Thursday, February 9, 2012

Corzetti Stampati

Last year I shared a recipe for stracenate, a flat, rectangular-shaped pasta from Southern Italy.  Stracenate has a unique decorative pattern created by pressing pieces of pasta onto a carved wooden board called a cavarola. Let’s now move up the Italian Peninsula to explore a similarly distinctive regional pasta most closely associated with Liguria. Corzetti stampati’s large, coin-like shape is made by first cutting a circle out of a sheet of pasta and then embossing the disc with an ingenious wooden tool aptly called a corzetti stamp.

Research suggests fingers rather than wooden stamps indented the earliest version of corzetti, which dates back to the thirteenth century. A similar finger-pressed (and a factory-made) shape survives to this day and still goes by the name corzetti without the stampati qualifier; it resembles, to my eye, a stylized figure 8.

By the Italian Renaissance, court pasta makers used carved wooden stamps to create corzetti stampati. Oretta Zanini De Vita writes in her Encyclopedia of Pasta [2009] that in addition to heraldry, early corzetti stamps “bore a little stylized cross…other molds were incised with geometric and vegetal motifs, or with references to the celebration for which they were made.”

Today corzetti stampati appears to be enjoying a modest renaissance. Until recently recipes to make fresh corzetti stampati were few and far between. Why the increase in popularity? The Internet deserves some credit. Ten or more years ago locating a corzetti stamp in the United States was about as easy as finding a cavarola (i.e., it wasn’t). Now a Google search turns up a handful of websites that sell corzetti stamps. Some of the most handsome stamps currently available come from Pietro Picetti (here), whose workshop is located in La Spezia, Liguria.

The dough recipes I’ve collected over the years to make fresh corzetti stampati range from using a single egg to incorporating a lot of egg yolks. Which version you choose is a matter of taste and preference. The following recipe, which serves 4, is more rich than lean.

  • 220 grams Giusto’s Organic Baker’s Choice Unbleached Flour
  • 12 egg yolks from large eggs
Follow the instructions from my pappardelle post (here) with the following differences: use egg yolks in place of whole eggs and knead the dough for at least 20 to 30 minutes, dusting with flour as necessary. When rolling the pasta aim for a finished sheet that is approximately 2mm thick.

Lightly flour both sides of your finshed pasta sheet. Using the concave portion of the corzetti stamp’s base, cut out discs from the pasta sheet. Flour the corzetti stamp’s flat, carved surfaces. Place a pasta disc between these two surfaces and firmly press the handle and base together to coin the disc. Repeat with remaining discs.

Place the newly minted corzetti stampati on a baking sheet coated with course semolina flour. Allow the pasta to rest for approximately 1 hour before cooking. This brief drying period helps the pasta to retain its decorative pattern when cooked. Boil in salted water (approximating the taste of seawater) until the corzetti stampati are done; cooking time will vary based upon the pasta’s thickness and dryness.

To accentuate its Ligurian lineage, consider serving corzetti stampati with a basil pesto (adding green beans to the dish if you like). If you want to try another classic combination, finish the cooked coins in a butter sauce containing fresh marjoram, pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano.