Different cultures have unique ways of ringing in the holiday season, and in Umbria ladies across the region gather around their kitchen tables come December to pass the long winter afternoons until Christmas day making cappelletti.
These meat-filled pasta shapes are the centerpiece of the traditional pranzo di Natale (Christmas lunch), and hands fly as fast as tongues (the pasta-making sessions often produce just as much juicy gossip as tasty morsels) as the ladies form small balls of filling — a mixture of cooked veal, pork, and chicken, ground and flavored with grated parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and lemon peel—and place them in the center of small squares of cut from sheets of hand-rolled egg pasta.
They expertly fold the squares around the filling, making a small triangle, then neatly roll and pinch the triangles closed until they form the tiny hat shape for which they are named.
Served in a piping hot an orange-infused meat broth as a first course, it’s easy to overindulge on the bite-sized cappelletti. Knowing this, most Umbrian housewives make at least a few hundred little hats in an afternoon, most to be consumed on Christmas day but some to be frozen and served as a soul-warming soup on cold winter nights.
Like so much of Umbria’s culinary tradition, cappelletti are as much about the socialization that happens both during their preparation and during their consumption as they are about the dish itself. If you’d like to try your hand at making them this Christmas season, you can find a recipe here.