Carry your Easter celebration back to medieval times with corzetti. This hand-rolled, embossed pasta, named after a Genoese coin, the corzetto, for its distinctive shape, has graced tables set for holiday celebrations in Italy's northeastern region of Liguria since at least the 14th century.
The mariner republic of Genoa has long been known for the fine art of pasta-making. Powerful merchants traded wheat far and wide across the Mediterranean Sea, and the sunshine and salty sea winds of the Ligurian port city provided prime pasta-drying conditions. Made especially for holding rich sauces, such as the other Genoese specialty, pesto, the shape earned inclusion in a 15th-century caution. Medical guide Medicinalia quam, preserved in the library of the University of Genova, advises, "One shouldn't overindulge in the consumption of lasagne, corzetti, tagliarini, tortellini and the like."
Aristocratic Genoese families used corzetti to showcase their status: Every noble family had a unique, elaborate hand-carved wooden stamp embossed with its signature coat of arms. Today's corzetti stamps sport designs ranging from honeybees to sea shells. Each is a two-piece tool, with one piece carved as the cutter that makes the coin shape and its flip side carved with a design. The second piece is carved as well. Together, the carved sides emboss the pasta coin.
"At Monteverde, we have our own custom corzetti stamp hand-carved by Filippo Romagnoli," says Sarah Grueneberg, chef/partner of Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio in Chicago. "One side has cuore (heart) and the other mano (hand) to represent one of our sayings 'traditional heart with a modern hand,' how we like to approach our dishes at the restaurant."
"We sell these for guests to use at home," Grueneberg said. "We're developing a spring corzetti dish with a green-olive pistachio pesto, spring peas and butter. Something nice and delicious."
If you can't travel to the eastern Italian Riviera, where artisans still carve custom corzetti stamps from apple, beech, maple or pear woods, you can find countless corzetti stamps online at etsy.com, or look for Romagnoli's stamps (and recipes) at romagnolipastatools.com. If you're looking to showcase your own family emblem, Florentine Touch and the Wood Grain Gallery, both internet-based Etsy shops, offer customized corzetti stamps.
"I really love the corzetti pasta shape because you can transform a regular sheet of pasta into something totally unique with its own design," Grueneberg said. "We've served it in the past with duck ragu and a pecan pesto. I really love how with corzetti, you can have the perfect amount of sauce on each coin and keep it simple."
CORZETTI WITH LEMON RICOTTA SAUCE
Prep: 1 hour
Rest: 30 minutes
Cook: 13 to 15 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
3 cups flour
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk fresh ricotta
cup finely shredded Parmesan, plus more for serving
teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Zest of 1 to 2 lemons
cup basil leaves, minced
1. Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse a few times to combine.
2. Add the eggs; process until the dough forms a rough ball, 30-60 seconds. If the dough remains dry, add cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and process between each addition until it forms a rough ball.
3. Divide the dough into two balls, wrapping the ball you are not using immediately with plastic wrap to preserve moisture.
4. Flatten the ball with the palm of your hand; run it through a pasta machine about three times on the widest setting. Continue rolling the flattened dough through the machine, reducing the setting each time, until the dough is less than 1/8-inch thick. Dust the sheet of dough with flour as needed. Lay the sheet on a lightly floured surface while you repeat the process with the second ball of dough.
5. Using a corzetti stamp, cut circles from the dough. Then press each circle between the two carved pieces of the corzetti stamp, embossing both sides. Gather the scraps, form into a ball, roll and cut more circles. Let the circles dry for about 30 minutes on a baking sheet dusted with flour.
6. Heat a large pot of well-salted water to a boil on high heat. Add corzetti to the pot; cook, 3 to 5 minutes, until pasta is done to your liking. Reserve 1/3 cup of the pasta water before draining the corzetti.
7. In a bowl, whisk together the butter, ricotta, cup Parmesan and reserved pasta water until a rich, creamy sauce forms. Add the pepper and salt to taste. Pour the sauce over the corzetti, toss gently, and garnish with the lemon zest and basil.
Nutrition information per serving: 642 calories, 25 g fat, 14 g saturated fat, 248 mg cholesterol, 75 g carbohydrates, 1 g sugar, 27 g protein, 333 mg sodium, 3 g fiber