Piconi Ascolani: Baked Ravioli from Le Marche.
As I write this post, Easter is less than 3 weeks away. Throughout Italy, cooks and housewives in every region will be starting to prepare the local dishes, snacks, cakes and pastries that are particular to the Easter holiday celebrations. As you can imagine, there are many. These piconi ascolani are a baked ravioli from the Ascoli Piceno province in southern Le Marche, Central Italy, traditionally eaten at Easter.
Unlike other types of ravioli, piconi ascolani are baked in the oven and eaten as a snack or as part of a traditional Easter breakfast with boiled eggs and salumi. Normally, these baked ravioli are not eaten hot. However, I have to say I love them when they are still a bit warm and the cheese inside is soft!
As with many traditional Italian dishes, there is no single recipe for piconi ascolani. Apparently, every Ascoli family had its own recipe handed down through several generations. Unfortunately, nowadays, commercial bakeries abound with piconi, so less people make them at home than in the past. However, I found quite a few recipes for these delicious Easter ravioli.
Baked ravioli are, in fact, made throughout Le Marche, but may also be called calcioni, caciunitti, caciuni, ravioli with cheese and ravioli Ascolani. The basic ingredients are the same for all types of these piconi with some differences in the ingredients for the filling and dough. For example, in some places, they put lemon juice or white wine in the dough, others use only pecorino in the filling. One thing is certain, they are called ‘piconi’ because of the typical ‘piccata’ or cut that is made on the top of the ravioli that allows the filling to escape during cooking.
All piconi are filled with a mixture of eggs and cheese. The cheese is traditionally 3 types of pecorino ( fresh, semi mature (12 months) and aged/mature 24 months) all freshly grated. One type of pecorino used for Piconi ascolani in Marche is known as Barzotto. This is usually semi mature, not hard or soft. They say, the best Barzotto is the one produced with milk collected in the months of April and May, when the pastures are rich in fresh and aromatic herbs and fragrant flowers.
In fact, pecorino is the most produced cheese in Le Marche and there are many different types. However most people outside of the region and Italy can’t find the exact 3 types of pecorino, so many Easter ravioli recipes call for just an equal amount of mature pecorino and Parmigiano. I used a mature pecorino, a semi mature pecorino (not Barzotto) and Parmigiano. The ratio of eggs to cheese in the filling is normally one egg or egg yolk to 100g of cheese.
Apart from the eggs and cheese, I added some salt, pepper and lemon zest to the filling. Some people also add nutmeg. This piconi ascolani recipe is from the Ascoli Picena province. In another part of Marche they make them sweet by adding sugar to the filling. These sweet baked ravioli are traditional in Ancona where they are called ‘calcioni’.
The dough for piconi ascolani is very similar to most fresh egg pasta dough. 100 g of ‘0’ or ‘00’ flour to one egg. The only addition in most recipes is some kind of fat, traditionally lard but many use butter or extra virgin olive oil. I used olive oil and added a pinch of salt. However, there are variations to the dough mixture. As mentioned above, some people add lemon juice or wine. Others may include a bit of sugar or cheese in the dough.
Making these piconi ascolani.
Piconi ascolani are no more difficult to make than normal ravioli. In fact, the process is the same. The only difference is that once ready, these Easter ravioli are cooked in the oven. This recipe will make about 35 baked ravioli. If you want to make less just reduce the quantity of ingredients. For example 300g flour and 3 eggs for the dough and 300g cheese and 3 eggs for the filling. However, you may regret that as these baked ravioli from Le Marche are so tasty and moreish, you will probably wish you made more!
If you do try this piconi ascolani recipe, I’d love to hear what you think. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.
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Other Italian Easter or Spring recipes on The Pasta Project
- Lamb lasagna
- Sicilian pasta with sardines and wild fennel
- Gargati pasta with spring ragu
- Poached salmon and asparagus lasagna
- Pasta with asparagus
- Pasta with fresh peas and pancetta
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These delicious baked ravioli are a typical Easter recipe from Central Italy. Piconi ascolani are not difficult to make and so delicious you will always wish you had made more. Traditionally eaten for Easter breakfast but are great as finger food or antipasto.
- 400 g '00' flour (14oz) or '0' flour (all purpose)
- 4 eggs
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or 30g (1oz) softened butter or lard
- 1 pinch salt
- 150 g pecorino (5oz) aged/mature
- 100 g pecorino (3.5oz) semi-mature
- 50 g Parmigiano (2oz) grated or in total half pecorino and half Parmigiano
- 4 eggs
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 egg beaten to brush ravioli
Beat the eggs for at least 5 minutes with the help of a whisk to incorporate air. Grate all the cheese into a separate bowl and then gradually add to the beaten eggs. Add a pinch of salt and a little black pepper plus the lemon zest.
Mix everything together well until you have a soft dough-like mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest. Some people recommend up to 8 hours in the fridge. Others say for 30 minutes!
Place the flour in the center of a pastry board or in a bowl, add the 4 eggs to the center and with the help of a fork begin to beat the eggs whilst incorporating the flour. Add the extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt and continue to mix with your hands until you have a ‘dough’.
If you started in a bowl finish kneading on a floured pasta/pastry board. Continue to knead until you have a homogeneous and elastic dough. (alternatively you can use a dough mixer to make the pasta dough)
Roll the dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes to one hour.
Divide the dough into 4-6 pieces. Using a rolling pin or pasta machine roll out a thin sheets of pasta dough (about 1mm thick). Do one piece of dough at a time leaving the rest wrapped in cling film or in a freezer bag so it won’t dry out.
With a pastry cutter, bowl or glass, cut out discs of about 7-9 centimeters in diameter from the dough. Place some egg and cheese filling in the center of each disc. Then fold the disc into a half moon. Cut around the edge of the filled ravioli using a pasta wheel. This will help to seal the edges of the ravioli.
Place the ravioli on an oil sprayed baking paper sheet in an flat oven dish. Brush the surface of the piconi with the lightly beaten egg and using the tip of a pair of scissors cut a small cross into the centre of the surface.
Bake at 160 ° - 170 ° C in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or at least until golden. Once cooked, leave the baked ravioli to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes.
Serve as finger food or as part of an antipasto or breakfast spread.
This recipe will make about 35 baked ravioli (depending on the size). If you want to make less just reduce the quantity of ingredients. For example 300g flour and 3 eggs for the dough and 300 g and 3 eggs for the filling. However, you may regret that as these baked ravioli from Le Marche are so tasty and moreish, you will probably wish you made more!
You can use just one type of pecorino and Parmigiano for the filling. In which case use half pecorino and half Parmigiano. (200g each)