Casoncelli (pronouced ka-ZONE-chelli) are made with fresh pasta dough that envelopes a
slightly sweet meat filling and are typically served with melted butter flavored with pancetta and
sage leaves. They come from the area in Italy called Bergamo in Lombardy. Casoncelli in the
style alla bergamasca are filled with a variety of stuffings. There might be a single type of meat
or a mixture of meat (ground beef, pork, veal, sausage, or salami) and then a combination of
other ingredients may be added, such as cheese, spinach, raisins, amaretti cookies, pear, or
garlic. The pasta shape is made by folding a sheet of pasta over the filling and pressing it
together at the edges, similar to a ravioli. The finished shape looks a little like a piece of
wrapped candy. Casoncelli is a very rich dish but the flavor is unforgettable. Six or seven
pieces are adequate for a main course and 2 or 3 for an appetizer course.
Although this recipe is made with pork, casoncelli can be made with a variety
of different meats. I like to use pork ribs because of their mild flavor and
because they have a fair amount of fat in them. You could also use cooked
leftover pork or ground pork for this recipe.
8 ounces boneless pork ribs
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 amaretti cookies, crushed
1/2 cup finely chopped pear
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
6 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
About 24 sage leaves
1 garlic clove, sliced
Parmesan cheese for serving
To make the filling:
Cut the pork into small (about 1/2-inch) cubes. Season the meat with salt and
pepper. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
Sauté the pork in the skillet until no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Remove
from heat and set aside to cool.
When the meat is cooled, transfer it to the bowl of a food processor. Add the
raisins and pulse to finely chop. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and
season with salt and pepper. Process the mixture until well combined. The
texture of the filling should be slightly coarse, not completely smooth. Put the
filling into a disposable pastry bag; clip the tip to make a 1/2-inch opening. If
you don’t have a pastry bag, you can use a spoon to distribute the filling.
To form the casoncelli:
Roll out the pasta dough into strips about 4-inches wide. Place tablespoons of
filling at 2-inch intervals down the center of each dough strip. Brush the edges
and between the filling with a little water (this will help to seal them.) Bring the
bottom edge of the dough strip up to meet the top edge. Use your fingertips to
seal the dough around each mound of filling.
With a round fluted cutter, cut a half-moon shape around each mound of filling.
To shape each casoncelli, place the folded side of the filled pocket on a work
surface. Lightly press down so that the folded side flattens and the pocket
stands upright. With one finger, gently press down on the middle of the half-
moon to indent the middle. Place the formed casoncelli on a cornmeal or
floured surface as continue forming the remainder.
To make the sauce:
Put all of the sauce ingredients in a skillet over low heat. Cook for 10 to 15
minutes, until the butter begins to brown. The pancetta should be crispy
brown, the garlic golden, and the sage leaves will also be crisp. Remove from
heat and set aside.
Cook the casoncelli in boiling salted water for 5-6 minutes, or until tender.
Place several casoncelli into individual serving bowls. Sprinkle with some
grated Parmesan cheese. Spoon a few tablespoons of the sauce over each