The traditional egg-based pasta of Piemonte — scrumptious meat-filled pockets called agnolotti del plin — are delicious when paired with medium-bodied, red Ruché. Try a hand at this recipe, but be sure to invite guests; no one will forgive you when they find out you didn't share!
Tiny pockets of filled egg pasta, Agnolotti del Plin have their origins in the rich, culinary tradition of Piemonte, Italy. Sometimes also referred to as Ravioli al Plin, they were lovingly prepared by the farming peoples of rustic Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato in the 19th century.
Said to be named after a local Monferrato cook called ‘Angiolino’ they are a delicious way to use leftover roast meats and veggies and old spelling variations of their name (piat d’angelot or angelotti) can still be seen on menus today. Agnolotti del Plin are traditionally filled with veal, but roast pork and rabbit are tasty alternatives. Vegetables such as spinach, beets, carrots, onions and celery also make the filling. The pasta should be made with plenty of egg yolks to give it a rich yellow color and rolled out thin enough so that the roast meat and vegetables can be seen peeking appetizingly through.
Often made by hand, the pasta pockets are pinched or pleated together. ‘Plin’ actually means ‘pinched’ in local Piemontese dialect. The agnolotti may be served in sugo d’arrosto (roast meat sauce) and the pinch serves to enhance the taste in the way the sugo catches on the pasta.
An alternative recipe for the sauce is to drizzle a little melted butter, finely grated parmesan and fresh sage. More complex sauces would detract from the flavours in the pockets. Stalwart traditionalists though say they should be eaten without any sauce at all, to better appreciate the flavours and perfumes of the meat and vegetable filling.
Agnolotti del Plin (for around 12 people)
Ingredients (for 12 people)
To make the pasta...
1 kg of white flour (tipo ‘00’ from Italian supermarkets)
9 egg yolks
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
To make the filling…
500g of roast veal leftovers
500g of pork thigh
600g of spinach
100g of parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper
Traditionally a dish made from roasted meat leftovers, the first step in preparation is to brown the meat for the filling.
Brown the meats in oil, a little butter, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper on high heat for about 15 minutes. Then cook over medium heat for a further hour and 15 minutes so that the meat juices blend together. Leave to cook and cut the meat up into tiny pieces.
In the meantime, boil the spinach in salted water in a casserole dish. Drain the spinach and then cook lightly in a frying pan together with a little butter. Then cut the spinach into tiny pieces.
Place the meat and the spinach in a tureen. Add the parmesan cheese, 3 eggs, a pinch of ground cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste.
Now prepare the pasta.
Place the flour on a pastry board and add all the other ingredients. Mix carefully together and put the pasta through a pasta machine to make strips of very fine (almost transparent) yellow pasta.
Taking care not to let the pasta harden, place a hazelnut-sized amount of filling along the pasta strips at regular intervals to cover half of the strip. They should be placed around 1cm from the edge of each strip and 1cm distance from each other.
Next, fold the empty part of the pasta strip over the section with the filling. Press down gently with the fingertips around the edges of the filling. Cut into rectangles with a serrated pastry wheel. You have now made your ‘agnolotti’.
To turn them into ‘plin’, very gently bend and pinch together two opposite long edges of each ‘agnolotto’ between thumb and forefinger. Press gently and you now have your ‘agnolotti del plin’. Leave out to dry lightly for around two hours.
The filling for Agnolotti del Plin can differ slightly according to the area in which they are traditionally prepared. For example, in some areas of the Langhe, instead of using veal and pork, some prefer rabbit for the filling. And seasonal winter vegetables can include locally grown cabbage (cavolo verza) and endive (scarola). You may prefer to go luxurious though and eat them with shavings of tartufo bianco from the Langhe town of Alba!
Cooking the Agnolotti del Plin
Agnolotti del Plin are cooked for just a few minutes in boiling water and can be served either with a little roast meant sauce (sugo d’arrosto) or butter, parmesan and sage (burro, parmigiano e salvia). Alternatively, you can choose to eat them as they would have often done in the past – served piping hot straight onto a white napkin or savoured right from a bowl with a full-bodied red wine to enhance the taste of the egg pasta, succulent roast meats, and seasonal vegetables.
For the perfect wine accompaniment, you can’t go wrong with a red Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato (pronounced roo-kay). A medium-bodied red with moderate acidity and soft tannins, it emits floral notes and a zing of pepper and wild berries.
Ruché is made of at least 90% Ruché grapes and 10% Brachetto or Barbera. Produced in just seven townships located northeast of the city of Asti, this wine was once one of Piemonte’s rarest. It was not available beyond its zone of production for years. Now, with its DOCG certification in 2010, production and interest have both grown. Today, Ruché can even be found outside of Italy. Buon appetito!
Lara Statham was born in the UK. She has lived in Greece, Hungary, Jordan and Egypt but has called Turin, Piedmont home for the past 17 years. A fan of Piedmontese cuisine and wines, with a penchant for Langhe’s reds, she writes for www.turinitalyguide.com an online travel guide and lifestyle blog about Turin and Piedmont.