For any of those who have come to one of my pasta or dumpling cooking classes, you will be well aware that dumplings based on the idea of enclosing a savoury or sweet filling in a thin dough casing are spread widely across the world. In Italian cuisine they generally come in the form of ravioli, tortellini or agnolotti, in Asian cuisine there are wontons, gyoza, har gow, samosa and mandu (to name but a few) and other cuisines have other variations such as pierogi, empanada and khinkali.
Cappelletti are merely a variety of tortellini. Can you spot the difference between the two?
Tortellini are made by twisting a filled pasta pocket (either triangular or semi-circular in shape) so as to create a hollow dough filled ring, where as a cappelletti commences with a square or circular filled pasta pocket, twisted in a horizontal plane to create a solid shape.
Square pockets – create heart shape cappelletti | Circular Pockets – create hat shaped cappelletti
The most common cappelletti or tortellini are ‘3-cheese’ versions and they are generally added to a soup or broth (either during the cooking process or at the end) so they float on the surface. They are extremely popular as a Winter treat but you can fill the cappelletti with any filling of your choice be it an Italian meat filling or and Asian meat filling and made anytime during the year to be enjoyed how you like – a traditional Italian pasta sauce (red, cream or pesto) or Asian soup broth.
Makes – 6 serves
Ingredients – pasta dough
2 cups plain flour
drizzle of olive oil
pinch of salt
some water to bind (¼ – ½ cup, approximately)
Ingredients – 3-cheese filling
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
½ cup parmigiano reggiano cheese (parmesan)
good grinding of black pepper or nutmeg
1 or 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs (parsley, basil, sage) finely cut – optional
Ingredients – Italian meat filling
400 grams beef mince or (50/50 beef and pork)
1 small onion (finely diced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
2 or 3 tablespoons of fresh herbs (finely cut) or (half quantities if using dry
Ingredients – Asian meat filling
400 grams chicken or pork mince
1 small onion (finely diced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
small thumb ginger (minced)
1 egg – optional
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
2 or 3 tablespoons of fresh herbs (finely cut) – parsley, coriander, basil
1. Begin by mixing the pasta ingredients (minus water) in a bowl and work the egg and oil well into the flour/salt.
2. Once the fully combined, commence to add a little water at a time, working it into the bowl ingredients until you create a solid ball of dough.
Take it slowly, you do not wish to add too much water during the combining process, so the dough becomes too soft.
3. When the dough has formed into a solid ball, turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead it repeatedly for 2-3 minutes so it becomes smooth and has a uniform colour.
4. Set aside and allow the dough to rest whilst you commence making the filling.
5. Place ALL the filling ingredients into a bowl and mix until a smooth even mixture is created and then set aside whilst you create a number of thin sheets from the pasta dough.
6. Knead the ball of dough anew for 1 to 2 minutes and then cut it into 5 or 6 even pieces. You can then use a pasta making machine or a rolling pin to flatten the pasta pieces into thin, flat sheets of approximately ½ – 1 mm thickness.
Work the dough gradually into a thinner and thinner sheet, dusting it with a little flour between rolls to prevent it sticking to the pasta machine or the rolling pin and work surface.
7. After flattening each section of dough set it aside on a clean tea towel and roll the remaining dough pieces until ALL have been flattened to the desired thickness.
Forming the Cappelletti
8. For square (heart shape cappelletti) – take a sheet of pasta and cut it into a strip approximately 8 – 9 cm wide and align the strip lengthways in front of you. Place small dollops of filling in single file across the bottom-half surface of the dough, either using a piping bag or a teaspoon.
9. Brush around each small dollop with a little water or egg wash before gently folding the pasta strip in half so the top covers the bottom half with the filling in the middle.
10. Using your fingertips gently press the two pasta halves together, making sure to work around each dollop of filling, so as to expel as much air as possible.
11. Once the dollops are completely sealed, cut the strip of pasta between each dollop to create a number of squares and then twist the two adjoining corners on one side of each square to form an individual cappelletto. Set onto a lined tray and repeat for each pasta filled pocket and the remaining pasta sheets.
8. For circular (hat shaped cappelletti) – take a sheet of pasta and using a circular pastry cutter, punch out a number of discs from the sheet.
9. Take a cut disc of pasta and place a small dollop of the filling in the bottom half of the disc. Brush some water or egg wash around the dollop of filling and fold the disc in half so the dollop is covered.
10. Gently press the dough halves together working from the filling outwards until the two haves are sealed.
11. Take the two corners on the straight side of the semicircular pocket and twist them together so they join and form a circular cappelletto. Set onto a lined tray and repeat for each pasta filled pocket and the remaining pasta sheets.
To Cook the Cappelletti
12. Place a large pot of water onto the stove top and bring to the boil.
13. Add a good pinch of salt and gradually drop the individual cappelletti into the boiling water a few at a time until all are in the water.
14. Allow the water to return to the boil and cook for 8 – 10 minutes, stirring every so often (gently) so they don’t stick to the bottom or each other.
15. Add the cooked cappelletti to a soup or smother in your favourite pasta sauce and serve.
6 – 8 cappelletti are an entrée serve | 12 – 16 cappelletti are a main course serve
The only real method of knowing when the cappelletti are cooked is to taste one. The timing is dependent on the thickness of the pasta, the filling used, as well as the size of each cappelletto.
Any extra cappelletti can be frozen and cooked at a later date by dropping them from their frozen state into boiling water and cooking as described above.