Italian food is beloved globally — in fact, YouGov found that it was the most favoured cuisine worldwide, scoring an average popularity of 84 percent! But while we all know the staples, it’s easy to forget how versatile this food is.
One of our favourites are pasta parcels, but did you know that they go far and wide, way beyond ravioli and tortellini? Each Italian region has its own version of these dumplings, each using different shapes, fillings and sauces. If you’re an Italian cuisine connoisseur, make sure to check out these four options that will really make you shout Mamma Mia!
If you’re a big Eurovision fan, you might recognise the region of Piedmont for its capital, Turin, where the 2022 contest took place. However, it is safe to say that agnolotti are the second most famous thing to come out of the Italian-French-Swiss border.
Similarly to ravioli, agnolotti are square-shaped and are traditionally served in beef broth or sage butter sauce. They are usually filled with roasted meat or vegetables, and some regions within Piedmont have their own speciality – the Monferrato area, for example, stuffs these pasta parcels with donkey meat.
You may recognise agnolotti in a different shape, though, called agnolotti del plin. “The name for this specialty comes from the regional dialect where plin literally translates to ‘pinch’, describing the technique used to make this pasta,” explain the experts at Pasta Evangelists. “The sheets of pasta are pinched together to form small pouches of agnolotti.” This twist makes the agnolotti completely unique, so if you ask us, the pinched option is definitely the one to go with if you’ve never had it before.
Speaking of border areas, mezzelune have an interesting history in this regard. Found along the Austrian border in the regions of South Tyrol and Tyrol, they work beautifully with the breathtaking Alpine scenery. In these multi-lingual areas, the mezzelune — known to the German-speaking population as Schlutzkrapfen and to the Ladin speakers as crafuncins or cajincì — are half-moons of scrumptiousness.
The dough can either be made of the usual durum semolina, or, like a dish that is also heavily consumed in Austria, buckwheat flour. Fillings are normally light in essence, ranging from different types of cheese (ricotta is our favourite, but mozzarella, quark and bitto also work), spinach and mushrooms. However, you can also find meat-based versions, as well as potato, beet, and sauerkraut.
Sauces are varied with these pasta parcels, depending on the filling: from lighter pesto, cherry tomato or mushroom sauces to more prominent salsiccia sausage or seafood options. This versatile parcel shows the diversity of Italian cuisine and its European influences in the most delicious way.
Competing for the title of the cutest pasta parcel ever created, fagottini (Italian for ‘little bundles’) look like pointy squares or small purses. These ravioli-sized pyramids can be filled with anything from meat to cheese and vegetables. However, the latter is the most common, with ricotta, carrots, green beans, truffles, or even fresh pear being favoured.
The two main versions are quattro formaggi (four cheeses) which includes ricotta, parmesan, Pecorino Romano and gorgonzola, or alla funghi (with mushrooms), usually containing a variety of mushrooms like porcini, crimini, shiitake or oyster, together with butter and sage.
Because of the versatility of the dish, it is usually served either with a light chicken broth or with a butter and sage sauce, allowing the flavours of the filling to fully shine.
A Lombardian delicacy, casoncelli (or casonsèi in the local dialect) originate from the ancient city of Bergamo, around 30 minutes from Milan. They are shaped like folded half-moons, and are considered a staple in the cuisine of the region, with VisitBergamo going all the way to describe them as “the symbol of Bergamask cooking”.
Casoncelli, like many other stuffed pastas, traditionally hold leftover meats, particularly pork and beef, making them the ideal Monday dinner if you have anything left from your Sunday roast. The original recipe calls for breadcrumbs, egg, parmesan, ground beef and salami. However, nowadays the quintessential casoncelli also involves amaretti biscuits and sultanas, resulting in a succulent sweet and savoury finish.
Due to the punchy flavours of the dish, the preferred sauce is butter and sage. If you want to be fancy, you can add some speck or pancetta to the sauce to really elevate the bite.