In Italian, cappelletti means “little hats,” and that’s what these pasta shapes are supposed to represent. They are very similar to tortellini, and actually I couldn’t find any information about what makes the two different. Both types are connected to the legend of a man who created the ring-shaped stuffed pasta, inspired by the image of a woman’s belly button (the details of the story vary throughout different parts of Italy). I would definitely prefer to think of them as little hats.
Cappelletti are usually filled with ground or finely chopped chicken or pork and ricotta cheese, and seasoned with nutmeg traditionally. This recipe for cappelletti in broth is actually very popular around Christmas, but the hot soup is comforting and delicious at any time. The cappelletti can also be cooked in boiling water, then drained and served with tomato sauce (my recipe is here!) or cream sauce.
I don’t have a pasta machine, but I like to make pasta by hand (like these ravioli I made a few months ago). I really don’t think you need a pasta machine to do it! I make mine by cracking an egg into a hole that I make in a pile of flour. It is really important to have the egg at room temperature, because if it is too cold, the pasta dough will be too stiff to roll out. This isn’t as important if you are using a pasta machine, but if you’re rolling pasta by hand it really makes a difference!
I mix the egg up with a fork, incorporating the flour little by little. By the time the dough is stiff but not sticky anymore, I am usually left with a bit of extra flour, which I use to make sure that the dough doesn’t stick to the counter when I knead it or roll it out.
You can use something heavy to roll the pasta out thin. If you have a rolling pin, then that’s good but sometimes I use a can of beans or a ceramic mug, which works really nicely too. Just make it as thin as you can (but don’t worry because you can flatten each individual circle for making the cappelletti when you cut them out).
I made the filling by stirring together ricotta, grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and a little nutmeg.
Then I formed the little hats. Here’s a picture guide I made:
Once you get the hang of how to do it, it’s really fun!
I dropped the pastas into boiling broth, and cooked them until the broth started boiling again and all the cappelletti floated to the top:
The nutmeg in the ricotta filling really gives this dish a unique, old-fashioned flavor
I think the pasta by itself is a little heavy (or maybe it’s just too easy to eat all of them because they are so delicious!) but in the light broth they make a perfect, comforting winter soup.
You can serve it with extra grated parmesan and pepper on top if you want to. My recipe makes about 15-20 pieces of pasta, and the soup serves two to three people.
Cappelletti in Brodo (Soup with Cheese-Stuffed Pasta)
2/3 cup flour
¼ cup whole-milk ricotta
2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
a pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
Let the egg come to room temperature.
Put the flour onto a cutting board or counter, and make a hole in the middle of the flour, then crack the egg into it.
Use a fork to mix up the egg and gradually mix in the flour (you may not use all of the flour there, you can leave some to knead and roll out the dough with). The dough should be roll-able but not sticky.
Roll it as thin as possible (you can use a pasta machine for this, but I just roll it out with the side of a drinking glass or you can use a rolling pin if you have that).
Make the filling by mixing together ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
Cut circle shapes out of the pasta dough and flatten them in your hands. Put a little filling inside each one, then fold one side over to cover the ricotta and seal edges together with a little water. Pinch the right and left sides together to make a ring shape.
Bring the broth to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until the soup comes to a boil and the cappelletti all float to the top. Serve hot with a little more grated parmesan cheese on top if you want.