In his introduction to Pasta Italiana (Kyle Books USA, January 2012), Gino D' Acampo writes that he cannot remember, growing up in Italy, having a meal where pasta didn't feature.
Some savory, some sweet as my first recipe pick from his book.
Mezzelune dolci, Half-moon-shape sweet pasta filled with candied fruit
This is a classic Neapolitan dessert that is usually eaten around Easter time. I remember like it was yesterday my grandmother filling the pasta with candied fruits and ricotta cheese and me trying to help her as much as I could, because I knew I’d get an extra serving at the end. You can use good-quality chocolate chips instead of candied fruit.
Serves 6 to 8
For the sweet pasta
3 whole eggs and 2 extra yolks, plus 2 eggs, beaten, for brushing
21/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
4 tablespoons butter, softened
4 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
1 quart vegetable oil, for deep-frying
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
For the filling
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
finely chopped zest of 1 orange
10 almonds, finely chopped
11/2 ounces candied fruit, finely chopped
1 Beat two of the whole eggs in a bowl and set aside.
2 To make the sweet pasta dough, in a food processor, place the remaining one egg and two egg yolks, add the flour, butter, and Amaretto, and process until mixed. Turn out the mixture onto a well-floured counter and knead for 2 minutes until you have a soft dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
3 To prepare the filling, in a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients together with a fork. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
4 Flatten the prepared pasta dough with your fingers so that it can fit through the rollers of the pasta machine. Flour the pasta lightly on both sides and start to roll it from the widest setting to the thinnest. Make sure you keep the pasta dusted with flour at all times. Lay the pasta sheets on a well-floured counter. Cut into circles using an 3 1/4-inch cutter—you should get 28 to 30 circles.
5 Place about a teaspoonful of the filling in the center of each circle, sharing it out equally. Brush the edges of the circles with beaten egg and fold over to make half-moon shapes. Press down to seal with your fingertips. Using a fork, press the edges again to secure the filling.
6 In a large saucepan, heat the oil until hot and smoking. Carefully drop in the sweet-filled pasta and deep-fry for about 15 seconds until golden all over. (Be very careful and work in batches—no more than five at a time.)
7 Once cooked, remove the mezzelune using a slotted spoon and place on some paper towels to soak up any excess oil.
8 To serve, place all the mezzelune on a large serving dish and dust with plenty of confectioners’ sugar. Serve warm with a little glass of Amaretto or Vin Santo.
Rather than use exclusively images of food, Pasta Italiana serves Italian flavors with photos of places and people. The girl on bicycle reminded me of a lunch I had years ago at the terrace of an Italian restaurant not far from French border. A church was nearby and a girl on a bicycle passed by and then came back. Each time she signed herself while going past church.
(* Recipe from Pasta Italiana by Gino D'Acampo, published by Kyle Books in January 2012, photography by Kate Whitaker, all rights reserved)