Squash Tortelli

The history of the squash tortelli begins in Northern Italy, more precisely in Mantova, during the Renaissance, probably with the contribution of a Jewish cook. Originally a dish of the peasants, due to its ingredients which don’t include meat (which was too expensive at the time), the squash tortelli became a must have on the table of the rich and were soon established as a tradition for the dinner of 24th December, when Catholics are not allowed to eat meat. Many versions of this sort of tortelli are reported: during the centuries, the Italian cuisine developed a lot of different recipes, especially the city of Cremona, which changed the original recipe by removing the squash and adding other stuff in order to have some really sweet tortelli. The following is the recipe I found in the kitchen diary of my family. My personal touch is in the balance of the super traditional ingredients. 

Serves 6

  • 400 gr plain flour
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 1,5 kg peeled and deseeded squash
  • 75 gr Mostarda di Cremona (not to be confused with mustard: it is a sort of slightly spicy apple jam, probably available in Italian grocery shops or certainly on line)
  • 100 gr Amaretti biscuits, crumbled
  • 150 gr good Italian parmesan, grated
  • 1 spoon chopped parsley
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • a pinch of nutmeg, grated
  • 100 gr butter, melted
  • 5-6 sage leaves

The day ahead prepare the filling: cut the squash into thick slices and place on a tray lined with parchment paper. Brush with a few drops of extravirgin olive oil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 180°C until tender and golden.

Use a pestel and mortar to reduce the Amaretti to a crumble.

Let the squash cool at room temperature and whizz with a food processor until creamy. Add the Mostarda, Amaretti, parmesan, cinnamon, nutmeg, parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let it rest in the fridge for 24 hours before using.

Place the eggs, flour and a half of an egg shell amount of water into a food processor or a kneading machine. Knead for 5-7 minutes until you obtain a smooth lump. Wrap with cling film and let it rest in the fridge for one hour.

If you want to make the dough the traditional way, by hand, place the flour on a large board, make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it. Beat the eggs with a fork and incorporate the flour little by little scraping the side, until the eggs and flour are thoroughly combined. Knead the dough working with the back of your wrists for at least 10 minutes, working with a regular rhythm until you obtain a smooth and uniform lump of dough. Also in this case, wrap the dough with cling film and let it rest in the fridge for one hour.

Now fetch the dough from the fridge and knead it by hand for an additional 5 minutes working with the back of your wrists and adding a small quantity of flour if needed. Dust the board with some flour (not a lot or your dough will become dry), press the dough out flat with your fingertips and roll using a rolling pin until very thin.  Cut into squares of 4/5 cm and place around half a teaspoon of the filling in the centre. At this point brush the sides with a bit of water, so that the tortelli will be more stiffly closed.

Fold the filled squares in a shape of a triangle, pressing with your fingertips along the sides. Pinch one end of the triangle, then using the other two fingers wrap the opposite end around your first index finger, then press the two ends together, and voilà your tortello is ready.

While closing the tortelli, place on a clean tea cloth dusted with flour, then boil in hot salted water for 4-5 minutes. Drain well, season with the butter, previously melted in a little pan with the sage, and serve immediately.

Pear & amaretto pie

IMG_7168 (806x1000) Of all the possible cake choices he had, my nephew Simone ended up opting for this very pie for his thirtieth birthday. Rich in flavour, moisture and with an irresistibly fluffy texture, this pie is easy to make as well. Make the most of it by serving with a good, plain vanilla custard or ice cream.

Serves 6/8

  • 65 gr amaretto biscuits+ 30 gr
  • 90 gr plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 100 gr butter + 50
  • 80 gr brown sugar + 50
  • 2 free range eggs
  • 1,5 kg pears

 

Reduce the amaretto biscuits to a powder using a blender, then combine with the flour, baking powder and salt.

Whip 100 gr butter wiht 80 gr brown sugar using a whisk; incorporate the eggs and keep whipping until light and fluffy. Add the mixture of flour and biscuits.

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Butter a cake tin, powder 5-6 biscuits and dust the tin as it were flour.

Transfer the batter in the pan and pre heat the oven to 180°C.

Peel, quarter and finely slice the pears, then lay orderly on the batter. Melt  50 gr butter, spread it out and scatter with the 50 gr sugar and some furhter biscuits crumbs. Bake at 180° for 40 minutes.

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Serve lukewarm or cold, better if made the day before.

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Budino di zucca

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Con le prime zucche autunnali, ecco un secondo vegetariano dal sapore deciso e delicato insieme. Si prepara in anticipo, volendo, e fa un’ottima figura in tavola.

Ingredienti per 6 stampini

  • 400 gr ricotta
  • 100 gr pecorino
  • 5 amaretti morbidi
  • 1 punta di cucchiaino di cannella in polvere
  • 1 grattata di noce moscata
  • 600 gr zucca  (se la trovate, la migliore è la tipo Kyoto)
  • 1 mazzetto prezzemolo

Pulite la zucca, eliminate i semi e tagliatela a fettine sottilissime, circa 2-3 mm. Appoggiatele sulla placca del forno coperta di carta speciale e spennellatele con un’emulsione di 2 cucchiai di acqua e 1 di olio. Salate, pepate e fate cuocere, ventilando, a 180°-160° per circa 30 minuti: la zucca deve cuocere e contemporaneamente asciugarsi un po’, colorendosi.

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Torta di mele del Monferrato

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Ecco una torta meravigliosa, facile da fare e splendida da servire alla fine di una cena anche impegnativa sul piano delle calorie; non contiene grassi, è morbida e bagnata, ed è adatta anche a chi è intollerante alle proteine del latte.

 

Ingredienti per 8- 10 persone

  • 7 mele renette
  • 1 bottiglia di vino passito non troppo dolce
  • 180 gr zucchero
  • 300 gr amaretti morbidi
  • 70 gr cacao amaro
  • 4 uova bio

 

Pelate le mele, eliminate il torsolo e tagliatele a pezzetti. Sistematele in una pentola dal fondo pesante, bagnatele con il vino e lasciatele cuocere per una ventina di minuti, finché saranno sfatte e il sugo ben assorbito, e lasciatele intiepidire.

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Intanto, passate al mixer gli amaretti insieme allo zucchero e al cacao; quando le mele saranno tiepide aggiungetele agli ingredienti frullati, incorporando anche le uova, una alla volta.

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Foderate con carta da forno bagnata e strizzata una teglia da 26 cm diametro, versatevi l’impasto e cuocete in forno a 160° per 40 minuti.

Sformate il dolce quando sarà a temperatura ambiente e servitelo decorandolo con polvere di cacao.

 

Bonet di zucca castagna

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Tempo di zucche! Halloween o non Halloween, questa è la stagione, e se ne trovano diversi tipi. Per i dolci, o per gli gnocchi e i ripieni dei tortelloni, consiglio soprattutto la qualità Uchiki Kuri, o zucca di Hokkaido: a pasta sodissima, con la buccia sottile  colore arancione, ricorda molto il sapore della castagna. Oggi vi suggerisco una versione con zucca del bonet, che è, alla lontana, una sorta di créme caramel con il cacao, di origine piemontese. La zucca dà una consistenza e un sapore molto, molto interessanti. Se non trovate la zucca Uchiki Kuri (di solito nei mercatini e nei negozi bio), potete sostituirla con quella mantovana, anch’essa asciutta e saporita.

Ingredienti

  • 400 gr di purea di zucca Uchiki Kuri (ve ne servirà circa 1 kg)
  • 60 gr amaretti morbidi
  • 3 uova bio
  • 60 gr cacao amaro in polvere
  • olio essenziale di mandarino o la buccia grattugiata di un mandarino piccolo
  • 575 ml latte (anche parzialmente scremato)
  • 200 gr zucchero + 100 per il caramello

Innanzitutto preparate il caramello, mettendo sul fuoco lo zucchero insieme a pochissima acqua e lasciandolo cuocere senza mescolarlo, finché sarà diventato di un bel colore biondo scuro. Rivestite il fondo e le pareti di uno stampo liscio da budino, e lasciate indurire il caramello.

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