In the northwest region of Italy, Piedmont holds a special place for wine and food (culture and history are up there, too). White truffles during the season (October-November) are found in Alba, where there is a festival to celebrate these famous tubers. The area is also famous for its wines –– think Barolo, Nebbiolo, Barbera, and others from the Langhe –– the Fassone beef, its cheeses and the list goes on…
I’m focusing on a recipe that is pure Piedmontese but can be adapted to almost any place as long as you have access to pasta and you like to roast chicken, beef or other meats. Here is my story of the traditional dish of agnolotti al plin and the adaptation that I’ve honed over the years. It is one of my favorites to make with leftovers.
I’m a traditionalist when it comes to certain culinary rituals. One of them is Sunday lunch. When my son, Francesco, was young it was obligatory to have a roast on Sunday. Although he grew up in French-speaking Switzerland then in Rome, I always prepared my roast chicken, beef or pork with a very Anglo-American gravy. When we invited our Roman friends for lunch they were perplexed by the concept of gravy (though they all loved it!).
Monday supper arrived and it was time to think about cooking. This perfect and easy recipe is to take the leftover gravy and use it as a sauce over pasta. Doesn’t get more simple than that. I learned the trick from friends in Turin, where agnolotti al plin is a well known dish in homes and restaurants.
“Al Plin” is Piedmontese for “al pizzico” which is a term associated with the verb to pinch, so typically this pasta is made with fresh egg dough that is stuffed with meat or veggies and pinched so that it looks similar to chubby ravioli. Roast juices are used to sauce it.
But, my unorthodox version can be made with any dried pasta in the cupboard––from spaghetti, linguine to any short one like fusilli or rigatoni. Here is a quick recipe adapted for a harried cook from an Italian classic. If you’re ambitious and make your own agnolotti or buy freshly made ones, the cooking time will be shorter. Enjoy and I promise even your finicky eaters will love this.
Shortcut Agnolotti al Plin
For 4-6 people
2 cups of meat gravy
500 g of dried pasta
Grated Parmigiano cheese
Boil water for pasta and salt lightly when it starts to simmer.
Have gravy, butter and cheese at room temperature.
Cook pasta until al dente, drain it then put it back in cooking pot over low heat and add gravy, a tab of butter and stir for a minute then grate on cheese before serving. If you have some fresh parsley, a sprinkle does not hurt for color.
Elizabeth Janus is a passionate traveller, and makes it a point to peruse the farmer’s markets in every place she visits to get an immediate pulse of the city. For the last decade, she has been guiding discerning clients on food adventures at farmer’s markets, speciality shops and into her home for unique Italian meals to experience Italy as an Italian..