Sunday, 1 December 2013

Hold Onto Your Hats!

Cappelli Messicane con Sugo di Zucca & Pomodoro
Home Made "Sombrero" Pasta with Pumpkin & Tomato Sauce

Yes, we all know how to make out own pasta by now- linguini, tagliatelle, fettuccine,  pappardelle, ravioli are shapes we are familiar with and able to make using our pasta machines, or knives if we are more "old-school"... but how would you like to make a different shape at home that is kinda fun? Yeah... I thought you would!

These little "sombrero's" are pretty adorable, and although you have probably seen them in the stores, they are not the most common pasta shapes around and so they are bound to go down well with guests. Oh, but sure- family, spouses, partners and even your yourselves might like them too! In fact- these are great and I am sure anyone and everyone would love to try a plateful of saucy sombrero's!

They are so easy to make! I am going to skip giving you a standard pasta recipe all over again- it really would not do for me to repeat it every single time! It's not about how you make and knead and roll out the pasta- it's about how you transform it into this great, fun shape and about the sauce you make to go with it... because this shape of pasta is absolutely perfect for carrying lots of sauce!

But... first things first! We need to cut the pasta into little circles... like this...

... and then we need to cut a slit into each circle- just to the center... like this!

The next step is to twist the opened circles into the shape of a "witches hat", making sure that about a good part of the circle overlaps. What you then need to do is to place this pointed hat, upside-down, into an open glass bottle- anything with a smooth edge at the top- wine, oil, whatever you have handy. 

Put the upside-down pointy hat into the bottle and press down firmly with the palm of your hand- or even smack it down if you feel like showing-off for spectators :-) The important thing is to apply plenty of pressure to the parts that overlap each other and to squeeze them firmly together- and of course also you need to make sure the edges curl over to give that typical upturned rim. 

Once you have formed the pasta, let it sit and dry for a while- this will also help it to maintain its shape better when boiling. In the meantime you can get busy doing a little prep-work for the sauce... great! Or should I say "grate"- because that is what you need to do!

To make a nice generous helping for this single serving of pasta, I used 2 slices of a small pumpkin- again a Hokkaido in this case and a 1" slice of ginger. I grated the pumpkin coarsely and the ginger finely. I also diced up 5-6 cherry tomatoes, finely chopped just a half of a clove of garlic and also finely chopped a small shallot. A little extra flavor came from a small sprig of rosemary which I also chopped nice and finely- and that was all of my prep-work done!

So now I had all of the ingredients for my sauce ready, I popped them into a deep frying pan with just a tiny drizzle of olive oil and let them begin sizzling away. In the meantime, I brought the pasta water up to the boil, added salt and then dropped in the little sombrero's. 

One thing you will need to do is to keep stirring the sombreros, as they can tend to slide inside of each other, and when that happens, not only do you get 2 stuck together, but they also will not cook properly. So keep gently stirring and within 2-3 minutes, they will all come floating up to the surface and be almost done :-)

Have a bowl of cold water on hand and then lift the sombrero's out with a slotted spoon and carefully place them into it to stop them from over cooking- but don't discard the hot, starchy water as we can make good use of that now to prepare the sauce with. The pasta should be not-quite al-dente... we will finish the cooking process later directly in the sauce.

In the meantime, the pumpkin, tomato and shallot mixture will be softening up nicely and will have a lovely aroma of ginger and rosemary. At this point, when the shallot is translucent and things are beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan a little, add a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and stir this in well. Season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg and then add some of the hot pasta water, just a ladle at a time to deglaze the frying pan.

Let the pumpkin continue cooking away and softening and keep on stirring- and when the water has all evaporated away or been absorbed by the pumpkin, add enough milk to the pan to cover the base and stir this in nicely until everything is nicely and evenly mixed. 

Keep on stirring and you will see that the pumpkin will thicken up the water and milk, together with the tomato paste, to turn these few simple ingredients into a mild but tasty sauce. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste and then carefully place the pasta back into the sauce.

Initially, there will not seem to be enough sauce- but you also need to bring the pasta back up to temperature- so what do you do? That's right- you add another couple of ladles of water into the pan and stir it in gently. Bring it back up to a gentle boil and you will see the excess liquid soon be absorbed by the pasta as it finishes cooking. This will only take 2-3 minutes at the most. The great thing about cooking pasta this way is that it absorbs so much more flavor from the sauce than if you were simply to spoon some on top of the plain white pasta... that's not how we do it in Italy!

And that's it! Sexy little sombrero's- just waiting to be sprinkled with Parmesan and pepper and to be enjoyed by one and all! The sauce is sweet and savory at the same time, tangy from the tomato and ginger but mild from the added milk... with a gentle touch of herb from the rosemary. Friends- I think you are going to like it! Because I know that I sure did! Buon appetito!


  1. Very cute indeed! And being unstuffed a lot easier to make, I bet, than cappeletti etc... for my over-sized hands.

  2. Yep, these are a lot of fun and they hold so much sauce and goodies that they probably will hold more than a filled pasta. Enjoy yourself making them, I did for sure! Francesco