You look at the image and you want some, right? That's what happened to me: I read about cappellacci dei briganti in the "Encyclopedia of Pasta" by Oretta Zanini De Vita and I immediately made a batch.
The word cappellaccio comes from cappello (hat). The suffix has a negative connotation, which matches the idea that they are worn by lawless characters. According to Zanini De Vita, this pasta is typical of Molise, the Italian region sandwiched between Abruzzo and Puglia. (Note that there is another type of pasta whose name includes cappellacci, namely cappellacci di zucca, a type of stuffed pasta typical of Ferrara.)
The name of this pasta shape evokes tales of travellers being ambushed and robbed by men wrapped in dark cloaks, their faces shadowed by tall hats. Despite the fearsome name, this pasta is quite cute and not particularly difficult to make, but it requires close attention to the movements of your hands.
My first attempt was successful, but I was not totally satisfied with the way my cappellacci looked after the required rest, so I searched the web and found an image in this article (in Italian, click on the magnifying glass icon to see the whole image), which gave me the idea of pressing the front of the brim against the conical portion of the hat. I tried it and liked the result, so that's how I have made my cappellacci dei briganti ever since.
You can see my hands at work in this short video — in which you can also hear my husband say "Action!"
As usual, my recommendation is to start by making un uovo di pasta, a small amount of dough, so you don't get overwhelmed by the task. When your hands become proficient at making cappellacci, you can increase the amount of dough and delight more people. To make the pasta dough, I used the KAF Pasta Blend previously mentioned and was happy with the result. For one extra-large egg, I weigh 80 g of flour. I then add more flour, as needed, to get a dough of the right consistency. It is better to have to add flour than to find yourself with a hard dough (my mother's wisdom).
- 80 g (a teaspoon less than 3 oz.) flour [see paragraph above] plus more as needed to obtain the dough
by my measuring, 80 g of King Arthur's Pasta Blend correspond to 1/2 cup, but this is not what the packaging states and in any case, I recommend you weigh the flour
- 1 extra-large egg
- A pinch of sea salt
On your work surface, create a well with the flour and crack the egg directly into it. Sprinkle the salt. Scramble the egg with a fork. Draw flour from the sides of the well into the center, mixing well with the egg.
Trade the fork for your fingertips. Draw flour until a soft dough forms. Add more flour, as needed. Continue to knead the dough, 8-10 minutes. Cover the dough and let it rest for an hour or so (at least half an hour).
Roll dough by hand or with a pasta machine. On my machine, I stop at the penultimate notch. Zanini De Vita mentions an inverted liqueur glass as implement to cut the circles from which to shape the cappellacci. A two-inch biscuit cutter is perfect for the task and actually, in my opinion, more comfortable to use than a glass.
Wrap one circle around the tip of your index finger (indice) to form a cone. Fold back the side of the brim opposite to the seam and press it against the cone, then slide the cappellaccio off the finger and place it upright on the lightly floured work surface, resting on the lateral sides of the brim. Make sure the index finger you are using as support to shape the pasta is floured, otherwise you won't be able to take the cappellaccio off at the end without misshaping it.
Knead together the cutouts (ritagli di pasta) and cover them while you work, then roll them again. Continue until all the dough is used. Let the cappellacci dry for at least a couple of hours, so they will hold their shape better while cooking. I usually make cappellacci in the morning, if I plan to cook them for lunch.
Boil in plenty of salted water. Always handle the cappellacci with a delicate touch, when you transfer them into the pot, when you stir them while cooking and then when you dress them. You will be rewarded with a truly pretty plate of pasta that will delight the eyes and palates of your guests.
I dress the cappellacci with my usual sugo di pomodoro. I have been carefully drawing from my stash of frozen strained roasted tomatoes, which is a joy to use and will last me until the new tomato crop comes around.
I will add this recipe to my growing collection of pasta shapes. Please, do let me know if you try your hand at making any of them.
I am submitting this recipe, bookmarked on the book "Encyclopedia of Pasta" by Oretta Zanini De Vita to Bookmarked Recipes #23, an event originally started by Ruth of Ruth’s Kitchen Experiments and now hosted by Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes.
This post contains the roundup of the event.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the cappellacci dei briganti audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]