use the dough right away, you can always add more flour as you are sheeting it. The amounts here make about 1 pound of dough, enough for 6 fully rolled pasta sheets, each 4- to 5-feet long. That is enough for about thirty-two 2-inch square (large ravioli) or forty-six 1-inch square (small) ravioli. Most of my recipes call for 1 pound of pasta, but if you need only 8 ounces, divide the recipe in half. I use weight rather than volume measurements for the ingredients in this recipe because flour weights vary, resulting in different volume measurements. Weight measurements are more accurate regardless of which brand of flour you use. Makes 1 pound.

Ingredients

6½ ounces (1¼cups) tipo 00 flour or all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2½ ounces (1/3 cup plus 1½ tablespoons) semolina flour

9 large egg yolks

3 to 4 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

Combine both flours in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the machine running on medium speed, add the egg yolks, water and oil and mix until the ingredients come together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes or until silky and smooth, kneading in more flour if the dough is too sticky. The dough is ready if it gently pulls back into place when stretched with your hands. Shape the dough into a 6-inch-long log, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days (it could get too soft and difficult to roll if left at room temperature).

Cut the dough into six equal pieces and let them return almost to room temperature. Position the rollers on a pasta machine at the widest setting and roll one piece of dough through the rollers two or three times, lightly dusting the dough with flour if necessary to prevent sticking. Reset the rollers to the next narrower setting and again pass the dough through the rollers two or three times, lightly dusting with flour as needed. Flour and pass the dough two or three times through each progressively narrower setting, concluding with the narrowest setting or as directed in individual recipes. Between rollings, continue to dust the dough lightly with flour if needed, always brushing off the excess. You should end up with a sheet 4- to 5-feet long and thin enough to see your hand through it when it is held up to the light.

Lay the pasta sheet on a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle lightly with flour. Use a knife or the cutter attachment on the pasta machine to create the pasta shape specified in individual recipes. When making ravioli, spray the pasta with a little water to keep it from drying out and to give you a little more time to work. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Prep ahead: The pasta dough can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 weeks. Bring the dough to room temperature before rolling and cutting.

RECIPE COURTESY OF IL VIAGGIO DI VETRI