These little squares of stuffed pasta are called “spoja lorda” and are rarely seen outside of Italy. Even in the region of Emilia Romagna, where they’re from, they hard to find outside the province of Ravenna. The name, derived from the local dialect, is from “sfoglia sporca” or dirty pasta, harkening back to times when scraps were used to make the pasta and the stuffing. The stuffing is spread thinly across the pasta, just enough to “dirty” the pasta, and they’re traditionally served in a broth. Some may split open during cooking, “dirtying” the broth as well.
I normally use a food processor to mix my pasta dough, but was feeling the urge to make it all by hand recently. I used a mix of 00 flour, all-purpose flour and semolina flour, but I don’t recommend using all three for this pasta, especially not the hard, durum semolina, which made it very difficult to roll. Semolina is a coarser, more yellow flour that’s also higher in gluten and protein. It’s great for tagliatelle, spaghetti or pappardelle, but not so much for stuffed pasta. Next time, I’m going with the softer, 00 flour that I normally use when making ravioli or anolini.
It’s fun to make the dough the old-fashioned way, creating a “volcano” and incorporating the flour and the eggs.
Start out using a fork until the dough becomes too stiff. Then use your hands to knead it until it’s smooth. Let it rest at least a half hour while you prepare the filling.
The traditional filling is made with a soft cheese like squacquerone or stracchino, nearly impossible to find in the U.S., although ricotta would be fine too. However, I wanted to try it with some mortadella, ground up in the food processor and blended with maascarpone and parmigiano. If mortadella isn’t your thing, or you want a vegetarian version, using a mixture of ricotta and parmigiano.
If you decide to try this filling (and I recommend you do), add more mascarpone if the mixture seems too stiff to spread.
Since I wanted to make these the old-fashioned way, that meant I was determined to roll it out by hand too, instead of using my pasta machine. I soon had to enlist the help of my husband however, because the semolina in the dough made it really resistant to rolling by hand and my wrists and arms were complaining. (It’s also why pasta made with semolina holds up so well in cooking too, instead of turning mushy.) Let gravity help make the rolling easier and let part of the dough hang over an edge of your counter or pasta board, turning the dough a quarter of the way after each roll or two with the rolling pin.
When the dough is thin enough to see your hand through, spread the filling over half of it.
Fold the dough over the filling.
Then using a pastry or pasta crimper, cut strips about 3/4″ across.
Then cut the same width in the opposite direction.
They really do remind me of puffy little Cheezits crackers.
Serve them in a homemade broth.
And sit down to a beautiful bowl of spoja lorda.
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- FOR THE DOUGH:
- 3 cups 00 flour
- 4 eggs
- pinch of salt
- FOR THE FILLING:
- 6 oz. mortadella
- ½ cup mascarpone cheese
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 egg
- pinch of salt
- a small grating of fresh nutmeg
- Make the dough either by hand or with a pasta machine.
- Roll out into a large circle by hand or with a pasta machine, until it's thin enough to see your hands through it.
- Place the mortadella, mascarpone, parmesan cheese and egg in a food processor with the salt and nutmeg.
- Whir until smooth.
- Spread the mortadella mixture over half of the pasta dough and then fold the unfilled dough over the filled portion of the dough.
- Press dough gently to remove any air bubbles.
- Using a pasta cutter, cut into small squares about 1 inch across.
- Cook the pasta gently in a chicken broth and serve when done.
- Alternately, cook the pasta gently in water, then add to a pan with butter and sage.
- Sprinkle with more parmesan cheese.