Casoncelli: A labor of love

Q: My husband and I visited a restaurant in Pembroke Pines called [Bru-sket-ta]. The food was outstanding. The chef offered us a taste of his different specialties. Everything was extraordinary, but the Casoncelli stood out as the most unique. Chef Pietro said it was his grandmother's recipe. My husband loved it. I would like to make it for him, if you could persuade the chef to part with his recipe. The description on the menu reads: homemade ravioli stuffed with braised veal in a butter and crispy pancetta sauce. But I know there is a secret ingredient. — Concetta Wadsworth, Fort Lauderdale

A: Originally from Bergamo, Italy, chef Pietro Rota moved from Los Angeles to Miami in 2007. He met his business partner, Carlo Amarini, when the two worked together in Fort Lauderdale at Cafe Europe. Amarini hails from the town of Rota Greca in the Calabria region. In December 2013, the pair opened [Bru-sket-ta] Italian Caffè (12111 Taft St., Pembroke Pines, 954-391-9319, Rota mans the main kitchen, while Amarini bakes all the pizza, bread and desserts. This cozy newcomer is poised to be packed once the word gets out. It's no secret South Florida has its share of Italian restaurants. Finding authentic, well-executed Italian food is another story. These two guys get it right. It's in their blood and evident by their passionate tone when they personally come to your table to describe a special or serve a dish.

Chef Rota's Casoncelli recipe comes by way of his mother and grandmother. Growing up, this was a typical Sunday supper. Rota admits it's a standout on his menu because of the unique filling. He adds "this is not your typical ravioli taste. There is salty pancetta, fresh sage, tender, rich veal and the sweetness from the amaretti cookies. It has everything working together."

If the recipe seems daunting, break it down into stages of preparation. The veal and the dough can be made in advance and frozen. Frozen wonton wrappers, found in Asian markets or fresh in produce aisles, are a great substitute for homemade pasta dough in a pinch.

Recipe: [Bru-sket-ta] Italian Caffe's Casoncelli

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 slices pancetta, diced

4 sage leaves

10 veal ravioli, cooked al dente (see recipe)

Parmigiano reggiano, grated, for serving

1 Using a medium saute pan over medium heat, heat the butter. Add pancetta and sage. Cook until pancetta is crispy.

2 Toss ravioli in sage butter sauce to coat. Sprinkle with parmigiano reggiano and serve.

Makes 1 serving.

Nutrition information per serving: 713 calories, 57% calories from fat, 46 g fat, 20 g saturated fat, 221 mg cholesterol, 36 g carbohydrates, 36 g protein, 1,724 mg sodium, 2 g fiber


Ravioli dough

Dough can be prepared in advance and frozen. Store rounds of dough, layered between parchment paper, in an airtight container and defrost in the refrigerator.

1 pound semolina flour

5 large eggs

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon salt

All-purpose flour, for rolling

1 Place semolina flour in a large bowl, making a well in the center. Add the eggs, oil and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until combined.

2 Transfer dough to a clean surface dusted with flour. Roll dough into a thin rectangle the width of a pasta maker. Continue running dough through pasta machine, making thinner rectangular sheets until dough is 1/8-inch thick. Place dough on a baking sheet separated by parchment paper.

3 Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut dough as closely together as possible, rerolling scraps as needed.

Makes about 100 pieces.

Nutrition information per piece: 23 calories, 23% calories from fat, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 9 mg cholesterol, 3 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 73 mg sodium, trace fiber


Veal ravioli

1 1/2 pounds veal short ribs

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 cups white wine

1 cup vegetable stock

4 amaretti cookies, finely ground

1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

100 3-inch ravioli rounds (see recipe)

1 Using a large sauce pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Brown the short ribs on all sides, working in batches to avoid crowding the pan, and adding more oil as needed. Transfer meat to a plate.

2 Using the same pan, saute the celery, carrots and onion, until onion is translucent. Return the meat back to the pan. Add the white wine and stock. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook until liquid is reduced by half and meat falls off the bone easily, about 2 hours. Set aside to cool slightly. Remove meat from the liquid, reserving the liquid.

3 Using a large bowl, remove bones from meat and shred. Add the amaretti cookies, cheese and enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten the meat, about 1/2 cup.

4 Place 1 teaspoon veal filling on the center half of ravioli dough. Fold dough in half to enclose filling, forming a half moon. Crimp edges to seal and twist ends to create a "candy wrapper" affect. Repeat with remaining filling and dough, placing ravioli on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Makes about 100 ravioli.

Nutrition information per ravioli: 38 calories, 35% calories from fat, 2 g fat, trace saturated fat, 14 mg cholesterol,

4 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 98 mg sodium, trace fiber


Q: I just had the grouper with mango salsa at Bonefish grill. The dish was light, refreshing and delicious. I have more mangoes than I know what to do with and would like to try the salsa recipe at home. Can you please get it for me? — Ron Meyers, Oakland Park

A: This is a perfect recipe for summertime in South Florida. As much as I enjoy all the sweet mango recipes this time of year, the savory variations are a welcome change. The blast of heat from the jalapeños and the zesty, fresh lime juice make this a winner and must-try recipe in my book. Aside from chopping the fruit and vegetables, the recipe from Bonefish Grill (multiple locations, seems easy, especially if you make the salsa in advance (which I recommend to allow the flavors to meld). The salsa would also be great on grilled scallops or shrimp, chicken or pork, or as an appetizer with tortilla chips.

Bonefish Grill's Grilled grouper with mango salsa

1 1/2 cups diced ripe mango

1 1/2 cups diced Italian plum tomatoes

1/4 cup Craisins

1/2 cup diced green onions, white and green parts

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Cholula

2 teaspoons chili powder

6 7-ounce grouper filets

Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1 Combine salsa ingredients in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Gently toss to combine. Store covered and refrigerated until needed.

2 Prepare a clean, oiled grill to medium-high heat. Season grouper with salt and pepper, to taste. Depending on the thickness of filets, grill grouper 3-5 minutes per side until fish is translucent in the center and cooked through. Place on a serving plate and top with salsa.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 284 calories, 9% calories from fat, 3 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 21 g carbohydrates, 43 g protein, 124 mg sodium, 2 g fiber


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