In Italy, Cappellacci means a square pasta dumpling that is stuffed with pumpkin. It is the specialty of Ferrara and can also be found in other parts of Emilio-Romagna. Marcella explains in her book that she could not get the right textured pumpkin here in America, but believes the orange-fleshed sweet potato comes the closest and has shared this wonderful recipe.
I did not follow Marcella’s exact instructions, which called for 2-inch square ravioli. I made some square and some round and some much bigger than the recipe. I also had no amaretti cookies, but I did have some organic maple almond granola bought directly from the maker, and ground it to a powder in a food processor.
And, instead of making a butter cream sauce, I chose a browned butter with sweet onion, fresh sage, rosemary, thyme and parsley. It was delicious.
I hope this is not to much of a departure from the essence of the original, but I give myself full permission to adapt recipes, otherwise I might not be able to make them at all.
I often find that when helping others learn to cook, they rely too much upon the recipe, and then when they do make substitutes, it’s in the wrong places. But, I would rather see a home cook practice adaptation and learn from it, than maintain a rigid stance that the cookbook author never would do. A home cook must learn to trust their own taste buds, because all recipes require adaptation, as ingredients are not constants.
How to Not Follow a Recipe
- Understand the spirit of the chef This is an art that I have developed, not out of rebellion, but more practicality and in keeping with the spirit and integrity of the cook behind the recipe. Often I’ll ask, does this substitute keep the integrity of the dish or recreate a new one. Sometimes, driving across town to get one ingredient (like amaretti cookies) might be the opposite of what the author intended or would do herself. And, to purchase a tin of cookies because I only need two is not being smart in the kitchen. But, I don’t let that stop me from going forward with the recipe.
- Understand the frame of reference of the chef Italians made food great by perfecting what they had access to. And, while I would love to be in the little town of Ferrara, eating Cappellaci made from zucca barucca, I am here eating a delicious dish inspired by that town, using an granola from a local artisan, sweet potatoes and eggs (for the pasta) from my local farmer, and herbs from my own garden.
- Understand the Ingredients and why they are in the dish
The things that made this dish “the dish” were not compromised. Prosciutto, and plenty of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano graced the ravioli, and these are the two ingredients I would never substitute or leave out.
When making the filling, I was tempted to reduce the amount of cheese, but when I tasted it, I realized it needed the full amount. Some prosciutto is more salty than others, some cheeses more salty, etc. so tasting a dish along the way is key, because all recipes need adaptation.
Marcella’s has a few pages devoted to sauce and pasta pairing. A butter, cream sauce was recommended and I can see how makes sense, but the sun was shining, and the autumn chill tickled my fall herb taste buds. I made a browned butter not too different from the familiar sage browned butter sauce, but also included rosemary, thyme, and some sweet onion.
Cooking Italy: Cappellacci--Ravioli Filled with Sweet Potatoes, Autumn Browned Butter
Cappellacci-Ravioi Filled with Sweet Potatoes
- 1 3/4 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes I used 2 large
- 2 amaretti cookies imported from Italy (I used ground maple almond granola)
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 tablespoons chopped prosciutto
- 1 1/2 cups parmigiano-reggiano cheese
- 3 tablespoons parsley chopped very fine
- whole nutmeg
Autumn Browned Butter, my own recipe
- 1/2 sweet onion chopped finely
- 6 juniper berries optional
- 4 -6 tablespoons butter
- 6 small sage leaves
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 3 sprigs parsley
Cappellacci-Ravioli Filled with Sweet Potatoes
- Roast potatoes at 400 degrees until soft (about 40-50 minutes, depending on size. Remove skins. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well.
- Egg Pasta (recipe for ravioli can be found here) Skip the herbs)
- Cook ravioli in large pot of boiling, salted water. Cook just until al dente, 3-5 minutes.
Autumn Browned Butter
- Heat onion in butter with sage until onion and sage are crispy
- Remove other herbs before serving, Garnish with crispy sage.
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