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 più.” 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


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.

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