How to Make Cappelletti: "Little Hats" of Filled Pasta

Cappelletti little hats of filled pasta recipe

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  • Total: 65 mins
  • Prep: 60 mins
  • Cook: 5 mins
  • Yield: 4 to 5 dozen
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
184 Calories
12g Fat
3g Carbs
16g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 5 dozen
Amount per serving
Calories 184
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 15%
Saturated Fat 6g 30%
Cholesterol 88mg 29%
Sodium 296mg 13%
Total Carbohydrate 3g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Protein 16g
Calcium 221mg 17%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Cappelletti are a type of stuffed fresh pasta originating from the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, particularly around the towns of Modena and Bologna. They date back at least to the Middle Ages, when they were a luxury food for aristocrats' tables. The name cappelletti means “little hats,” which is what their rounded shape resembles.

Cappelletti can be made either out of circles or squares of dough, which changes their shape slightly, but the folding process is the same. They are most traditionally served in a meat broth, but can also be served in a meat sauce, in gently heated heavy cream, with a simple walnut sauce, or tossed in browned butter with fresh sage. 

Ingredients

  • For the Filling:
  • 1 tablespoon butter (unsalted)
  • 1/2 chicken breast (or 4 ounces of lean pork)
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (freshly grated)
  • 1 egg 
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Optional: 1 pinch of lemon zest
  • 1 pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • For the Pasta:
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • Pinch of sea salt

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this Cappelletti dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Make the Filling

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for filling
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the chicken.

    Melt butter
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  3. Let cool and then cut into small chunks.

    Cut chicken
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  4. Using a food processor or blender, combine the sautéed chicken, ricotta cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, whole egg, egg yolk, nutmeg, lemon zest (if using), and salt and pepper to form a fine paste. (If the ricotta is very soft, leave out the egg white and use just 2 yolks instead. If, on the other hand, the mixture is too stiff, add an extra egg yolk.)

    Use food processor
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  5. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning, as necessary.

    Season
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Make the Pasta

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for pasta
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  2. Make a mound with the flour on your work surface and form a well in the middle.

    Flour
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  3. Crack the eggs into the center of the well, add the salt. Work the eggs and the flour together with your hands until you have a smooth dough, adding just a few drops of water, if necessary, and no more.

    Crack eggs
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  4. Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes, until it is smooth, firm, and quite elastic. Don't skimp on the kneading or the dough will tear while you're rolling it out.

    Knead
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  5. Separate the dough into 2 pieces.

    Cut dough
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  6. Flour your work surface (marble countertops are ideal for this, though wood or Formica work as well) and start to roll out the dough, rolling out from the middle, flipping it over occasionally, and flouring it as necessary to keep it from sticking.

    Flour
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  7. Keep on flipping and rolling until you have a sheet that's almost transparent—as thin as a dime, or thinner if you can manage it, as the pasta will almost double in thickness while cooking.

    Dough
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Shape the Cappelletti

  1. Once you've rolled out a thin sheet of pasta on a well-floured surface, use a round cookie cutter (you could also use a round or square raviolo stamp or a fluted-edge rolling pasta cutter) to cut out 2-inch-diameter circles of dough.

    Ingredients for pasta
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  2. Place 1 level teaspoon of stuffing in the middle of each circle.

    Fill it
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  3. Using your fingertip or a pastry brush, moisten the edges of the circle with a little water so they will seal.

    Brush
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  4. Fold the circles in half over the filling to form half moons, pressing down with your fingers to seal the edge.

    Close pasta
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 
  5. Then pull the two corners towards each other, overlapping one over the other, and press down on the tips to help them adhere together. 

    Roll up
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  6. Continue to do this until all of the cappelletti are made.

    Roll up pasta
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  7. Then boil in either broth or water, depending on how you'd like to serve the cappelletti, and serve.

    Boil
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

If Serving in Broth

Gently boil the cappelletti in broth until they are done, 3 to 5 minutes (the pasta should be al dente). For each serving, place 10 to 15 cappelletti in a brimming bowl of broth.

If Serving as a Pasta Dish

Gently boil the cappelletti in water 3 to 5 minutes, until pasta is al dente. Serve in a meat sauce or tossed with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Cappelleti vs. Tortellini

Cappelleti are similar to, and often confused with, tortellini, another Northern Italian stuffed pasta. Both are generally made with a meat-and-cheese filling (though sometimes it's only cheese) and typically served in chicken broth, often on New Year's Day or as part of a grand Christmas feast or other special celebration. These days, they are a typical Christmas dish throughout Central Italy.

The difference between the two pastas lie in the size (tortellini tend to be smaller, about marble-sized, while cappelletti are usually somewhat larger) and in the folding. A cappelletto resembles a stylish, peaked hat with a round, upturned (sometimes scalloped) brim, while the tortellino looks more like the commonly shaped "flower bud" Chinese wonton dumpling. Cappelletti are also quite similar in shape to the Russian dumplings called pelmeni, though those are larger and have different fillings. 

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