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Corzetti With Pine Nut Sauce

Corzetti with Pine Nut Sauce

 One of the true joys of traveling is discovering people who are maintaining culinary traditions that might otherwise be lost. One of these is undoubtedly Pietro Picetti, who seems to have almost single-handedly breathed new life into the centuries-old tradition of making pasta using a corzetti stamp, sometimes spelled crozetti, corzeti, crosetti, or cruxettu. 

 
 However you spell it, corzetti are delicious, and were traditionally served with a meat sauce, Mr. Picetti said, but now are more likely to be served with a basil pesto or a pine nut sauce.
A banker for 35 years, Mr. Picetti has been hand-carving these beautiful pasta tools for the last 20 years, resurrecting a lost art and a form of pasta that was almost relegated to history.
Three hundred years ago, he said, every family had its own stamp, and noble families had theirs imprinted with the family coat of arms.
The pasta shape is older than that however, since documents in the archives in Genoa attest to the presence of corzetti at a banquet held for the king of Morocco in 1362. But through the centuries, the custom was lost, even in Mr. Picetti’s home town of Varese Ligure, where the local people had nearly forgotten what corzetti were,  he said.
Mr. Picetti owns several corzetti stamps that hail back to past generations of his family, including his great grandfather’s. He even owns one dating back to 1700.
The wood used is either pear, chestnut or beech and the designs are as varied as Mr. Picetti’s imagination. Some are traditional, but others spring from his mind and hands as he’s working the wood.
His customers come from around the globe, including Kazakhstan, Australia, and Korea – at least 50 countries around the world.
Some are special requests, such as restaurants who have a personal emblem, or companies that want their logo imprinted on the stamp. He’s had requests for logo designs of international companies like Alfa Romeo and Trussardi.
I asked Mr. Picetti to make one using my blog name, and this is what arrived in the mail three weeks after I visited his workshop:
Mr. Picetti doesn’t own business cards. Instead, he said, his business card is his corzetti stamp, with his signature printed on the underside of the cutting edge. By the way, never wash the stamp with water, he advised, but just wipe clean with a dishtowel.
I’ve already put my newly purchased stamp to work a couple of times since I got back from Italy less than 10 days ago.  After you cut out the circles with the sharper edge, take one of the pasta disks and place it between the imprinting sections, then press hard. The dough needs to be soft, but covered with a light dusting of flour so it won’t stick to the wood.
Another day, I took the stamp to my dad’s, (and I gave him one of his own too) and we set to work making the recipe included with the stamp. It’s an unusual recipe, to me at least, because when I make pasta, I use only flour and eggs, or only flour and water, but never flour, water and eggs, as Mr. Picetti’s recipe calls for. But I followed the recipe and the dough came out perfectly. (However his lack of measurement in the recipe that includes “a glass of water” left me wondering exactly how big that glass would be.)
The recipe made a lot, and I forgot to count the total amount, but I’m sure it was at least 100 corzetti. We were serving six people at my dad’s house and had plenty.
In the photo below, you can see the imprint of “Ciao Chow Linda” and the fancy design on the other side of my corzetti stamp.
We made two kinds of sauces for our pasta last week — one platter with basil pesto, and the other with pine nuts, parmigiana and butter, just like I ate in Varese Ligure. I think it’s become my new favorite pasta dressing.
Click on the video below and listen to Mr. Picetti speak about corzetti.
For more about corzetti, visit Adri Barr Crocetti’s terrific food blog. She’s written extensively about them and is a great source on all things corzetti. Click here to view one of her posts on corzetti.
And if you can’t get to Mr. Picetti’s workshop, you can order a corzetti stamp from Artisanal Pasta Tools in California. Click here for their website.
And finally, a big thank you to Pamela Sheldon Johns, for sharing lunch with me in Liguria, and for leading me to Pietro Picetti. Click here for more information on her B&B in Tuscany and here for her culinary tours in Italy.



Printable recipe here
Corzetti Dough (Mr. Picetti’s recipe – he says it’s enough for four people, but that would have to be four very hungry people because it makes at least 100 corzetti)
600 grams flour (about 4 cups)
3 eggs
1 glass of salted water (about 8 oz., but don’t dump it all in at once)

Mix the flour eggs and half of the water in a food processor. Turn on the processor and slowly add enough water until you get a soft dough. Remove it from the processor and knead it on the counter until it feels smooth. Cover and let rest for at least 20 minutes. (Alternately, mix by hand by putting the flour into a bowl or on a kitchen counter. Create a “well” and crack the eggs into the center, beating them with a fork and blending them into the flour, adding the water, a bit at a time. Continue kneading for several minutes until the dough is smooth, then let it rest for about 20 minutes).
Run the dough through a pasta machine (or roll by hand) until the dough is thin, but not so thin that it falls apart when pressed on the stamp. Cut out circles using the sharpest edge of the stamp, then place the circle of dough on the stamp and press down.
Cook the corzetti in boiling salted water for about six or seven minutes, and top with sauce and parmigiano cheese.


Pine Nut Sauce  (adapted from Mr. Picetti’s recipe – enough for four people)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 clove garlic (optional)
a couple of sprigs of fresh marjoram or fresh oregano
4 T. butter
a few tablespoons of milk, if necessary
parmesan cheese

Place the pine nuts, garlic and marjoram into a small chopper or food processor. Blend until crushed. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the pine nut mixture. If necessary, thin it out with some milk.
Toss with the pasta, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Making Corzetti With Dad

Making Corzetti with Dad

It’s pasta time with Dad again – this time with corzetti – beautiful round disks of dough made using a hand carved wooden implement created by Artisanal Pasta Tools in Sonoma California. The one I used has a lovely design of clusters of grapes, but there are many patterns to choose from.  Mine arrived in the mail one day, totally unexpected, as a gift from my friend and fellow blogger – “corzetti queen” Adri Barr Crocetti. She writes a fabulous food blog, loaded with great recipes and thorough research on Italian food.  Her beautiful photos are always so artfully composed and expertly shot. 

She has written exhaustively about corzetti and you can find her posts about them by clicking here.
As soon as I showed my father this nifty tool, he was on board to make pasta with me. Regular readers of my blog know that my 92-year old dad loves to cook, especially pasta. We’ve made bigoli together (click here) , orecchiette (click here) and lots of other foods too.
 I arrived at his house and he was ready to go – mixing the dough on the counter and armed with a recipe to dress the pasta.
We cut the disks with one side of the form.
Then flipped the wooden implement to insert the disk and press down hard to make sure we got a good imprint.
Lined up on a cookie sheet, they reminded me of Christmas tree ornaments. Hey, maybe that’s an idea for the future – poke a hole in the top, let them dry and give them a coat of some clear preservative.
Here’s a closer view. They are like little works of art.

 

Corzetti originated in Genoa, a city on the Mediterranean in the region of Liguria. So it seemed fitting that we served them with some seafood – scallops and swiss chard, with some saffron.
 My dad found this recipe in an old issue of La Cucina Italiana. Unfortunately, for us Americans, the company stopped producing the U.S. edition. You can’t even access the online version, so sadly we’ve all lost a great resource of recipes. If you’ve got your old issues lying about the house, hang onto them.
“Butta la pasta” is a commonly heard Italian expression, meaning literally “throw the pasta.” As the sauce cooked, (and it took only a few minutes), it was time for us to throw the corzetti into the water.
We cooked them al dente, and added them to the sauce pan to swirl in the juices and meld the flavors.
And then it was time to eat.
It’s a great recipe any time of the year, but for you Catholics, it’s especially apropos for any one of these meatless Fridays during Lent.
Since I’ve introduced you to my dad over the years, but never to his better half, I thought I’d throw in a photo of his wife Rose – a sweet, lovely woman who lets him (and me) have the run of her kitchen whenever he wants.  We all had a fun day together making corzetti and plenty of memories too.



Corzetti with Swiss Chard and Scallops

If you can’t find dried corzetti in the store and want to make your own, here’s the recipe we used. But you could use any shape pasta here – from rigatoni to spaghetti.

We used a simple pasta recipe of two cups flour and two extra large eggs, mixing the ingredients together, kneading the dough and letting it rest, before rolling out the dough and cutting the corzetti disks. If the dough is too dry, add a little water.


printable recipe here
From “La Cucina Italiana”

1 pound sea scallops
fine sea salt
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
1 pound Swiss chard, center ribs removed and leaves coarsely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1/8 t. crumbled saffron threads
1 T. unsalted butter
1 pound fresh corzetti or dried corzetti
freshly ground white pepper (optional)

Cut scallops into quarters; set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat; add shallots, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots just begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add chard in batches, then add broth, 1/4 t. salt and saffron; cook, stirring until greens are just wilted.
Add scallops to skillet, tucking pieces among greens; gently simmer, turning scallops occasionally, until scallops are just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Add butter and gently stir until melted, then remove skillet from heat and cover to keep warm.
Cook pasta in the boiling water until just tender – 6 to 7 minutes or until al dente. Drain. Combine the pasta with the scallops and chard in the pan. Sprinkle with pepper if desired.