Agnolotti al Brasato
I love Italian’s frugality with food, not letting a thing go to waste, and not eating their leftovers as slabs of meat or plates of pasta that you just heat up in the microwave, but recycling them into something completely new and completely different. This is a trend that extends from the South to the North, even in areas of the country that have historically always been wealthier than others. This pasta in particular comes from Piemonte, where the reign of the Savoia family comes from, who in 1860 became the kings of Italy, unifying a country that had for centuries been divided up into several different countries. A region that has a rich soil, makes some of the countries most prized and expensive wine and has, since the 19th century, had enormous strength in Italy’s Industrial Triangle as a home to FIAT. This is not a poor region, nor does it seem to ever have been. And yet, they would never throw their leftover meat to the dogs, but would stuff pasta with it for the next day’s meal.
I always have a great feeling of accomplishment when I make my own pasta, but making a stuffed pasta takes that feeling to a whole new level. I have attempted stuffed pasta before, but read the recipe a bit too literally and made the pasta way too thin, didn’t flour it enough and those beauties broke apart the moment they hit the boiling water. I believe I shed a few tears when that happened, all of that hard work in the trash.
I stuck to my instinct with these stuffed babies this time and didn’t roll the dough out so thin, filling them with the braised meat left over from the brasato that my husband had made the night before. They turned out beautifully, didn’t stick together or break in the water. The pasta held up and I was able to freeze half of the batch for another occasion.
I used a recipe from Lidia’s cookbook for the pasta dough instead of the recipe that I have been using from Mario Batali’s cookbook, there isn’t much difference, only this one uses more eggs and only the yolks, and it is pulled together with a food processor and not by hand. I liked the results, though would go either way, if you do not have a food processor and want to use fewer whole eggs, use Mario’s recipe.
agnolotti al brasato
- 2 slices of leftover brasato, shredded
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for working
- 9 large egg yolks
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp ice water, plus more as needed
- leftover braising liquid from the brasato for dressing the pasta
- grated parmigiano reggiano
Put the 2 cups of flour in the food processor, fitted with the metal blade, and process for a few seconds to aerate. Mix together the egg yolks, olive oil and 3 tbsp of the water in a spouted container. Start the food processor and pour in the liquids through the feed tube (scrape in all the drippings). Process for 30 to 40 seconds, until a dough forms and gathers on the blade. If the dough does not gather on the blade or process easily, it is too wet or too dry. Feel the dough, then work in either more flour or ice water, in small amounts, using the machine or kneading by hand.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface, and knead by hand for a minute, until it’s smooth, soft, and stretchy. Press it into a disk, wrap well in plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. (You can refrigerate the dough for up to a day, or freeze it for a month or more. Defrost in the refrigerator and return to room temperature before rolling.)
Cut the dough into 4 pieces, and wrap 3 of them again in plastic or just cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel. Flatten the piece of dough in a burger shape that is somewhat thicker in the middle and about ¼ inch thick at the edges. Set the rollers of the pasta machine to the widest setting. Dust the rollers with a bit of flour to be sure they are completely dry, and make sure there aren’t any bits of dried dough from last time. Using one hand, crank the handle to start the rollers, and feed the dough in with your other hand. As the flattened piece of dough emerges, catch it gently with a flat palm so as not to tear it. Fold the dough into thirds, flatten it slightly with your palms, and roll it out again. Repeat this process 5 times, then set the rollers to the next-thinnest setting and repeat the folding and process 6 times. At the third setting, repeat the process only 3 times, since the dough will be becoming more delicate. If the pasta sheet becomes too long to work with easily, cut it into 2 pieces and continue. As you work, dust the pasta sheet with a tiny pinch of flour only if it seems to be sticking – too much flour will dry out the dough. Roll the dough out through the progressively thinner settings, without folding it again, until you have reached the the thinnest that you desire (we went to the 4 setting on our pasta machine, you don’t want it to be too thin or the agnolotti will break). Do not pull the sheets of pasta out of the machine; rather, support each one lightly underneath as it emerges from the machine.
I created the shape of the pasta with a biscuit cutter, creating lovely little half moons. This is a simple way to make them if you don’t have many gadgets. In each circle place about 1 tsp of the braised meat in the middle, dip your finger in water and brush on the edge of the form. Fold the dough in half and seal together by pinching the two sides together with your fingers. Lay them spaced apart, in a single layer on a floured tray. Repeat the entire process with the remaining dough.
Cook the agnolotti right away, or refrigerate for a few hours, on the tray, sealed with plastic wrap. For longer storage, freeze them solid on the tray, then pack in freezer bags.
Fill a big pot with at least 6 quarts of water, 1 tbsp salt, and bring to a boil. Heat the leftover braising liquid in the meantime.
Cook only two dozen agnolotti at a time. When the water is at a rolling boil, shake the excess flour from the agnolotti and drop them into the pot. Stir well, and return to a boil rapidly. The agnolotti will drop to the bottom, then rise to the surface; keep moving and stirring them so they cook evenly and don’t stick. Cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, and check for doneness, biting into the thickest edge of the dough.
When they are fully cooked, lift the agnolotti with a spider, drain briefly, and spill them into the braising liquid, gently stirring and tumbling until they are well coated. Serve immediately.