Agnolotti del Plin
Agnolotti del Plin (plin means pinch, which is how to form the shape of the finished product) are small pasta stuffed with roasted meat and spinach. This dish originates in Piemonte, a northwestern region of Italy. Traditionally the agnolotti is made with leftover roasted meat such as pork, beef, or chicken. You can, however, use freshly roasted meat just for the purpose of making the agnolotti.
Agnolotti are very similar to ravioli. This is why I think I was drawn to learning how to make them because ravioli are one of my family favorites. Growing up, my mother made ravioli only two or three times a year, and one of those times was Christmas day. One main difference between agnolotti and ravioli is that the agnolotti pasta, known as tajarin, is made with egg yolks only, and the egg/flour ratio is higher than that of regular pasta dough. Another difference is how they are assembled. Agnolotti are formed by one piece of pasta that is folded over and sealed, and ravioli are formed from two individual pieces of pasta placed one on top of the other and then sealed to form the ravioli. The tajarin pasta is typically served with a simple butter and sage sauce and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese. For a special treat you can shave fresh truffle over top (this is not really an option for most of us here in the USA), or you can use truffle butter, which can be found in many grocery stores.
Let’s start by preparing the roasted meat
Ingredients for roasted meat:
8 – oz. pork tenderloin
8 – oz. skinless chicken thighs
1 – small onion
2 – cloves garlic
2 – sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 – cup chicken broth
ground black pepper
You can roast the meat the day before to save time. Preheat the oven to 425°F. While the oven is heating, sprinkle a little salt and black pepper over the chicken thighs and pork tenderloin. Heat a little oil in a skillet with garlic cloves, and add the meat to brown it on both sides. Transfer the browned meat and garlic cloves into a roasting pan. Peel and cut a medium sized onion into 4 pieces and add them to the roasting pan. Next pour in the chicken stock, and add the sprigs of rosemary and sprinkle a little salt and black pepper over everything. Cover the pan with foil and roast for about 30 minutes or until the inside temperature of the chicken is 165°F.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. If you roast the meat the day before, be sure to keep the onion and juices along with the meat in a covered container and refrigerate until you are ready to make the agnolotti.
Prepare the pasta dough
Ingredients for Tajarin pasta dough:
2 – cups all purpose flour
9 – large egg yolks only
2 – tbls olive oil
1/2 – tsp. salt
1/4 -1/2 – cup ice water
Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the egg yolks, olive oil, ice water, and salt into the center of the well. Take a fork and whisk the egg yolks as if you are making scrambled eggs. Once the yolks are broken down, continue to whisk the mixture, and gradually incorporate some of the flour into it with the fork.
Once all the flour is incorporated, clumps will form. Add a few drops of water at a time as necessary until the flour and eggs start to adhere. The dough will be a little dry. Once the dough takes form, turn the dough out onto a floured, flat surface.
Rub a little olive oil on your hands and knead the dough until it feels smooth and soft. This will take about 5 minutes. Now form the pasta into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Set it aside at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before you roll out the pasta.
Meanwhile, it’s time to prepare the filling
While the pasta dough is resting, prepare the filling for the agnolotti.
Ingredients for the agnolotti filling:
12 – oz. fresh baby spinach
1 – large egg
1 – tsp. salt
1/3 – tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 – tsp. ground black pepper
1 – tbls. butter
1/3 – cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Roasted meat you prepared earlier
Put the butter into a large skillet, and heat on medium just until it melts. Add the baby spinach and sprinkle with a little salt. Mix the spinach so it all gets coated with the butter and cook until it wilts. This will only take a minute or two. Remove the cooked spinach to a strainer and let drain into a bowl.
Remove the chicken from the bone and slice the pork tenderloin into several pieces. Use a large knife to chop the meat and the roasted onion into small pieces and place it into a large bowl.
Squeeze the excess water out of the cooked spinach, and use a knife to chop it into small pieces.
In a small bowl, add the egg, salt, nutmeg, black pepper, and Parmigiano cheese and whip with a fork until completely combined. Add the egg mixture and the spinach to the chopped meat and mix thoroughly.
Assemble the Agnolotti
Unwrap the pasta dough. It should be smooth and silky. Cut the disk into four pieces.
Use a rolling pin to flatten one quarter of the pasta to put into the pasta machine. Cover the remaining pasta under a bowl to keep it from drying out. Sprinkle a little four onto the roll of the pasta machine, and set it to its widest setting (number 1). Pass it through twice, then change the setting to number 2, pass the pasta through once, and continue to do the same with each consecutive number until you have rolled out the dough to its thinnest setting. On my machine the thinest setting is number 7.
Place a small spoonful of filling on the rolled out pasta near the inside edge, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Brush a little water on the outside edge of the pasta so that the dough will adhere better.
Start from the inside edge and stretch the pasta over the filling and press down the pasta to smooth out. To form the agnolotti, use your thumb and forefinger to pinch together the dough between each of the spoonfuls of filling. Next use a pastry cutting wheel, trim off the excess pasta by running the wheel along the entire edge of the dough.
Now use the pastry wheel to cut out each of the agnolotti. Start at one end and cut in the middle of each agnolotti running the pastry wheel in one end and out the other.
Place the agnolotti apart on a floured surface until you are ready to cook them.
If you do not cook them the same day, flash freeze them on a cookie sheet for about 30 minutes.
Once they have set in the freezer, place them in a freezer friendly container. Line the container with parchment paper or waxed paper, and dust it with a little flour. Place the agnolotti in single layers, separately the layers with the parchment paper, until the container is filled. The agnolotti will last 4-6 months in the freezer. Remember not to thaw them out before cooking. They should be added to boiling water while still frozen.
Cook the Agnolotti
Fill an 8 qt stock pot about 3/4 full with water, and bring it to boil. Once the water is boiling add about one tablespoon of salt. Add the agnolotti one at a time being careful not to break them. Cook about 12 – 18 agnolotti at a time, so you do not over crowd the pot. You will need to cook them in batches. Once you have the first bunch in the water, use a wooden spoon to gently stir the agnolotti so they do not stick to the bottom of the pot or to each other. Once the water returns to a boil and the agnolotti rise to the surface, continue to cook them stirring occasionally so they do not stick together. Cook them for about 4-5 minutes. Test one to see if they are done before removing them from the pot.
Continue with each batch until you have cooked the desired number of agnolotti you want.
Prepare the Butter Sage Sauce
While the agnolotti are cooking, start to prepare the butter sage sauce. For 2 dozen agnolotti, place one stick of unsalted butter in a large skillet to slowly melt it. Once the butter is melted, add about 8 large leaves of fresh sage and cook on low heat to infuse the butter. Leave it on the lowest heat to keep it warm while you finish cooking the agnolotti.
Drain the cooked agnolotti and place them on a serving platter. Pour the butter sage sauce over them, and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Serve immediately.
Makes 5-6 dozen agnolotti