Chestnut agnolotti is a rich dinner meant to impress. Read on for our recipe and prepare to dazzle your guests!
I feel like I should put a big amusement park-style disclaimer here:
Chestnut agnolotti is not intended for the fat-phobic, cheese-phobic, those who don't love rich flavors, or anyone with a heart condition. It's a showstopper, something to pull out when you really need to impress the in-laws or seal the deal with a potential mate. That's not to say it doesn't make an incredible weeknight dinner (or lunch eaten directly over the stove, as I may have done when cooking up the leftovers after photographing them today!).
Making fresh pasta isn't as time-consuming as most people assume: start to finish, it takes me about an hour to make enough pappardelle, tagliatelle, or fettuccine to feed four to six people, and the rewards and adulation that come from setting a bowl of fresh pasta in front of dinner guests make it my go-to meal when we're having company.
But filling and shaping stuffed pasta adds another level of focus to the ritual, and when you're filling said pasta with creamy, luxurious chestnuts and mascarpone cheese… well, if this is something you're doing on a random Tuesday night, you're as crazy as I am.
Chestnuts have been a staple of Italian cuisine for millennia, as nutritious sustenance for the soldiers of the Roman empire to banquet delicacies for aristocracy during the Renaissance to lowly peasant fare (cucina povera) by the time of the Industrial Revolution.
But if you think I'm roasting and peeling them by hand like a peasant for this chestnut agnolotti, you're perhaps even crazier that I first assumed. A 14-ounce jar of pre-steamed chestnuts is my secret weapon, readily available at grocery stores from Trader Joe's to Whole Foods and worth every penny in time and frustration saved.
Pairing chestnuts with Italian mascarpone cheese isn't my original idea: I nicked it from a dish in The French Laundry cookbook The French Laundry Cookbook that's even more decadent than this one.
But where Thomas Keller adds truffle oil, cream, and mild Fontina to his original version, I pair mine with sweet but pungent Robiola, a gooey northern Italian cheese encased in a white rind. Feel free to substitute gorgonzola dolce or another creamy blue if you love that strong, sinus-clearing flavor.
For a final garnish, celery leaves - yep, from the tips of each stalk, the things you probably toss in the compost instead of giving them a second glance! - give a bitter, grassy note to the chestnut agnolotti. If you're celery-averse, sage or flat-leaf parsley would work equally well here, but I've become addicted to adding an extra hit of bright flavor with these bonus leaves. Hint: they're equally as delicious in risotto, chowder, and other creamy, salty dishes.
A word on agnolotti: they're essentially mini ravioli, and though I've seen a number of ways to shape and fill these tiny buggers, I stick with the really easy method of folding and slicing the pasta into small (around 1 inch) pillows. Try not to leave too much excess dough flapping at the edges, since the good stuff is in that luxurious chestnut filling.