Monday, January 18, 2010

Anolini in Brodo and a Giveaway

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My mother was born into a poor but loving family in Northern Italy’s Emilia Romagna region, in a small hamlet not far from the enchanting medieval village of Castell’Arquato.  Piacenza is the largest nearby city and these anolini are a Piacentine specialty. Called anvein in the local dialect, they’re typically served in a hot broth for Christmas dinner or other festive occasions. The filling varies from town to town – some places add meat, other places just parmesan cheese, eggs and bread crumbs.  In Castell’Arquato, it’s always the latter.

My mother grew up in a humble-looking abode with three brothers, three sisters and her mother and father. I’m sure my grandmother made these for her children many times, but my mother never made them for us when we were growing up, since by then she had adapted the Southern Italian cooking traditions of her in-laws.  Decades later, when I first visited my mother’s brothers and sisters, the little hovel was still standing, but abandoned. Across the alley, Uncle Antonio (my mother’s brother), and his wife Aunt Carla were living in the ground floor of a beautiful modern home built by Franco, the husband of my cousin Lucia.

Over the years, I had poked my head inside the door of the old home, but it was so piled with old furniture, household implements and other cast-offs, that you could barely get past the front door. Until last year that is. That’s when my cousin Lucia decided to organize all the detritus in the old family homestead, adding a few items she’d found at antique fairs and shows.

When I saw the house after she had reorganized it, it was like being in a folk art museum. We stepped into the vestibule and saw farm tools and implements lining the walls:

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In the main room, Lucia had set up a table as though dinner were ready to be served:

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Pots hung on the walls and clocks rested on the fireplace mantle while time stood still. Where some might have seen little more than an organized hovel, I saw a family’s history. My family’s history. Emotions overwhelmed me and tears began to flow as I visualized my mother and her siblings in this home, eating dinner, sitting around the fireplace and helping out with the chores. 

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I saw my grandfather coming home from working the fields, my grandmother repairing her children’s clothes and preparing dinner. I visualized my uncles adding wood to the fire, and my aunts dropping pieces of hot coals inside the old-fashioned iron before ironing the clothes. I imagined the warm reception my grandparents gave when they first met their new Italian-American son-in-law, an WWII soldier who had just married their daughter Maria.

Out of her own sense of family pride and love, my cousin Lucia had spent her spare time creating something that touched me deeply and brought my own personal history to life. 

On top of the old sewing machine, Lucia had placed a few implements, including the round anolini cutter that you see on the left of the wooden cutting board.  When my Aunt Carla (Lucia’s mother) was still alive, I always requested that she make anolini in brodo, a dish she made better than anyone. It was and still is, one of my favorite dishes from the region.

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I left Italy last year with a lot more memories and also with that anolini cutter that my cousin gave me. I’m on my way back to Italy again to spend a few days with relatives, a week skiing in the Alps, and a little time roaming around Milan, Verona and Padua. But before leaving, I wanted to make these anolini using the cutter that once belonged to my grandmother. I never met her, but I already feel a certain kinship for her since we shared the same first name. My name Linda is a shortened version of her Ermelinda. Now I will share her anolini with you. I’m sure they’re not as good as hers, but as I cut out each of the little pasta pillows, I remind myself of that loving woman I never knew who raised seven children in this beautiful home.

Here’s what my anolini cutter looks like close-up. Can you just imagine the stories it could tell if it could talk, and the loving hands that worked with this tool over the years – heck, over the last century – creating those little marks and making what was probably thousands of anolini?

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If you’re still with me, I’ve got a little giveaway for you and a contribution to make as well. I can’t give you a 100-year old anolini cutter like mine, but I can offer you a new one that I’ll buy when I’m in Italy. From the ones I’ve seen, they’re much easier to use. Also, as a way to honor the memory of my mother Maria and grandmother Ermelinda, I also want to make a contribution in the name of Ciao Chow Linda’s readers to help the people of Haiti suffering from the devastating earthquake.  I already donated to the American Red Cross immediately after the earthquake, so this time, for every comment that’s left on my blog I’ll donate 50 cents to Partners in Health, an organization that’s been working on the ground in Haiti for 20 years, and that brings medical care to poor communities. Most of PIH’s staff are local nationals in the communities it serves.  To make your own donation, click here for a list of reputable organizations.

I’ll choose the winner of the anolini cutter at random when I get back.  Just leave a comment following the post, along with a with a way for me to contact you. You don’t have to have a blog to participate, but if you don’t, leave your comment and a way for me to reach you in the comment section of the post. If you do have a blog, I’m sorry I won’t be reading your posts while I’m gone, but in a few weeks after I get back I plan to catch up with all your recipes and give you a few more from my travels.

Here are some photos of making the anolini:

This is what the filling should look like:

January 2010 086 I put it the filling in a plastic bag and cut off a corner to make portioning it easier. Alternatively, use a pastry bag – or just a tiny spoon.

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Dab a little bit of the filling on the dough and moisten around the filling with a little water to help the dough stick together when you fold it over:

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Fold the dough over on itself and press lightly on the area between the filling.

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Press firmly with the anolini cutter:

January 2010 094  Voila! Anolini ready for their closeup.

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And here they are:

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Anolini di Castell’Aquato

Printable recipe here

The recipes are in grams, but I have also given amounts in cups. If you have a digital scale, it really works best to follow the recipes in grams, since one cup can be different depending on how you pack the ingredients into the cup. If you don’t have a digital scale however, do not pack ingredients such as bread crumbs or cheese tightly – just loosely. I made half the filling and used 300 grams of flour (about 2 cups) and 3 eggs for the dough. You may need to add more.

for the pasta:

300 gr. flour (about 2 cups)

3 eggs

I make pasta using the food processor. If you add too much flour right away, it’s hard to get it to the right consistency. Start with 300 grams of flour and add the three eggs. Whir it until it starts to form a ball and releases from the sides of the bowl. A lot of getting the right consistency depends on the size of the eggs and on the humidity of the day. I did not need to add any water and I didn’t add any further flour, just the 300 grams plus some extra sprinkled on the board. After you take the dough from the food processor, knead a little on the board, and keep it covered for about 1/2 hour, to rest the glutens.

for the filling:

This made enough to fill about 120 anolini. I had a little dough leftover, but rolled it out and made a couple of lasagna sheets to put in the freezer for the future.  Top quality ingredients are crucial here. Do not use packaged bread crumbs or already grated cheese.

50 grams –about 1 cup of bread crumbs (I used part of a loaf of day-old dense Italian bread, crusts trimmed and whirred in food processor)

150 grams – about 1 1/2 cups of aged grana padano cheese (I used an aged parmigiano reggiano), grated

1 egg

a few grindings of fresh nutmeg

about 1/4 cup chicken broth

Beat the eggs into a bowl and add the bread crumbs, cheese, and nutmeg and mix well.

Roll out the pasta dough, either by hand or using a pasta roller, fill with a small amount of filling. Moisten the dough and fold over part of the dough, covering the filling. Cut with the anolini cutter and place on a towel sprinkled with flour.

Serve with homemade broth, made either with chicken, beef or a combination.


  1. Boy that anolini cutter does look like it could tell some stories. Have fun on your visit. My husband and I are planning on visiting Italy next year for our 10th year anniversary!!

  2. HI Linda,
    What a beautiful post. Your mother's house reminds me of the house my mother grew up in. Don't you just wish those walls could talk?
    The anolini look delicious, I've never tried the breadcrumb, cheese, and egg filling. It sounds wonderful!
    Have a great trip!

  3. WOW! Super cool. My Grandparents home is still standing and abandon as well. They are from Montemilone ~ an hour from Bari. Anyway, I love all things pasta and that little anolini is awesome. I seem to remember you having some other wonderful tools from them?? Have a safe and fun trip.

  4. A lot of good memories here Linda. I can imagine wandering through the old family homestead with all it's objects that were so lovingly used.Enjoy your holidays!!!!

  5. That's a very touching post Linda. It must be amazing seeing your grandmother's house adorned like she still lives there. And to have her cutter, using it just the way she did must be great. It makes me wanna go hug my grandmother who has given me so much and is an inspiration to me still.

  6. What a wonderful post, Linda. Family bonds are so powerful and it must have been wonderful and very emotional to see the home where your mother was raised. Small objects can become our most treasured posessions.

    Have a wonderful holidays. I'm looking forward to hearing about your adventures when you return home.

  7. what a great memento and with a cutter like this how can the anolini not taste better than any other....

  8. I love all those antique kitchen tools!
    It looks like an antiques shop!
    I love it!

  9. I wish that anolini cutter could talk! Looks delish! Have a fabulous trip!

  10. How wonderful that your cousin revived the farmhouse treasures, and that you have such a direct link to your family and heritage. Thanks for sharing, and buon viaggio!

  11. Truly incredible story and photos. Thank you so much for sharing. Have a wonderful time in Italy-you lucky gal!

  12. You have the best family heirlooms and all the stories behind them. I can't even imagine being able to actually stand in the house my mother grew up in, that is so awesome for you. Have a wonderful trip to Italy, I'm so happy for you, but I'm soooo jealous!! Take lots of photos. Be safe.

  13. Such a beautiful and touching story! I am fascinated by all the old tools in the photos. I have never tried anolini before, but I love fresh pasta so I'm going to try to make it. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  14. This post touches me in so many ways it's difficult to remember to mention them all. I wrote a book about handed-down treasured family recipes, and I too have a family history that includes loving cooks and old ways. I collect old kitchen tools so I was astonished at the incredible pictures of your ancestral home with all the old tools and rustic furniture, so evocative of another way of life long ago. I have my great-grandmother's baking tools from turn of the century. The patina on these old things speaks of generations of cooks. I love the photos of you making pasta too - the dough looks like satin fabric and the recipe seems wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to post this long and thoughtful piece.

  15. i was just in emilia romagna in october and learned to make tortellini en brodo and fully understand why works of art like those and your anolini are made for special occasions. I inherited an anolini cutter from my great aunt several years ago and have never used it. It looks like it is high time I pulled it out and tried your recipe. I have been a follower-lurker for a while and am continually inspired

  16. Che belle foto e che bei ricordi, la famiglia di mio papà era molto numerosa, fra qualche giorno postero' una foto cosi' ti fai un'idea. i tuoi anolini sono perfetti, complimenti.
    Ciao Daniela.

  17. What a wonderful post Linda, and how lucky for you to have returned last time with that anolini cutter.. a marvelous remembrance trip for you.
    Safe travel on this trip! Have fun!

  18. This post is just lovely - filled with family goodness and love. The anolini in broth looks delicious - that cutter is amazing.

  19. What a very touching post, Linda. You told such a beautiful story about your family. I think that the ties that bind us to family can be strong and very emotional. It must have been wonderful to feel that connection with your family's history and have all of those good memories. This also made me think about family and old recipes. I just had a conversation with my aunt and asked her if she remembers my great-grandmother's, her grandmother's, wonderful stuffed cabbage. She told me that she loved that stuffed cabbage and that it's funny how we remember our loved ones by the food they make.
    Thanks for the recipe, I love fresh pasta and the anloini look delcious. You can e-mail me at Hope you have a safe trip. Have a wonderful time!

  20. That humble looking abode that Linda refers to was also my home first 10 months of my life. The year was 1946, Italy had been liberated from the Nazis by the United States and her allied forces, the war was over, mom was a war bride on her way to the USA. It must have been a bitter sweet moment for young women to travel to a new world with two babies in tow, a new husband and a whole new future to look forward to. Although I was to small to remember anything that happened there, I as well had haunting memories of that era that were brought to life when I last visited Italy 10 years ago.
    It was a very emotional time when I finally got to meet some of my cousin’s aunts and uncle after 53 years! We had peek into the old homestead and my Uncle Antiono retrieved an old tattered wicker basket that was once used a bassinet for my older brother Joe and myself. I know our mom would be overwhelmed with joy if she could see that Linda has continued with our mother’s passion for cooking and preserving cultural and family traditions. As a side note I am almost positive that mom did in fact make Anolini served in a chicken broth, but I think she also added spinach, or perhaps they may just have been some leftover ravioli’s.

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  22. Your post brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful home filled with so many interesting things. Have a wonderful and safe trip!

  23. This is such a beautiful post Linda...I enjoyed it so.
    I love old family kitchen can feel all the love that is stored within them. I have my Grandmother's noodle board. I cherish it...
    I will have to try this recipe...your soup looks absolutely delicious! I would love a bowl of it right looks so comforting...the Anolini look so wonderful!
    Have a wonderful trip...I can not wait to hear of your adventures when you return....
    Have a safe trip!

  24. What a touching post. Your Mother's childhood home has so many wonderful memories visable in it. When my husband re-visited his boyhood home in Calabria my children and I were so surprised how very small it was -- two tiny rooms for seven people. He remembers his bed was a hammock they hung from the ceiling at night.

    Your grandmother's anolini cutter is such a tresure! They look so delicious flating in the broth.

    This is a wonderful idea to help raise money for Haiti, Linda. We gave to the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.

    Have a wonderful time in Italy! I hope you will see an opera in La Scala. Safe travels!

  25. Linda,
    I love your post. I felt like I was in the house with you! Have a wonderful safe trip!

  26. Anolini, Anolini! Homemade pasta is always better, and much more authentic tasting. What a wonderful toy you have there! I have been following your blog now for some time, and every recipe you post... my mouth just waters. When you posted your stuffed squid, I was in shock to see that there was another family out there that ate that dish on special occasions as well. One of these days, I am going to make it to Italy, and visit the little town that was named after my family, "Antignano". I love your Blog very much. I enjoy each entry to the fullest. Safe and happy travels be with you.

  27. Beautiful photos and words to go with such a great recipe. Love your blog!

  28. Wow, those are amazing photos - I'd love to live in a place like that!

    And that pasta looks divine. I love the rustic feel of this post.

  29. I absolutely love your story! It is beautiful and very reminiscent of my own family and heritage. I have a northern Italian heritage on one side and a Sicilian on the other. And I love that little cutter. I have measuring cups, cake pans, etc. of my grandmothers and I treasure them, as they tell many stories too. I feel blessed to have them! I would LOVE to have a similar cutter to make that delicious recipe and to pass down to my children someday! - Julie

  30. Bet I could add a few tools to that wall.
    How wonderful for you to find your mother's house and so lovingly taken care of too.
    Have a great trip!

  31. You've inspired me to make sure I visit as least one of my 4 grandparents' birthplaces the next time I visit Italy. I have visited Gubbio twice now but never figured out the actual home. As far as the pasta goes, my mother always makes capelletti in brodo...a small tortellini-shaped cap filled with meat, cheese and lemon.....luscious...the most requested special meal ever in the history of my family!
    Karen (no blog...just a follower)

  32. I'm just in tears. This is so beautiful. In another year and a half,my husband and I will be searching for my grandparents town in very poor Basilicata. Grandma did not hand down recipes - she never used one. But she handed down love of cooking - slowly. It is so special what you have - not just the anolini cutter - but the memories, the roots and the imagination to see what came before. We've also been donating in different ways to Haiti. Because we are so fortunate.

  33. Linda Linda Linda! I hung on to your every word. I studied the beautiful little home, and that amazing anolini cutter made me want to cry!

    Sighh I am so happy you have Italian family. I only wish I could be adopted by one.

    I've donated to 5 charities for Haiti. I want to do more, I wish I knew how. Maybe the opportunity will present itself.

    I couldn't possibly be lucky enough to win, but if by some miracle I do you know where I am.


  34. Linda,
    As so many of the others have said, your post was beautiful and touching. Thank you for sharing with us. I'm also involved in the Haitian earthquake, so any little bit more will help. And I can't use the annolini cutter. Maybe Greg can.

  35. Well, people have pretty much covered the fact that you can't read this and not have your eyes well up with tears! How beautifully you communicate your love of family! Funny how objects like the tools on the wall and these wonderful foods bring home the past. They trigger "sensory" replay and unleash the tremendous power of memory. Very moving!

    Thanks for sharing your history and lovely recipes. Makes me feel like visiting my Grandmother and cooking for her right this second. Funny thing is that she is up now and would be happy for such a visit, but I am the one who needs to go to bed! I'll call her in the morning to ask her what foods she most remembers from her mother!

  36. Hello Linda, Your anolini looks so delicious and I really loved your post in so many ways, your photos, your memories, your treasured anolini cutter and your kindness to those hurting right now in Haiti. I wish you safe travels and an enjoyable time in Italy, it is my most favourite place to visit. Kathy.

  37. Thank you for your many fantastic recipes. The anolini look divine.
    Have a great trip.

  38. What a great many nice memories. You are very lucky to have this.

  39. If walls could talk! That is incredible. My 84 yr old mother-in-law has moved in with our family. We have love her beloved ravioli cutter in the move. She used it for many things, but she always makes these fried/filled cookies called "St. Joseph's pants" at Easter. They have a chick pea & chocolate filling. They are really good. A recipe from her family around Asciano. I look forward to sharing your recipe and story with her!

  40. You have the best posts about family, travel and delicious food. I always look forward to visiting your blog.

  41. Thanks for sharing your story Linda... safe travels and enjoy your time in Italy. My parents' homes were very similar and it's amazing how much work they had to do (no washing machine, no central heat, no phone, no tv, no refrigerator, no supermarket) yet they never lacked anything and their lives were rich in so many ways. Also, thanks for your contribution to a tragic situation in Haiti.

  42. Linda, a wonderful tour. Back then, they had less but lived better than us and they were happy.

    Today, people have all the material possessions they want and yet, still unsatisfied.

    A return to appreciating the simpler things is needed.

  43. Your story is amazing, I have tears in my eyes!

  44. That is a wonderful, touching story...I hope to someday visit the homes of my grandparents in Sicily and Bari...have a wonderful time on your trip..look forward to seeing pics and more stories.

  45. They are very similar to the parmesan version! Hope you're having a great time here.

  46. Linda,
    Thank you for sharing this amazing story, images, and recipes. Your cousins effort in restoring your mother's home was truly a labor of love.

  47. What a great discovery! I love delving into my family's past, but I've never had the opportunity to find quite as much hard evidence as you have.

  48. what an incredible bunch of treasures...both in memories and tools and gadgets. I'd be like a kid in a candy shop looking at all of that and just "feeling" the atmosphere.

  49. linda che meraviglia!!!! bellissime le foto , bello il racconto, splendida la ricetta!!! sono molto contenta di averti conosciuto e di condividere con te queste origini italiane che ti fanno sentire così vicina ( i miei nonni sono tutti toscani....) Baci e a presto

  50. That soup would hit the spot right now... bad cold!

  51. Hope you had a nice time in italy Linda! I can't wait to read about all your adventures on your blog and see what you will be making for us.

    Hugs, Pat

  52. Oh Linda - such a moving post! Those photos of your family's home are wonderful, and how fortunate that you have your grandmother's tool.

  53. What a great post. I hope you have a wonderful trip!

  54. What a fabulous post and what an amazing thing to be able to connect with your family and heritage! I hope you had a most wonderful trip and thank you for the photos of your family’s home. It was fascinating to get a glimpse into the past.

    Also, the recipe looks great and I can’t wait to try my hand at it.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Ashton (

  55. I just found your lovely blog today. I would absolutely love to have the cutter. My email address is

  56. What a wonderful post! I am also from an Italian family and have loved passing down our traditions to our four children (who all can make pizzelles!). Our favorite recipe calls for 8 eggs though...

  57. Love your family story and your cousins work. What a wonderful tribute and bring those times and their spirit back to life. That is truly wonderful. I look forward to trying your family anolini sometime. I love tortellini in brodo and these little clouds look very enticing. I'm glad I finally discovered your blog. I'll be back.

  58. Very impressive ! I love the pots and pans on the wall!

  59. This is a revelation. I am of Piacenza heritage.My family lives in the nearby town of Fiorenzuola D'arda, but I have friends that live in Castel Arquato.
    My Nonnas' recipe is with no meat only parmigiano reggiano, etc and I have a wonderful cookbook In Italian called 400 Ricette Piacentine and use athe Anvein recipe of Castel Arquato.
    My Nonna used a whiskey glass to cut the Anvein into half moons.
    I am looking for a anolini cutter
    that is like a stamp press. Any ideas? Making 700-800 next week.

  60. I can't believe that someone else has heard of anvein. I have been asking people for many, many years and no one has ever heard of it. This recipe has been handed down by my aunt and we have been making them for many years now. Delicious!

  61. they really look gorgeous! Love that anolini cutter!

  62. Ciao Linda,
    I am also from Piacenza, born in Sperongia, and I have a cutter just like yours passed down from my mom and boy, how many anolini it made!!! We add cooked chicken (used to make the broth) to the filling. There are never enough anvein...

  63. Hi Linda,

    I read this with such interest. My husband and I went to Italy the first time 31 years ago and looked for my grandfather's brother. We only knew what town they lived near. We got off a bus from Rome to Ausonia and we just started to walk down dirt roads. My husband who speaks Italian knocked on doors asking people if they knew my uncle. At the 5th house, the woman knew my uncle, called someone she knew who drove us to his house. We spent 3 wonderful days with them. They treated us like royalty, sharing what little they had with us. An experience that will never be repeated.

  64. Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all of us you really know what you're talking about! Bookmarked. Kindly also visit my web site =). We could have a link exchange arrangement between us!
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  65. Thank you for posting this! My Italian-American family has been making anveins for over a hundred years since leaving Italy. We never knew that these were a real tradition - my Nonna’s family was from Poacenza. We continue the tradition every Christmas- the cheese and bread rum version. She also had what looked like a hundred year old cutter. I hated using that one as a child because it dulled. But I hope my father still has it!