The calender says it's the 6th of January, also known as 12th night, or twelve nights after the birth of Jesus, when the 3 kings arrived to pay their respects. Here in Italy, today is the last day of the Italian festivities. On the night of the 5th, La Befana flies around on her broom to everyone's house and brings either candy or coal to place in your stocking depending on if you have been naughty or nice. Sound familiar? So it's a day for children and to indulge in yet more sweets, treats and another round of gifts.
When she goes, so do the decorations and the festivities. If you are interested in some of the lore around this holiday, check out my post here.
In general, I find the whole La Befana festival most interesting. as it is such a melange of traditions, beliefs, some religious and others pagan till is quite the stew. The news today seemed fixated on the coal or candy question, like it was some new development and the Addams family has been playing for the past couple of nights on TV. Watching the Pope's St Peter's square festivities, decorated with massive and lavishly decorated Christmas trees, with the 3 kings on hand, and La Befana handing out candies to the faithful, just struck me as weird. I do enjoy the holiday is just seems to be such a mish mash. So the inspiration for this recipe came from another classic Italian TV cooking show, La Prova del Cuoco. The dish features potato salami filled pasta, in the shape of a wrapped candy, which are called caramelle over a bed of lentils shaped as a stocking. Lentils and a special sausage called cotechino are a favorite combination for New Years an La Befana as lentilsare to bring good luck and the shape of the lentils are like small coins, like the magi brought to th Christ child.
My smaller version of the stocking, isn't quite as recognizable as a larger version, but the taste is definitely there.
We gobbled ours up like greedy children falling upon lusted after caramelle. I hope you do as well.
Caramelle di pasta per la Befana
For the pasta
400 g flour
Mix together and knead till smooth. Cover with plastic or damp cloth to keep from drying out and set aside while making your other ingredients.
For the pasta filling
200g cotechino or salami or sausage ( I used a combination of spicy and mild salami), chop very fine
400g potatoes, boiled till soft ( I used a combination of sunchokes and small crumbly and boiled them in their skins and peeled before smashing)
50 g grated parmesan or other hard type of cheese
Mix them all together and season if desired. Set aside.
For the sauce
100g Lentils dry or already cooked if you prefer
1 onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, small dice
1 stalk celery, diced
3 tomatoes, diced or half a small can of tomatoes
For the cooked pasta
1 sprig of rosemary
1 garlic clove smalshed
olive oil to lightly saute
Cheese to garnish when serving.
Start your sauce for the pasta.
Saute the onion, carrot, celery in a tablespoon or two of olive oil, till translucent, 5 minutes or so
Add the lentils and enough water to cover the lentils and a bit more for when they absorb
Simmer the lentils till soft, maybe 1/2 hour, adding more water when needed so they don't dry out.
When the lentils start to soften, add the tomaotes and simmer another 10 minutes. Season with salt.
While the sauce is simmering, make your caramelle
Roll out your dough till very thin.
Cut your dough into rectangles about the length of your middle finer to the knuckle.
Let sit on a well floured surface a little while before filling, 5-10 minutes
Place a teaspoon or so in the middle of the dough.
Fold the dough over the filling and press the dough on three sides to insure they don't come apart.
Pinch the dough together on either side if the filling
Once you have them all made. Let them dry for 10-15 minutes before boiling in salted water.
When you are about ready to serve, make sure your sauce is ready.
Place the sprig of rosemary, garlic clove and 1-2 Tb olive oil, in a saute pan.
Heat till hot and is aromatic.
Cook your pasta al dente. It should take less than 5 minutes, as it is fresh pasta.
Toss the cooked pasta in to the oil and shake to coat the pasta in the oil.
Arrange your lentils on a large oval platter ideally to look like a stocking.
If you have some cherry tomatoes, place tomato halves at the top of the stocking and a few sprigs of rosemary sticking out.at the top.
Gently place your caramelle on top of the lentils.
Garnish with some shredded hard cheese and serve.
Scoop up the lentils and pasta.
It is an excellent combination and worth the effort.