Author Vicky Bennison is a YouTube sensation and the author of Pasta Grannies: Comfort Cooking. Her second cookbook, it highlights traditional Italian dishes and the remarkable women who cook them. Based on her popular YouTube series of the same name, Vicky’s latest release features 60 recipes and the fascinating life stories of the Italian grandmothers they originated from.
Join Vicky Bennison at Rockridge Market Hall on November 5, noon to 2pm, when she’ll be signing books. And in honor of her appearance, the kitchen at Market Hall Foods will be preparing two recipes from Pasta Grannies: Sicilian Deep Fried Rice Balls and Ham and Cheese Pasta Rolls from Romagna.
Vickie Bennison’s Pasta Grannies: Comfort Cooking and the Crucolo Parade
Rockridge Market Hall, 5655 College Ave, Oakland
Cost: No charge except for purchases.
While you’re at Rockridge Market Hall, stay for the Crucolo Parade, a Market Hall Foods tradition that exuberantly pays homage to a favorite Italian cheese from the Trentino-Alto Adige region. Read more here.
Irma’s Kropfen Leek and Cabbage Ravioli from Trentino
Recipe excerpted with permission from Pasta Grannies: Comfort Cooking by Vicky Bennison, published by Hardie Grant, November 2022
Serves 6 | Prep time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
FOR THE FILLING
1/3 head of savoy cabbage, tough stems removed
1/3 head of white cabbage, tough stems removed
1 leek, trimmed and washed
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
200 g (7 ounces) various mature cheeses such as 24-month Parmigiano Reggiano, pecorino, or mature Cheddar – anything with zing and bite
50 g (1¾ ounces) fresh breadcrumbs
Pinch of salt
FOR THE DOUGH
100 g (3½ ounces / ⅔ cup) rye flour
300 g (10½ ounces / 2½ cups) all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
About 200 ml (7 fluid ounces / scant 1 cup) warm water
75 g (2½ ounces) unsalted butter
6 sage leaves
Irma’s family have an osteria, Albergo Rosa Alpina, in a hamlet called Palù del Fersina. It’s 20 kilometres (12 miles) and a world away from the city of Trento. Pine-clad slopes give way to tumbled fields stippled with ancient apple trees.
And dotted about are small farms, where dairy herds are husbanded and cheeses are made (of course)—the farmers don’t bother to name their cheeses as their production is so small. Only sturdy vegetables grow here, such as potatoes, cabbages, and leeks. So, these ravioli are no surprise when you gaze down the valley over the village rooftops and survey this landscape. The surprise is that kropfen aren’t better known because they are hearty, savory and just the thing after a day’s hiking.
Irma says only 10 people in the village make them. She is kropfen’s champion and is determined this recipe should not be forgotten. When I visited her, Irma had collected the 13 different cheeses she says are necessary to make the filling—this probably has something to do with to the thirteen apostles, and using up all the bits and pieces of cheese which collect in the larder. Since Grana del Trentino, formaggio di Malga, Vezzeina and Montasio are pretty tricky to find outside the region, I suggest you gather your own collection of aged cheeses and make kropfen as soon as there’s a frost outside.
First, make the filling. Chiffonade the cabbage leaves (i.e. slice them as thinly as possible) and cook the two batches of leaves in simmering salted water until just tender (how long this takes will depend on the cabbages you have bought, which in any case will have different rates of cooking, so it’s better to cook them separately so you can judge ‘doneness’ better; it could take between 3 and 10 minutes). Drain through a sieve and continue to press the cabbage against the mesh to make sure as much moisture is removed as possible. You should end up with about 200 g (7 oz) each of green and white cabbage. Retain a cupful of the cooking water.
Chiffonade the leek, then soften it in a little butter or oil in a sauté pan. This will take a good 7–10 minutes over a low heat, adding a little cabbage cooking water if needed to stop it from colouring. You’ll end up with about 100 g (3 ounces) of cooked leek. Leave it to cool while you grate your cheeses.
Now mix them with the cabbage, leek, and the breadcrumbs in a bowl. The cheese is salty, but the filling needs to be well seasoned: taste and season with a little salt.
Now, make the pasta dough. Mix the two flours together with the salt in a bowl or your board, then gradually pour in the tepid water, mixing it in with a spoon or your fingers; you may not need all of it. You want a dough that is not sticky to the touch. Knead it for 10 minutes until smooth (it might take a bit longer if you’re not used to this dough). Place it in a lidded bowl and leave it for 30 minutes.
Cut the dough in half so you don’t work it all at once and dry it out. Roll out one half to a thickness of 3 mm (1/8 inch) using a rolling pin. Cut it into strips 10 cm (4 inches) wide, then place 30 g (1 ounce) pieces of filling (a large walnut size) at 10 cm (4 inches) intervals along the strip. Take one long side of the pasta and pull it over the filling to meet the other long side. Pat down between the bumps, trying to get out as much air as possible. Take a ravioli cutter and cut between the filling to create pillow-shaped ravioli. Repeat this process until you have used up all your pasta dough.
Bring a large saucepan of water to a gentle simmer and add a tablespoon of salt. Allow the water to return to a gentle bubble, then lower the kropfen into the water (you may need to do this in batches). Cook for about 7 minutes. Remove from the pan and place them on a platter, keeping them warm in the oven if necessary (if you’re cooking them in batches).
While the kropfen simmer, melt the butter in a frying pan over a low heat and gently sauté the sage leaves for about 4 minutes until they are fragrant. Dress the kropfen with the sage butter and serve immediately.
AUTHOR: Vicky Bennison
BOOK: Pasta Grannies: Comfort Cooking
PUBLISHER: Hardie Grant (ISBN 9781784885243)
ON-SALE DATE: November 1, 2022
RRP: $32.50 (Hardcover)
Photograph credit: Lizzie Mayson
Amazon link: here