Monday, January 29, 2024

Rosette Modenese (Pasta Roses)

This luscious dish, also called "nidi di rondine" (swallow nests) originates in Modena, Italy, and has to be one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted. It may look like a lasagna rollup, but it's in a whole different category and is filled with prosciutto cotto, fontina, parmesan and béchamel. One of my Italian cousins (who doesn't live that far from Modena), prepared it for me decades ago and I made it only once following that visit. With company coming for dinner last weekend, I wanted a killer primo piatto and decided to make it again. To say it did not disappoint is an understatement. It was even better than I remembered -- so ethereal,  light and delicate, it practically melted in the mouth. My guests were also in rapture over the dish.

The authentic way to make this is without the tomato sauce, but I wanted a little color and a slight acidic touch to balance all the cheese and béchamel, so I added dollops of tomato sauce on the bottom of the casserole and on top too. You can alter it to your taste, even changing the cheese from fontina, to taleggio or any other good Italian cheese that melts well. 
The recipe may seem long, but it almost took longer to write this blog post than it did to make the rosettes. To save a little time, I started by making the pasta dough the night before, then wrapped it in plastic and stored in the refrigerator overnight. 
The next day, I cooked the béchamel, stirring until it was the density of pudding. Then I set it aside to cool.
I made a light tomato sauce (again, eliminate this if you want the authentic version) and set it aside to cool.

Next, you grate the fontina cheese. 

Then roll out the pasta. Yes, you can use store-bought pasta sheets, but nothing compares to the velvety texture and toothiness of home made pasta.
I boiled each pasta sheet for just one minute, then dunked it right away in a cold water bath. I rolled it out to its thinnest setting, and wondered to myself whether it even needed the boiling, or whether I could have eliminated the step, since it was so thin and baked in the oven for nearly 40 minutes. Maybe next time, I'll try baking it without boiling the pasta first. 

I placed the boiled pasta on some dry dish towels and patted away any remaining water. They look like they need ironing, don't they? 
Spread a thin layer of the béchamel on top, then a sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese.
Next goes the layer of prosciutto cotto (cooked ham). Don't be tempted to use any old boiled ham here, or prosciutto crudo. Search out prosciutto cotto at an Italian specialty food store. It's even available online, if you can't find it near you. It's so much more delicate than regular boiled ham, and has no smokiness whatsoever. Prosciutto crudo would be all wrong too, not just from the flavor standpoint, but it would also be difficult to slice evenly once it's all rolled up since it can be a little stringier. 

Last, layer on the shredded fontina. Use more if you like -- no rules here.
Then start rolling from the short end. Roll tightly. The roll on the right (below photo) was the result from rolling one of the pasta layers. I thought it was too puny, so I placed it adjacent to another pasta layer and continued rolling, making for a fatter roll like the one on the left.
Here's a photo of adding another filled pasta sheet.
Slice the rolls (I got six slices from each of the two rolls, but the slices on the ends weren't as full as the ones from the middle.)
In all, I got twelve rosettes. Depending on appetites, it would be enough for four to six people. I served it as a first course and each person ate one or two pieces. So we had some leftover the next day, and they heated up great in the microwave. If you want it as the main course (with a side salad), it might only serve four people.

I placed a layer of béchamel on the bottom of a large casserole, and then a few dollops of tomato sauce.

Spread the tomato sauce.
Add the rosettes.
Then add a dollop of béchamel and a dollop of tomato sauce over each rosette.
Sprinkle with more parmesan and fontina.
Bake covered with foil for 20 minutes, then remove the foil, and bake another 20 minutes or so until piping hot. If you like crispy pasta edges (I don't) then bake without a cover from the beginning. From start to finish (not including mixing the pasta the day before or baking the pasta), it was a project of about 1 1/2 hours. But the beauty is you can make it all ahead of time, then pop it in the oven when your guests arrive, and sit down to have a drink with them rather than be in the kitchen fussing over a first course. It's well worth trying this for a showstopper dish. Try it for your special Valentine this year. Or as a first course for Easter. It's sure to be a favorite with everyone.

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Pasta Roses (Rosette Modenese)

printable recipe here


Fresh Homemade Pasta

2 cups 00 flour (you may need more)

4 eggs (start with 3 eggs)

pinch of salt

For the Stuffing:

1/2 pound prosciutto cotto, thinly sliced

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese plus another 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top.

1 1/2 cups shredded Italian fontina cheese plus another 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top.

Béchamel sauce:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup flour

3 cups milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

a generous grating of nutmeg


1/2 cup of homemade tomato sauce (meatless) 


Make the béchamel sauce

Make the béchamel by melting the butter, then add the flour and stir with a whisk over low heat until flour absorbs the butter. Let it cook for a minute or two, then slowly add the milk, whisking all the while. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir over low to medium heat until it becomes the consistency of pudding. Set aside to cool.

Make the tomato sauce

I used 1/2 stick diced celery, 1/2 diced carrot, 1/4 cup diced onion and sautéed them in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then added 2 cups chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper and 1/8 teaspoon dried basil. Simmer for 1/2 hour, then use a stick blender to make it smooth. Set aside to cool.

Make the pasta

Meanwhile make the pasta. I use a food processor and start with two cups of 00 flour and three eggs. Whir everything together until it forms a ball. If it's too dry, add a fourth egg, then whir again. It may come together now but it may also be too sticky, so add more flour, a little at a time, to get to the right consistency - smooth but not too dry and not sticky. Knead for a few minutes until very smooth, then let it rest for at least 20-30 minutes. I made mine the day before, wrapped it in plastic and kept it in the refrigerator overnight. This makes more dough than the recipe calls for, so I froze the rest of the dough.

Roll the dough to the thinnest setting on your pasta machine. Try to make it as wide as the machine will allow. Boil the pasta strips for just a minute, then plunge into cold water to stop the cooking and make it easier to handle. Place on a dish towel and pat dry.


When you're finished boiling the pasta, it's time to assemble. Start by spreading a thin layer of béchamel over the pasta, then sprinkle some parmesan next, followed by a layer of the prosciutto cotto, and finally the fontina. Starting at one end, roll tightly until you reach the end. If your pasta sheets are too short, just continue rolling a completed roll onto a second sheet of filled pasta. I had long pieces of pasta but inadvertently cut them in half originally, thinking they were too long. Cutting them in half also makes them less likely to be unwieldy when boiling. After the first roll of the filled pasta, I realized I wanted a thicker roll, so I just continued by adjoining the already rolled piece to a second piece that was filled by flattened. I hope this isn't too confusing, but refer to the photo in the post to clarify.

When you're finished rolling, cut each roll into six pieces -- each piece will be about an inch and a half wide. The pieces next to the end won't be as full as the center pieces, but that's ok.

Next, spread a layer of the béchamel sauce into the bottom of a large casserole, then place a few dollops of tomato sauce over that and spread it thinly over the béchamel. Place the rosettes over the sauce, then spread a little béchamel on top, a dab of tomato sauce and more fontina and parmesan. 

Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15-20 minutes, or until everything is melted. 


  1. Incredible! I can’t wait to make this. I like the idea of adding some red sauce as well.

  2. Linda, this is a work of art, honestly I never heard of this, I would love to make this one day, maybe Easter! What a beautiful meal this makes,