A comforting winter pasta dish that’s full of flavor and a great alternative to a traditional beef or pork stew. Agnolotti is a filled pasta similar to ravioli that has roots in both Piedmont and Tuscany. This “plin” style means “pinched” and is a unique cut of the parcels that helps trap sauce.
Optional topping: Rosemary-Parmesan crisps. Otherwise top with lots of freshly grated Parmesan.
This is ideally a 2-day recipe. Make the pasta and filling on Day 1, then assemble and cook the final pasta on Day 2. This makes a large amount of pasta–you can halve the recipe or even better, freeze some portions for later
Pork Cheeks and Sauce
- pork cheeks: about 1 kg/ 2.2 lbs, silver skin trimmed off
- salt and pepper: for the pork
- flour: about 35 g/.25 cup
- neutral oil or olive oil: a few tablespoons for browning of the meat and vegetables
- red wine: 500 mL
- onion: 1 medium, diced
- carrots: 2 large, chopped in large pieces (keep large as we will take them out at the end to use in the pasta filling–the other veg will not have much flavor left but carrots keep a decent amount so we will keep)
- celery: 1 large stalk, diced
- garlic: 3 cloves minced
- tomato paste (UK: puree): 2 Tbsp
- cumin seeds: 1 tsp
- fennel seeds: 1 tsp
- whole peppercorns: 1 Tbsp
- dried porcini mushrooms: 5 grams/0.25 cup
- bay leaf: 1 large or 2 small
- fresh thyme: 3-4 sprigs
- chicken stock: 1 L/32 oz, high quality, low salt
For the Pasta Filling (in addition to above ingredients)
- Parmigiano Reggiano cheese: about 60 g/2 oz grated
- frozen peas: 100g/3.5 oz
- cream: 3 Tbsp
- salt + pepper
- type “00″ flour (or all purpose): 600 g/10.5 oz + extra if needed
- eggs: 4 large
- egg yolks: 4 large
- water: as needed
- semolina flour or very fine cornmeal for dusting the final pasta pieces
- small to medium carrots: about 400 g/14 oz
- sugar: 1 tsp
- salt: 1 tsp
- cumin seeds: 1 tsp
- fennel seeds: 1 tsp
- anise seeds: 0.5 tsp
- water: enough to cover the carrots
- butter: 1 Tbsp
- butter: 25g/2 Tb to add to the final sauce
- Parmigiano Reggiano cheese: 60+ g/2+ oz finely grated
- A Dutch oven or large, deep pot with a lid that can be used both on the stove top and in the oven.
- A pasta machine to roll out the sheets
- (optional) Ridged pasta cutting wheel (or just use a knife for a straight cut)
Pork Cheek Filling and Sauce
- Preheat the oven to 325 F/160 C.
- Brown the pork. Heat a dutch oven to medium high heat on the stovetop. As the pan heats, Wipe any moisture from the pork and coat all the pieces with salt and ground black pepper. Dredge the pieces in the flour to coat well, and when the pan is hot add the oil and allow to heat. Cook the pork in batches (keep the pieces from crowding in the pan) for a 2-3 minutes on each side until well browned and remove to a plate.
- Begin to cook the vegetables. Add a couple more tablespoons of oil to the pot along with the onion, celery and carrot. Lightly season with salt and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, fennel, peppercorns, and tomato paste and cook another 4 minutes.
- Add wine. Increase the heat to high and add the wine and dried mushrooms. Bring to a boil and allow to reduce by 1/3, or about 5-7 minutes.
- Prepare to cook the stew. Place the pork on top of the existing ingredients. Add the thyme and bay leaf. Add enough stock to barely cover the top of the pork. If more stock is needed, you can also just add water.
- Cook the stew. Cook for 2 hours with the lid on, then remove the lid and cook for a further 30 minutes. Test the pork–you should be able to cut it easily with a fork. Continue cooking another 30 minutes if needed.
- Strain the braising liquid. Remove the pork and carrots and add to a food processor bowl. Pass the remaining braising contents and liquid from the pot through a chinois/fine mesh sieve and collect all the liquid. Press hard on the ingredients to extract as much liquid as possible. Allow to cool covered in the fridge.
- Prepare the pork filling for piping. Add the frozen peas to boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes. Strain and add the peas, parmesan, cream, and about 4 tablespoons of the braising liquid to a food processor along with the pork and carrots. Process until a paste forms. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper (you will need a decent amount–this taste needs to come through the final filled pasta). Refrigerate in an airtight container in the fridge until needed.
- Prepare the port sauce base. Skim any fat off the top layer of the braising liquid, and bring the liquid to a boil on the stove top on high heat, then reduce to medium-high (a low boil) and reduce liquid by half, about 7-10 minutes. Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate until needed.
- Make the dough. (if more manageable, you can do this in 2 batches)
— Add the flour to a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center.
— Add the eggs to the well in the flour and whisk with a fork for 1-2 minutes until completely blended.
— Using a fork, begin mixing the flour into the egg mixture. Mix all together until a single ball holds together. If the mixture is too dry, add water in 1/2 tsp increments. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour. You may end up with a finished ball with unused flour–this is OK.
— Remove the dough from the bowl, wrap in plastic wrap, and rest for 10 minutes to allow the flour to fully hydrate.
— Knead on a tabletop by hand for 8-10 minutes by pushing half of the dough away from you using the heel of your hand. Fold the dough in half toward you, rotate and flip upside down and repeat. The dough will become more elastic and no individual bits of flour should be visible. Roll the dough into a flat rectangle and re-wrap with the plastic wrap.
- Rest the dough. Rest for 1 hour at room temperature if using the same day or refrigerate overnight (place the wrapped dough in a airtight bag or container) if using later, remove to room temperature 1 hour before rolling out.
- Prepare the filling. While the dough is resting, remove the pork mixture from the refrigerator and allow to warm up to room temperature as it will have hardened and difficult to spread on the pasta.
- Roll the pasta.
— Work with a small portion of about 75 grams/2.5 oz at a time, leaving the remaining pieces wrapped up.
— Put the pasta machine rollers to the widest setting. Roll the pasta through this setting 4 times, folding the dough over in half after each rolling(except the last rolling).
— Then roll the dough once through each of the next settings until reaching the thinnest setting. (For filled pasta we want very thin dough since we will be creating 2 layers when folding the dough over the filling.)
— Put the pasta sheet on a well floured surface to rest while you continue with the remaining pieces. (I’ve found using a porous wooden surface better than a smooth surface–the pasta sticks far less since the dusting flour clings to the board better.)
- Make the agnolotti.
— 5a. Place the pork mixture into a piping bag and cut the end to allow about a 1 cm/0.5 in hole.
(Repeat the steps below for each of the 4 sheets. See pictures below corresponding to each step.)
— 5b. On a sheet of the rolled out pasta, pipe about 2 teaspoons of pork in the middle of the dough about a thumb width apart, leaving empty space at each end.
— 5c. Fold the pasta over the mixture leaving a 1.25 cm/0.5 inch overlap of top and bottom pasta, then remove any air between the filling and pasta with your thumb and shape into an even log. Seal the overlap layer on the bottom with your thumb as well. Using a pasta cutter or knife, cut along the entire length of pasta, leaving a 0.5cm/0.25 wide bottom side.
— 5d. Vertically pinch the dough together about every 2.5 cm/1 inch along the entire length of the pasta, pinching hard to squeeze out the mixture and sealing the 2 halves of the pasta together.
— 5e. Using a pasta cutter or knife, cut through the middle of each pinched part in the direction from the back side to the flat side, making separate filled pieces. The pieces will fall over and begin to connect the side and bottom pieces. Pinch together these side and bottom parts of pasta together for each piece, creating a little pocket.
— 5f. Dust all pieces with semolina flour and continue with the remaining filling and sheets.
— 5g. If eating the same day/next day, keep the pasta in the fridge until ready to cook. These freeze well too–just add to a baking tray and freeze individually, then once frozen, add to a plastic freezer bag together.
- Braise the carrots. Cut the carrots into rounds or small pieces (I prefer to keep the skins on) and add with the spices, sugar, salt, and butter to a shallow pan and add just enough water to cover the carrots. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer (about medium heat) Cook for about 15-20 minutes (depends on the thickness of your carrots) until the carrots are just cooked through but still firm. Drain the water, keep some of the spices. Keep warm.
- Finish the sauce. Heat the sauce in a shallow and wide pan over medium-high heat, whisk in the cold butter. Reduce the heat to medium low.
- Cook the pasta. Bring water and salt to a boil, then add the pasta. These will take about 3 minutes cooking time if starting from fridge temperature, and 5-6 minutes if cooking them directly from the freezer.
- Coat the pasta with the sauce. Remove the pasta from the water using a small strainer or slotted spoon and add the pasta directly into the warm sauce to coat. Discard the pasta water.
- Serve the pasta in bowls along with the carrots, rosemary crisps and/or freshly grated parmesan.