The first time I stepped foot in the enchanting town of San Vito di Cadore, I fell hopelessly in love. Nestled in the heart of the Dolomite mountains in north east Italy, it may not be as famous as its next door neighbor Cortina, but it most certainly holds its own in both beauty and charm.
My husband first brought me there in the summer of 2010, after a few months of dating, to introduce me to the place he holds most dear to his heart. His mother having been born and raised in San Vito, Massimo had spent a great deal of his childhood there, and has an abundance of family who still reside there or in the vicinity. And while it may be quite a distance to get to (especially being over 4000 miles from where we are now!), it will forever be a place we call home, and will always be a point of reference for our family throughout our lifetime.
This past April, we began our annual visit to Italy by flying to Venice and taking the short drive up to San Vito. The weather was less than desirable, but with the mountain’s culinary delights, the sound of prosecco filling our glasses and the warmth of family, keeping us company and telling us tales of the mountain, there was no time lost fretting about cloudy nights and damp and dreary days. On the contrary, we reveled in our indoor activities and found many creative ways to keep ourselves, and our children, busy.
On one of our rainy afternoons, Massimo’s aunt Silvana brought me to Teodora’s house, this sweet little old lady from San Vito, to teach me how to make the town’s traditional and authentic dish: casunziei, which are like ravioli filled with beet and potato. They are served with melted butter and sprinkled with poppy seeds. They are beyond delicious; they are mouthwatering, scrumptious, simply delectable.
However, making casunziei is no easy task. Nor is it very difficult. But it is certainly time-consuming.
When we arrived, Teodora, whose nephew just happens to be Luke Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, had already prepared the beet and potato mixture in advance, leaving just the ravioli to be prepared and filled. Upon my return to Toronto, I followed the step-by-step instructions Teodora had given me as to how to prepare the beet and potato mixture. One day, when my 2 year old and 8 month old are a wee more independent, I will attempt to make this entire recipe from scratch, but until then, I think I will just patiently await my next visit to San Vito to enjoy them again.
However, for those of you who do indeed have the time and patience, please make casunziei! They are worth the effort, and will certainly leave you with a sense of felicity and satisfaction.
Here is the recipe for San Vito di Cadore’s very own Casunziei!
5 beets, cooked
1/2 nutmeg, grated
1/4 scallion, minced
a tsp of olive oil
a dollop of butter
2 tbsp of parmesan cheese, grated (add more or less depending on your personal flavor)
Salt & pepper to taste
700g all purpose flour
a tsp of olive oil
some semolina flour
FINAL STAGE (COOKING) INGREDIENTS:
a large pot of water
some coarse salt
parmesan cheese, grated, as much as you lik
(optional) aged ricotta, grated, as much as you like
butter, melted and browned
Directions for Filling:
Boil fresh beets, as you would boil potatoes, until they are cooked.
You can simultaneously boil the potatoes until they are cooked.
Blend beets into a thick, creamy mixture and set aside.
Mash potatoes and set aside.Sauté the scallion in a pan with olive oil and butter, on low heat.
Add beets and potatoes.
Continue to stir.
Add grated nutmeg.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
The entire process in the pan should take about 15-20 minutes, and should never arrive at the boiling point!
Remove from heat, stir in parmesan cheese, set aside and cool until it is warm in temperature.
Once warm, take a cherry-sized amount of mixture and roll into a ball.
Continue until the entire mixture has been rolled into balls and placed in a bowl.
Directions for Ravioli:
Cover work table with flour.
Have a bowl of warm water prepared on the side.
Make a little mountain of flour in the center of your workspace and make a hole in the middle. Picture a volcano!
Crack an egg in the hole and softly whisk with a fork.
Add a teaspoon of olive oil to egg.
Whisk again, slowly adding the flour which surrounds it.
Continue to fold in the surrounding flour while simultaneously adding water.
Once the mixture starts taking the shape of a ball of dough, start to knead it with your hands, continuing to add water and flour until you have made one large mass of dough.
Take a fist full of prepared dough, cut it in quarters and pass through the pasta machine, continuing to fold it, and passing it through again, for a total of 10 times.
The final time should not be folded and have a long oval-like shape.
Lay on table and place balls of filling along it, in a straight line, about an inch and a half of space between each one.
Fold the pasta over the balls. With your fingers, form the ravioli by pressing down between and above each ball.
With the special ravioli cutting wheel, cut along the top of the raviolis and between each one, creating your beautiful ravioli.
Take each individual ravioli and gently press around the ball (this squeezes any air out).
Place each ravioli on a cookie sheet, which has been previously dusted lightly with semolina flour.
Cover the ravioli with a clean dish towel and keep as so until ready to cook (which should be that very day!! They won’t taste as good if eaten at a later date or even frozen!)
Boil water in a large pot.
Add some salt and a touch of olive oil.
Add the casunziei A FEW AT A TIME!
Cook for about 3 minutes or “until they’ve turned over 3 times”, as Teodora explained.
Remove the casunziei from the pot with a slotted spoon and place one layer of casunziei on a plate.
Then add a layer of grated parmesan cheese.
Then add another layer of casunziei.
Then add another layer of parmesan cheese.
Drizzle melted butter (make sure the butter has just started to brown in the pan!)
Sprinkle poppy seeds on top.
* If you want to be precise, you can add some aged ricotta, grated, together with the parmesan cheese.
E voila!! You have one of the gems of the Dolomite mountains: Casunziei!
Watch Casunziei Part 1 & 2! A 1-minute Instruction Video!