Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash Cappellacci

October 22, 2013

Every Tuesday, Italian expat Emiko Davies is taking us on a grand tour of Italy, showing us how to make classic, fiercely regional dishes at home. 

Today: Plump pasta parcels of roast butternut squash, from Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna.

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Mention pasta filled with pumpkin to an Italian and two northern cities will come to mind: Lombardy's Mantova and Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna. Both lay claim on this seasonal favorite, but the Mantovans like theirs with a sweet-savoury filling of boiled pumpkin, amaretti and mustard fruits, shaped as tortelli -- flat squares with frilled edges.

Just over the border of Emilia-Romagna, the Ferraresi have a different version, cappellacci di zucca: plump pockets of pasta filled with roast butternut squash.

First, the pasta. It must be freshly made and it must be egg pasta. Cappellacci are always made by hand -- it's a ritual. The Emilians are famous for their tortellini, but cappellacci ('caplaz' in dialect, meaning “little hats”) are named after a vague resembelance to the straw hats once worn by peasants working in the fields of Emilia-Romagna.

The cappellacci are filled with a mixture of roast butternut squash (or sometimes a local variety of small pumpkin called zucca di chioggia), Parmesan, breadcrumbs, and a hint of nutmeg. It's a specialty that dates to the Renaissance and can be traced to the recipe book of the cook for the dukes of Ferrara, where it was served, like today, with butter. 

They can also be served with a meat ragu or tomato sauce, but there's nothing quite like the simplicity of a sauce made with butter, melted until it takes on a caramel glow, infused with sage leaves. It means that rich, sweet butternut squash filling is what sings in this dish.


Butternut Squash Cappellacci (Cappellacci di Zucca Ferraresi)

Serves 4 as an entree

For the filling:

1 pound (500 grams) butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces (50 grams) Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon of dry breadcrumbs
A pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper

For the pasta:

2 1/2 cups (300 grams) type 00 flour 
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks

For the sauce:

1/3 cup (80 grams or 3 ounces) butter
A bunch of sage
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Emiko Davies

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  • Jessica Kramer
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  • LLStone
  • bethan
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.


Jessica K. November 3, 2013
I'd love to use this recipe for a dinner party. Any favorite ideas for a main course you'd pair with this? Or would you keep it vegetarian?
Emiko November 4, 2013
It'd probably be followed by some roast meat - roast pork or guinea fowl (coming up soon on the column is a great dish from the same region for guinea fowl stuffed with chestnut and sausage, easily adapted to chicken, duck or other poultry) would be really typical, with roast vegetables or a radicchio salad.
Elaine H. October 23, 2013
This looks delicious, but I just wanted to comment and say that I am delighted to find you guys online! Originally started following you all on instagram! Please stop by my page when you have time! http://breatheeatlive.com/
CHERAY October 22, 2013
Want to try !
LLStone October 22, 2013
I cannot wait to try this! I love butternut pasta.
bethan October 22, 2013
I imagine this might also work with sweet potato or even pumpkin?
Emiko October 22, 2013
Absolutely. As mentioned, pumpkin is also used for this dish (in Italian "zucca" is used interchangeably for both butternut squash and pumpkin). I'd recommend always roasting and just note that some pumpkins are more watery than others - if you have to, you may need to adjust the mixture with a bit more breadcrumbs and Parmesan.