Cappellacci are a speciality from Ferrara, which are sure to surprise you with their sweet and spicy pumpkin filling. I like to enhance the dough for the pasta ripiena with a touch of saffron. A feast for the eyes and a treat for the palate.Jump to Recipe
Traditionally, pumpkin cappellacci are not prepared with a saffron mixture. Instead, the filling is “sweetened” with Amaretti and Mostarda, a spicy fruit jam preserved with mustard. The first mention of pumpkin-filled pasta from the region dates back to 1584. Giovan Battista Rossetti, the court chef of the Ferrara princely family of d’Este, immortalised them in his cookbook as “pumpkin tortelli with butter”. At that time, pepper and ginger were added to the filling. A great contrast to the sweetish pumpkin – try it out!
Eat local: princely extravagance in the 16th century
The pumpkin tortelli were not part of the everyday diet of the d’Este family. They were served at official banquets, although pumpkin was rarely on the menu of the rich at that time. Pumpkin was something for the poor people. But the d’Este family had their own opinion: they preferred local food. The pumpkin probably because it shone decoratively like gold. The symbol of power and wealth. Whether the distinguished dinner guests were impressed by it is not clear from Rossetti’s notes.
Bandits with hats
According to legend, it was around 1870 that a gendarme gave the pumpkin tortelli the shape they have today. Inspiration was provided by a gang of bandits who were up to no good in the province of Ferrara at the time, and who repeatedly escaped the clutches of the police. The dirty hat (cappellaccio) that every robber wore was their trademark. One of the gendarmes, whose job it was to catch the bandits, was so engrossed in thoughts about his work while making tortelli that he made the bandits’ hats instead of tortelli out of the dough.
Cappellacci with pumpkin and saffron – Ferrara style
- 230 g flour 00
- 70 g durum wheat flour
- 3 eggs
- 0.2 g saffron powder
- 1 pumpkin – Hokkaido – approx. 700 g
- 300 g grana cheese alternatively, Parmesan
- black pepper from the mill
- sufficient butter
- 5 leaves sage
- grana cheese alternatively, Parmesan
First the dough for the cappellacci is prepared: heap the flour onto your work surface and form a hollow in the middle. Break the eggs into a small bowl. Add the saffron and whisk well with a fork. Place the eggs in the hollow and mix them with the flour from the inside out. Then knead the dough well for about 15 minutes, form it into a smooth ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. Now let it rest for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180° C (upper and lower heat). Wash, divide and core the pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin with the skin into even slices. They should not be too thick, so that the pumpkin is quickly cooked through, but thick enough so that the slices can stand on the skin. Line a tray with baking paper. Cover the paper with cooking salt. Place the pumpkin slices on the paper with the skin facing down. Depending on the thickness of the slices, bake for 20-30 minutes until the pumpkin is soft.
Let the pumpkin cool down. Remove the pumpkin flesh from the skin if it has remained too firm. Or remove the salt from the shell with a brush and mash the pumpkin flesh together with the shell with a fork. Season the filling with salt, nutmeg and pepper. Mix in the cheese well. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest until needed.
Roll out the pasta dough thinly. For this purpose, you can use either a rolling pin or a pasta machine. Cut squares of approx. 6 cm side length from the dough. Circles also work wonderfully. Put some filling in the middle of each, fold the dough in half, placing diagonally opposite sides together to form a triangle and press the edges around the filling. If the dough is too dry, moisten the edges with some water. Now join two tips of the triangle and press them together: and now you have your bandit hat!
Bring salt water to the boil. Let the cappellacci simmer for 3-4 minutes. Strain and toss in plenty of sage butter. Serve with grated Grana cheese and freshly ground black pepper.
Tip: Baking on salt
Baking the pumpkin in the oven on salt is as old as it is effective and guarantees the perfect consistency of the filling. A pumpkin filling for pasta dough should not be wet. Leave the pumpkin in the oven until the salt has browned slightly. Then the pumpkin has released most of its moisture to the salt and is soft. Do not throw the salt away. Only the salt soaked with pumpkin juice should be removed. The rest of the salt can be reused.