Here Comes the Braid
Not many chefs would cop to watching YouTube videos to learn a technique.
But when Adam Leonti, handsome bearded dude and chef de cuisine at Marc Vetri's tony Philadelphia Italian restaurant, Vetri, was researching an obscure Sardinian filled pasta, there was nowhere else to turn.
"I first saw them in an Italian book on Sardinian pasta from 1958," he says of culurgiones, little stuffed pockets that we'd never heard of either. "But then I couldn't find any translation. The Spanish, Arabs, Italians and Occitanes all crossed through Sardinia, so the language is really strange."
Hence, the YouTube tutorials. Followed by weeks spent perfecting the intricate braid that forms a zipper-like seal.
We tried our hand at culurgiones with a simple filling of potato, mint and Pecorino Romano (see the recipe). Follow Leonti's braiding technique (watch the video of him and Vetri)--or make your life easier by rolling the pasta into ravioli or simple half-moon shapes and sealing the edges with a fork.
At the restaurant, Leonti finishes the dish with butter-sautéed sweetbreads. We left out the meat and found a simple topping of brown-butter--with loads more freshly chopped mint and shaved Pecorino--very satisfying.
Either way, it's all about honoring old traditions worth savoring--and saving.
"These antiquated pastas are vanishing." Leonti says. "It's been my personal mission to find them, make them and teach other people how to make them."
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