Pasta dough made with Italian type 00 wheat flour (similar to a mixture of 50% strong white and 50% plain flower) and eggs is rolled and cut to encase a filling of yellow pumpkin flesh, grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
This is how PGI Cappellacci di Zucca Ferraresi are made, one of Ferrara’s traditional pasta dishes. These little round, filled pasta shapes are folded in a way that makes them look like the typical straw hats that were once worn by peasants, known in dialect as caplaz.
The ingredients that go into the modern-day version of this pasta still bears a resemblance to how the dish was prepared in the era of the House of Este in Ferrara, except for a few spices that are no longer used, such as ginger.
The recipe book dating back to 1584 written by Giovan Battista Rossetti, a steward (what would be a butler today) for the Este court, provides the first references to this “pumpkin-filled pasta with butter”, which ratify the historic union between this pasta dish and its birthplace.
Cappellacci pasta is made by first baking the pumpkin, ideally butternut squash, in the oven. It is then left to cool before being passed through a sieve and mixed in with the other ingredients. The pasta dough is then rolled out and cut into little squares; once the filling has been dolloped neatly on top of each square, the squares are then folded into a triangle shape by joining the opposite corners together to form the typical cappellaccio shape.
The town of San Carlo, not far from Ferrara, holds the annual Sagra della zucca e del suo cappellaccio festival in autumn, the perfect event to sample a dish of cappellacci pasta, and plenty of other pumpkin-based specialities.
To really bring out the sweet flavour of the pumpkin, according to tradition, PGI Cappellacci di Zucca Ferrarese should be served with melted butter, sage and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Alternatively, try this special filled pasta with a rich meat ragù or tomato sauce.