My first encounter with Mezzelune with Cavalo Nero & Ricotta was in the town of L'Aquila in the Abruzzo region of Italy. We'd been visiting the town on a LONG day of driving around. It's a beautiful part of Italy, green and remote, with many beautiful villages perched mountainside - a picture-perfect Italy. When we arrived in L'Aquila it was some six years after the devastating earthquakes that struck the region in 2009. We were shocked at the sheer devastation that still rendered most of this once bustling town deserted. The whole town centre was essentially abandoned and most buildings were kept upright by a complex web of scaffolding. It's as if the earthquake had just hit that day.
We wandered around the desolate centre for an hour or so, guided by an insistent Google Maps that was displaying a particular restaurant I'd found 'OPEN NOW'. None of the directions worked - streets were either closed, fenced off or no longer existed. It became an epic search. But I was hungry, so determination ensued.
Eventually, we found the restaurant. Literally the only complete building on the street. Completely unharmed by the quake. An oasis in the scaffolding. Quite bizarre, but a very welcome sight to see. The staff were very happy to seat us, super friendly - most likely thrilled to see anyone who had the determination to find them. No English was spoken, and no menus were forthcoming so we just accepted to eat what we were given.
After a splendid antipasti platter, our pasta dish arrived, a glorious mezzelune pasta (translated as half-moon) stuffed with ricotta and cavolo nero (Tuscan Kale). It came tossed in the reddest tomato sauce I've ever encountered. To say it was delicious would be a huge disservice. It was out of this world!
Red, white & green - a celebration of the Italian flag.
Fresh pasta is always a treat, and when it's so smooth and silky combined with a light, flavoursome stuffing it makes for something very special indeed. The light, fruity sauce tops off this dish - so simple in ingredients, so complex in flavour and texture. Each colour of the Italian flag is represented and each brings something wonderful to the plate.
How to make fresh mezzelune
Making fresh pasta is not as daunting as you might think, and it makes the world of difference to any dish - particularly a stuffed pasta such as mezzelune. Check out my guide how to make fresh egg pasta to refine your pasta making skills.
Mezzelune are probably the easiest stuffed pasta to make at home. They are similar in approach to a pierogi or a Chinese dumpling. The filling is laid in the centre of a flat disc of pasta, then simply folded in half and sealed to create a semi-circle or half-moon. My video recipe below will show you how to create a mezzelune yourself. It's really easy!
The filling to the pasta is so simple to prepare. There are only 4 key ingredients! cavolo nero, ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano and nutmeg! Too easy! And then it's just a case of 3-4 minutes cooking and you are done!
What alternatives to cavolo nero can I use?
Cavolo nero goes by a million different names, so be sure to ask for one of the following: Tuscan Cabbage, Tuscan Kale, Lacinato Kale, Italian kale, Dinosaur Kale, Flat Back kale, Palm Tree Kale, Black Tuscan palm and finally just Kale! If that doesn't work, then you can use regular Kale, Silverbeet/Chard and Spinach. Just use the same technique of cooking and squeezing out the liquid. If you're using spinach, there's no need to boil, just add a few tablespoons of water to a pan of spinach and let it wilt, then squeeze out the water.
You need not make a tomato sauce to enjoy these mezzelune - a great alternative is to melt a stick of butter with a few stems of sage. Toss the cooked mezzelune into the butter and serve with some Parmigiano Reggiano. Another way I'll serve mine is to use leftover Spaghetti meat sauce. I'll dollop a couple of spoonfuls over the cooked pasta and be done with it! My favourite sauce is the simple tomato sauce shown here. It's very simple to make and the perfect fruity accompaniment to the light, bright pasta stuffing.
Want more pasta inspiration?
If you find that you suddenly get inspired by stuffing pasta you should really try my amazing Osso Buco ravioli recipe. If I'm trying to impress anyone, I'll bring out this hard hitter for my dinner party! They always go down a treat and garner a small ripple of applause when they hit the table. And if you get hooked on making your own fresh pasta (you will) try one of these splendid pasta dishes: Mushroom Ragu with Torn Pasta - wonderfully simple and amazingly tasty! Or try my Lamb ragu with pappardelle or why not try shaping some pasta with Garganelli Pasta with Mushroom Sauce - let a world of fresh pasta open up!
How to make my Mezzelune Pasta with Cavolo Nero & Ricotta
- Pasta roller
- Pastry cutters
- 1 bach of fresh egg pasta (see my recipe & video)
For the mezzelune stuffing
- Make the pasta and roll into sheets to around No7 on the rolling machine (about 2 away from the thinnest setting). Keep them covered to avoid drying out, while you make the stuffing and sauce.
Making the Mezzelune
- Heat a pan of lightly salted water until boiling.
- Remove the cavolo nero from its stems and discard them. Chop the leaves roughly the tip into the boiling water. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, then drain and cool.
- Once cooled slightly, tip the cooked cavolo nero into a clean tea towel. Gather up the towel and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
- Discard the liquid, then finely chop the cavolo nero. Set aside until cold.
- In a bowl, mix together the ricotta, cavolo nero, Parmigiano Reggiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix until well combined, then set aside.
- Take one of your pasta sheets and, using a pastry cutter (or something round, like a cup or glass) about 4"/10cm diameter, and cut the pasta into discs. Discard the excess pasta.
- Take the stuffing and using your hands, roll a small ball, a little smaller than a ping pong ball. Place a ball in the centre of each disc.
- Take a little water on your finger and lightly dampen half of a disc. Now bring together the two halves to form a semi-circle. Gently press around the edges to seal, trying to avoid any filling seeping out. Press into the mezzelune edges to seal as close to the stuffing as you can - this will avoid air pockets and potential bursting when cooking.NOTE - if you have too much filling and it seeps out, adjust the amount for your next.
- Arrange the mezzelune on a waiting sheet of parchment paper or a tea towel (this will help you later).
- Complete this process until you've run out of stuffing or pasta.
- Dust the mezzelune in plenty of flour and cover with a tea towel - you can keep them for up to 4 hours before cooking.
Making the sauce
- Heat a large frying over a moderate pan until just hot. Add the olive oil and heat for 10 seconds before add the garlic and sage. Let this sizzle gently for about a minute to season the oil. Now pour in the tomato and 1 cup water. Let it come to a gentle simmer.
- Simmer gently for 5-8 minutes to reduce to a consistency of whipping/double cream. Remove from heat and season with salt & pepper.
Cooking the pasta
- Bring a large pan of salted water to gently simme (don't have it boiling furiously, the pasta is delicate and could break apart).
- Lift your paper or tea towel holding the pasta and gently slide all the pasta into the water at once. Give it a gentle stir and cook for 3-4 minutes until the pasta is cooked.
- Return your sauce to a moderate heat. Using a slotted spoon gently remove all the mezzelune a from the water and into the sauce. Very gently toss the mezzelune into the sauce. Add a spoonful of the pasta water to loosen the sauce slightly and shake the pan to mix.
- Spoon a few mezzelune and sauce into shallow bowls or plates and season with black pepper and more Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan).
Nutrition (per serving)
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