Pumpkin cappellacci are the symbol of Ferrara’s cuisine. A declaration of love for one of the great products of this land: the pumpkin, which according to historical recipes from Ferrara is also used as an accompaniment to meat and not just as a filling or side dish. The first written recipe of cappellacci di zucca ferraresi dates back to 1584 and is by Giovanni Battista Rossetti, chef of the court of Alfonso II d’Este, who publishes it in his work “Dello Scalco”.
Since then the recipe of pumpkin cappellacci has changed radically. First in the filling, in pure Renaissance style, there were also ginger and cinnamon and then over time cappellacci ferraresi became a popular recipe: today only nutmeg remains as a spice, in memory of that aristocratic past.
For this recipe, we are going to use the classic violina pumpkin, called butternut in English, typical of the Ferrara area, the most suitable for its sweetness, which creates an exceptional sour-sweet flavor when mixed with the other ingredients. The name cappellacci, caplaz in dialect, comes from the wide-brimmed straw hat of the peasants: let’s not forget that for centuries the pumpkin was the main source of livelihood in the countryside, the poor’s meat.
Ingredients and doses for making the pumpkin cappellacci alla Ferrarese
- 6 eggs
- 630 grams of flour
- a pinch of salt
For the stuffing
- 1 kg of violina squash
- 300 grams of grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- salt, pepper, and nutmeg
How to prepare perfect Ferrara pumpkin cappellacci
Let’s start making the dough for a classic sfoglia emiliana. Make a flour heap on a table o a pastry board. Put eggs and a pinch of salt in the center of our flour trying to not spread too much the flour and keeping the beaten eggs inside the circle of friendship.
Start mixing with a fork, then, when the dough is a bit more solid, start using your hands.
You need to knead a lot, so take your time and beat the dough for at least ten minutes. When the dough is thick and not anymore sticky, cover and let it rest for one hour.
In the meantime, cut the pumpkin into pieces, remove the seeds and the filaments and bake it in the oven for 20 minutes, at 170 degrees. Using a spoon, remove the tender part of the pulp away from the peel and then sieve it. Then mix it with the other ingredients.
Roll out the dough and cut it into rather large squares and pour in the center of each in a generous teaspoon of filling.
Join the two opposite corners of each padded square until you get a triangle and seal the sides well with finger pressure.
Cook the cappellacci in boiling water for 5-6 minutes and serve with butter, sage and a further sprinkling of nutmeg. Grate on plenty of Parmesan cheese and you’re done. The Ferrara tradition also includes them seasoned with a good meat sauce. Do not disdain even with a simple tomato sauce.
Tips for preparing Ferrara-style butternut cappellacci
The recipe is simple, everything is based on the pumpkin, which must be perfect, sweet, well firm. Do not overdo with the nutmeg, you only need a sprinkling to smooth out the sweetness of the pumpkin and add more aromatic volume. If the filling is too wet, add grated bread. As we said before we use the butternut, which has a more intense and tasty flavor but feel free to use what you like!
What wine goes well with Ferrara-style butternut cappellacci?
Let’s make a classic, local food and wine pairing and uncork a good bottle of Fortana or, you can’t find it, an aromatic and sumptuous Gewurztraminer like the one from the Cobelli winery.