I don’t know about you guys but I had never heard of this pasta before. And it got me so excited because that’s exactly why I love travel — to discover new food so that I can get inspired to get back in my kitchen and make it myself!
Ever since we launched our group trips to Northern Italy’s Lombardy region, we've fallen for the food of Lombardy and discovered so many flavors that are new to us. one of those first trips to Lombardy my food discovery was this pasta, which is known as casoncelli (actually it’s also called casonsei in the local dialect). Here’s the thing: this pasta is undoubtedly from Lombardy and everyone you come across will recommend you try it; however, no two casoncelli recipes are exactly the same.
Across Lombardy you’ll find the pasta with a slightly different filling — some stuffed with shredded pork, others with raisins and Grana Padano cheese, some with pears and amaretti cookies and others without — and even slightly different shapes — some more of a half-moon while others, like these, resemble a candy wrapper.
What is consistent is that the casoncelli are a stuffed pasta that hails from the Lombardy region and uses ingredients that are totally 100% Lombardy, from the local cheese Grana Padano and the butter sauce (this region of Italy uses butter more than olive oil!) to the local macaron-like cookies, amaretti so you’re eating the flavors of the region with every bite.
Yes, this recipe is an undertaking, as it’s about 3 hours from start to, so it’s the kind of recipe you’ll want to take on as a weekend project. But do make this pasta because it has quickly become one of my favorites!
By the way, this recipe makes a lot of pasta. But I say once you decide to make homemade pasta, you might as well go for it. I make a full recipe, let the shaped pasta dry for a few hours at room temperature then cook what I want to eat and freeze the rest (by first freezing the pieces on an uncovered baking sheet then combining them all in an airtight container for storage). The pasta will last up to 1 month in the freezer so if you want homemade pasta at your next dinner party or holiday feast, you can make them ahead of time, freeze them and then just cook them and the sauce the day of!
Oh, and if you don’t want to make the full recipe, that’s totally fine. The pasta dough is a workhouse dough that is perfect for shaped and filled pastas or just toss your favorite store bought pasta in the uber-comforting smoky, sage-y brown butter sauce.
or all purpose flour
plus more for rolling and shaping dough
or Parmigiano Reggiano, divided
For The Pasta Dough: Combine the flours and a pinch of salt in a Food Processor fit with an “S” blade and run on high until the flours are well combined. With the food processor running, pour in the eggs (make sure they’re well beaten) and run until the dough comes together into a ball.
Turn the pasta dough onto a floured surface and knead it for 8 to 10 minutes until it comes together as a smooth ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside to rest for at least 30 minutes before using.
Pasta dough can be made to this step up to 1 day ahead. Store the dough wrapped in plastic, placed in a resealable plastic bag, and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.
For The Filling: Combine the meat in a 10-inch Nonstick Pan over medium high heat and cook, breaking up the meat with the back of a wooden spoon, until the meat is cooked through. Set aside to cool briefly. (Meat can be cooked up to 2 days ahead. Store refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use.)
Once the meat is cool enough to handle, place it in the bowl of 14-Cup Food Processor fit with an “S” blade and add in all the remaining filling ingredients. Run the food processor on high until the mixture is well combined and all the ingredients are the same size.
Filling can be made up to 1 day ahead. Store refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use.
For The Casoncelli Pasta Formation: Secure a tabletop pasta machine to a counter or fit the Pasta Roller attachment onto the KitchenAid Stand Mixer. Cut dough into six pieces (they need to fit in the Pasta Roller). Press each piece into a rectangle shape. (Cover the pieces you aren't using with a kitchen towel so they don't dry out.)
Pull the roller adjustment knob straight out and turn to setting 1. Release the knob, making certain the pin on the roller housing engages the opening on the back of the adjustment knob, allowing the knob to fit flush against the roller housing.
Turn Stand Mixer to speed 2. Feed flattened, lightly floured dough into rollers to knead. Fold dough in thirds, flatten, lightly flour, and roll again. Repeat until dough is smooth and pliable and covers the width of the roller. Lightly dust pasta with flour while rolling and cutting to aid in drying and separation.
Feed dough through rollers to further flatten the sheet of dough. Change the roller to setting 3, and repeat the rolling process. Continue to increase roller setting until you reach setting 8. Do not fold the dough during this step. Cut dough as needed to make it wieldy.
Once all dough is rolled to setting 8, trim all the dough into 4-inch by 3-inch rectangles, lightly flouring as you go and discarding the scraps. When you have all the dough trimmed, arrange a few pasta rectangles on a lightly floured work surface and brush off any excess flour.
Add rounded 1/4 teaspoon of the filling to the center of one of the shorter ends of the dough. With a pastry brush dipped in water, brush a little water on the edges of the pasta. Starting a the end with the filling, roll the pasta into a cylinder. Then press down on either side of the pasta filling to seal the pasta. Pinch the sides so you make the pasta into the shape of a candy wrapper.
Place filled pasta on a lightly floured cutting board or a lightly floured rimmed baking sheet and set aside while you repeat with all the remaining dough. Let pasta shapes dry at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before using.
The formed Casoncelli pasta can be made up to 1 month ahead of time. Freeze pasta on a baking sheet and once fully frozen, store frozen in an airtight container.
For The Pancetta Brown Butter Pasta Sauce: Meanwhile, place pancetta in a 3.3 Quart Nonstick Pan and cook on medium-high heat until the pancetta is crisp and browned. Remove pancetta from the pan and place on a paper-towel lined baking sheet. (Pancetta can be crisped up to 8 hours ahead of time. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.)
Discard all but 2 tablespoons fat drippings and return the pan to the stove over medium high heat. Add sage leaves to the pan and cook until crisp. Remove pancetta from the pan and place on a paper-towel lined baking sheet. (The sage can be crisped up to 1 day ahead of time. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.)
Add butter to dripping in the pan, return to the stove over medium heat, and cook until butter turns nut-brown and smells toasty then turn heat to a minimum. (Butter can be browned up to 8 hours ahead of time. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.)
When the pasta is just about done, reserve 2 cups of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and add it to the butter in the pan along with 1 1/2 cups of the water and the lemon juice. Cook until some of the water is absorbed and the pasta is perfectly al dente.
Remove from heat, and stir in cheese — the sauce should become creamy, thin it with a little more water, as needed. Season well with salt, and serve immediately garnished with pancetta and sage and passing additional grated cheese at the table.
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