10.21.2017

Right Pasta, Wrong Province

Fifteen years ago, when we were on our way to the Cinque Terre from Milano, we had to change trains in the small town of Levanto, just northwest of Monterosso al Mare, the northernmost of the five villages that comprise the Cinque Terre.

The Piazza Marconi in Vernazza.
We hopped off the train and started studying the intricate schedule for our next train, unaware it was already standing directly across the platform. We figured it out just as the train pulled away from the station. Che stupidagino!

The view of Vernazza from our grape harvester's cottage.
That comic gaffe left us with 45 minutes until our next train, so we took the opportunity to buy a few groceries. One of the first little shops we came across sold many varieties of fresh, homemade pasta.

Manarola, as seen coming from Corniglia.
It never ceases to amaze me how many pasta forms exist in Italy. Hundreds of them - perhaps more than 350! Many of these shapes are regional, and unknown from one side of the mountain to the next.

Vernazza from the southeast.
Walking into this shop, I encountered shapes I had never seen nor heard of: triangular ravioli filled with nettles called pansotti; a thin and twisted short form called trofie; a fettuccine-like ribbon pasta called trenette. We bought some of each to take to the small grape harvester’s cottage we had rented on the hillside above Vernazza.

Fifteen years ago - our "Enchanted April."
There was one form we didn't buy - and, to this day, I don't know why. They were disks - about 5cm in diameter - called corzetti (sometimes known as croxetti). They were stamped like coins with beautiful patterns that would, when cooked, be perfect for holding the sauce.

View of Vernazza as we walked into town.
While I wish I had gotten some, it didn't keep me awake at night. At least not until I was in Tuscany this past September. The night we arrived we stayed in Florence, before heading south into the Chianti hills. While meandering through the labyrinthine Florentine streets, we went into Bartolini, a cooking gadget store. Nirvana.

My corzetti stamp can be seen at the foot of the Goddess Spaghettini.
The first thing I saw at the foot of the Goddess Spaghettini, was a corzetti stamp. The clerk saw me looking and said to come with him, as he has much nicer ones in the back. Yep, they were nice and so were the prices. Most were in the €70 range - about $80! “I will have to think about it,” I said, then hightailed it out of there, the €70 still in my pocket.

But that is when I began to lose sleep over it. I wondered how much that first stamp I saw had cost. I should have asked. Yes, the others were beautiful but I could live with one that was functional and merely handsome. I started looking in every attrezzi shop we encountered. In each shop I was told, “You are in the wrong province for that - they are from Liguria.” I started looking online and found some, but a cyber purchase wouldn't be as nice as returning with one from the motherland.

On one of our final days, we decided to train up to Florence. Mark and I went to visit a garden, while David and Becky headed off to the Palazzo Davanzati. Barbara basked in the peace and quiet of our apartment back in Siena.

Before we headed to the garden, Mark insisted we detour to Bartolini for the corzetti stamp. It was still there on the display, under the Goddess, right where I had left it. I took it to the clerk to purchase it. She told me it was the display model, and she would get me a new one.

She returned to me empty handed and apologize, “Mi displace, signore, non abbiamo piĆ¹.” They were sold out. But, I asked, might I buy the display model? “Si, certo.” A small “yay!” was heard in my head. And it was modestly priced.

One of the first things I did when we got back to Tucson was make corzetti. Lots of research went into finding a recipe for this dough. Somewhere, I had read: no eggs, as the egg makes the designs puff out too much during cooking. Most recipes called for regular pasta dough. Some used one egg and water. Or wine. I ended up using 1 egg, and some water and wine.

I am not sure the wine adds anything except exoticism, but that is the way I made them, and it was successful. The trick is not to roll them too thinly before using the stamp, otherwise the pattern isn't fully embossed. To test, I rolled to the No. 4 setting. I stamped a few, then rolled to No. 5 and tested a few more. At the No. 5 setting, the pattern was not good, so I returned to No. 4 and finished making my 60 corzetti, setting them out to dry.

Today, I share the corzetti recipe below and a link to a podcast I just did with Paolo Rigiroli from Disgraces on the Menu. We have a fun discussion on the rules of eating in Italy. I hope you will listen and enjoy!

Ciao for now,

~ David

Corzetti

12.5 ounces "type 00" flour
1 large egg (2 ounces)
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup water
pinch salt

Mound the flour on a wooden or marble counter top, and make a large well in the center. Add the egg and, using a fork, whisk till smooth and some flour has been incorporated. Add the wine and continue whisking adding more flour from around the edges. Add the water and salt and whisk similarly until it is too thick to whisk. Continues mixing in flour with your hands until a fairly firm dough has formed. Wrap in plastic and let sit for 30 minutes.

After resting, cut the dough into 6 pieces; rewrap the ones you aren't working with immediately. Run each piece of dough through the pasta machine, reducing the setting till you reach setting No. 4 - about 3/16-inch.

Using a corzetti stamp (mine comes with a cutter on the bottom) cut out circles of pasta and coat them well with flour, then press between the bottom and top parts of the stamp. Set on parchment-lined sheets to dry. Pull together the scraps, re-roll, and make more coins. Repeat with all pieces of the dough. I let mine dry all afternoon before using them for dinner.

If you don’t have this slightly rare piece of equipment, you can try cutting out circles with a small cookie cutter, and embossing one side with a gnocchi board or score with the back of a fork, or bottom of an embossed glass. The idea is to create a pattern that will hold just the right amount of sauce.

In well-salted boiling water, cook the corzetti for about 9 minutes, then add them to your preferred sauce, tossing to coat them.

They are traditionally served with a meat sauce, or a pesto; recipes coming soon!

Makes approximately 5 dozen corzetti.


41 comments:

  1. David, thanks for sharing your story and to help introduce this pasta shape to the world! Even though I am 100% Italian, I did not know this shape very well at all. Thanks also for coming back to my podcast! You are an amazing guest, always with very insightful observations and entertaining anecdotes. Hope to have you back soon for another chat!

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    1. Thanks, Paolo. I really enjoyed our conversation, too, and wish we lived closer together so we could have chats like this with food and wine!

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  2. This is just one of the reasons I love travelling. It's the things like this that you get to discover, learn about and enjoy thereafter. I'm sure you could go mad spending Euro on a nice little collection of carved wooden stamps, but the one you scored is a stunner. I love this!

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    1. The only problem I'm having now, John, is that I want to go back to Liguria to meet all the corzetti stamp carvers and start a proper collection!

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  3. I listened to your interview with Paolo on his podcast this morning, David! LOVED it! I was nodding my head the whole time as it's just so nice to listen to a conversation where you actually agree with everything that is being communicated! It's rare, let me tell you, at least for me! I'm usually steaming at the collar, wanting to interject, "No, no, no! That's all wrong!"

    I especially love that we have Perugina cacao in common! I even brought some chocolate chips back this time, have yet to try them, but I know they will be fantastic.

    I have yet to post anything about this last trip as I'm still posting from my June trip to Barcelona! Eeek! I'm also getting ready to head to Scotland in two weeks as I'm judging the World Scotch Pie Championships! (I'm so bloody excited!)

    Okay, off to bake a gf cake for some lovely friends who just keep bringing me fresh eggs, pomegranates and kitchen stuff! I just can't not reciprocate! :)

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    1. Thanks, Cristina! It's always fun to chat with Paolo - wouldn't it be fun to get all of us Italophiles in one room? Have you tried Pernigotti Cocoa? It is easier to get in the states and is quite good.

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  4. OMG a Goddess Spaghettini! Only in Italy...What a great story, I too would have lost sleep over the corzetti stamp

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    1. Isn't she fabulous, Carolyne? I want to make one myself…

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  5. That spaghetti goddess! I love Italy, LOVE it. The food, the language, the places, I always want to go back. This pasta is amazing David, I don't think I ever ate something like this. So gorgeous! I'm planning a trip to Toscana next year, one of the few places in Italy I haven't visited yet.

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    1. You are going to love Tuscany, Paula. If you have any questions or want any recommendations, let me know!

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  6. What a great story. And Madame Spaghettini?!! Wow. Hats off to whomever designed her! I’m glad I finally picked some up at Eataly - not the stamps but the actually pasta. They were so fun to eat. Great old photos, also.

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    1. They have Corzetti at Eataly? I'm impressed! What sauce did you use, Mimi?

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  7. Believe it or not, I never did make it to the Cinque Terre. Nor do I have a corzetti stamp. You can buy them online but, like you at first, I blanched at the price. One day I'll break down and buy one. They do make lovely pasta!

    Like others, I really enjoyed the interview with Paolo. Particularly enjoyed your explanation about making corzetti and why you need to go easy on the eggs.

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    1. Thanks, Frank - I always love talking with Paolo. While the stamps are pricey, I can see why - they are a labor of love!

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    2. Thanks for the kind mention, it's an honor to have had you both as guests!

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  8. beautiful pasta. I have never understood the role of white wine in pasta/pastry: some sources say it helps to weaken the gluten strands....?? I have never noticed any difference to be honest
    I did check my old regional cookery book by Anna Gosetti della Salda (by the way, do u have it?)(1967) and oddly enough the corzetti pasta she has is nothing to do with what we now think as corzetti: it is a plain, butterfly sort of shaped pasta.. I wonder if stamped corzetti have been a more recent revival...rediscovering forgotten foods
    did u check this in yr research? http://www.lecinqueerbe.it/2013/07/croxetti-e-corzeti.html

    nice podcast, but I confess: I eat pizza with my hands and I cook pasta in very little water :) ciao stefano
    ps: there is also an experiment from harold mcgee on cooking pasta in little water

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    1. Ada Boni also talks of the butterfly, or figure eight, pasta with meat sauce. The stamped corzetti supposedly date back to Medieval times... and, as you suggest, might be a revival.

      I didn't see the article in Le Cinque Erbe - very interesting. And I don't know Anna Gosetti's book, either.

      I have never eaten pizza with my hands - I generally don't like the smell of food on my fingers all day/evening! Although I do pick up the crusts and eat those with my fingers!

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  9. Wow David, I am loving this post... the photographs, the stories, the information (I've not heard of these little pastas), and your recipe. Thanks so much for sharing! xx

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    1. Thanks, Liz. The most fun part of this post was finding the old photographs of our trip 15 years ago! Proof that I once had a waistline!

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  10. I've never see or heard of this pasta shape. It's beautiful! I'd love to find myself in one of those stores you mentioned one day. I'm looking forward to listening to your podcast! :-)

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    1. Thanks, Valentina. It was fun making this pasta, although it used muscles I didn't even know I had! I'm considering a new form of exercise ... ;)

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  11. What an interesting read and great lesson as corzetti stamps have not featured in my pasta making. A delightful talk with Mr Google ensured that curiosity will be satisfied at a reasonable price via Amazon even here in Australia . . . well $49 is not bad tho' the enticing Etsy ones at over a hundred dollars may stretch the bank overly before Christmas. Loved the podcast: voice always does add that extra dimension . . .

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    1. I didn't see the ones on Etsy, Eha. That's probably a good thing! I'm having a great time introducing this beautiful pasta form to so many people!

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  12. What a great story, there is nothing worse then dwelling on a missed opportunity but at least it all worked out in the end :)

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    1. Emma - can you imagine the sleep I'd be losing if I hadn't bought it? Thanks, as always for your kind comments.

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  13. Hi David, enjoyed your podcast very much. Understanding the reasons why you salt the pasta water among not adding garlic to pizza sauce was interesting. And I love the beauty of the Corzetti, never knew such shapes existed. Beautiful post!

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    1. Thanks, Cheri - as I said, I have my mother to thank for teaching me that's starches get their flavor from salt added while they are cooking. As for the Corzetti, I will have three great sauce recipes this week!

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  14. I am trying to comment but I am having trouble doing so. I enjoyed your podcast and this wonderful post,

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    1. Thanks for persevering, Gerlinde. I am trying to fix the issues but Blogger makes it so hard!

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  15. These are amazing as is that pasta goddess and YOU!

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    1. Aw, thanks, Colette! I want to make a pasta goddess someday.

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  16. How lovely that you remembered from all that time ago! Your pasta looks amazing.

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    1. Thanks, Caroline! I think I remembered because the corzetti are so beautiful!

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  17. David, I'm so glad you bought it. You would have been kicking yourself about it forever if you hadn't! This is a new pasta shape for me, but I see it in my future!

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    1. I know, Jean - and now that I have one, I feel a new addiction coming on!

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  18. What a lovely story! Great pictures, too. I'm so glad that the Goddess Spaghettini was on your side and that you were able to get the stamp. Your pasta looks amazing.

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    1. Thanks Nicole! I think the Goddess Spaghettini was definitely a Roman goddess, don't you?

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  19. I'm glad they sold you the one on display, David! This stamped pasta is simply beautiful.The Goddess Spaghettini is truly a work of art too. Wow! This sounds like such a terrific trip to Italy for you and Mark.

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    1. We had an incredible time, Marcelle! Just magical.

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  20. These are beautiful David--well worth the trip back! And I had to chuckle early on... how many people would go food shopping in the 45 minutes between trains! (Glad you did!)

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    1. Hmmm. Shopping between trains isn't normal? Who knew?

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