“Let’s consider your age to begin with — how old are you?’
‘I’m seven and a half exactly.’
‘You needn’t say “exactually,”’ the Queen remarked: ‘I can believe it without that. Now I’ll give you something to believe. I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.’
‘I can’t believe that!’ said Alice.
‘Can’t you?’ the Queen said in a pitying tone. ‘Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.’
Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said: ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’
‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Alice in wonderland is my favourite novel, I have always been fascinated by this world and all its characters. I have a special affection for the white rabbit and his “I am late”, that is basically my third most used sentence after “I am hungry” and “why me, why”*.
*”Why me, why” is used for all sorts of dramas: burnt coffee, rain after the hairdresser, scratched car. Due to its versatility, it is definitely my second most used sentence, accompanied with different nuances of swearing depending on the severity of the situation.
Back to the impossible things before breakfast: Alice went to this fantastic world where she can shrink and grow, animals are magical and can talk, queens chop people’s heads as if they were making a soffritto, and a white rabbit is mirroring my life being always late and panicking about it (“why me, why”).
My impossible thing before breakfast is that I finally found the courage to make Culurgiones, a type of pasta that always intimidated me for the extreme respect I have for its history and for the very traditional technique used to achieve the characteristic shape.
Culurgiones are dumplings from Ogliastra, a province in eastern Sardinia. The concept of this pasta is similar to ravioli, so you have dough stuffed with traditional ingredients, but the shape is way more elaborated and the history behind this pasta has something that always fascinated me.
In Ulassai, an area in the province of Nuovo, up until the 1960s, Culurgiones were only eaten on the 2nd of November, that in Italy is the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed and the Day of the Dead (it is also called All Souls Day). It is a day to commemorate and pray for for the souls of those who have died. Culurgiones were exchanged as a gift between families and friends as a gesture of love and respect. They were also believed to be an amulet to protect against the evil eye and from illnesses.
Culurgiones were also prepared to propitiate the growth of wheat, and as a way to thank for what has already been harvested. For this strong connection to the wheat, their traditional shape “sa spighitta” is meant to resemble the ear of wheat.
The filling can change across the different areas, but the most traditional is the one from the Ogliastra province, with mint leaves, pecorino cheese and potatoes. The use of potatoes became very popular in the 1800s, and Sardinian women invented a special tool, similar to our modern irons, to mash the potatoes and use them as a filling.
Here is the recipe and the video to make Culurgiones, I can promise you it was very challenging but the video is muted so you can’t hear “why me, why”.
Ingredients for 5 people – remember that you need to start two days in advance to infuse the oil and prepare the filling:
-semola flour, 250g
-white flour, 150g
-warm water, 200ml
-olive oil, one tablespoon
-pinch of salt
-grated pecorino cheese, 150g
-mint leaves, 14
-garlic, one clove
-olive oil, 70ml
-pinch of salt
-pinch of pepper
-tomato passata, 500ml
-garlic, one clove
-olive oil, 2 tablespoon
-pinch of salt
-basil, 4 leaves
1.two days before, you need to take the olive oil and the garlic clove listed in the “filling” ingredients. Leave the garlic in the oil overnight, in order to aromatise it
2.the day before, boil the potatoes for 30/40 minutes. When they are still hot (be careful) mash them with the potato masher. leave them to cool.
3.add the oil you left overnight the day before,the grated pecorino cheese, salt and pepper
4.chop the mint leaves finely, and add them to the potato mixture
5.cover the mixture with cling film and leave it to rest overnight
6.the day you are making the pasta, start mixing together the dough ingredients. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until it is smooth
7.cover the dough in cling film and leave it to rest for 30 minutes
8.after 30 minutes, take 1/4 of the dough and flatten it with a rolling pin until it is 2mm wide
9.cut out 8cm rounds of dough (I used a glass)
10. place one tablespoon of the filling on the centre of the dough, then pinch and fold the base. Keep pinching and folding the extremities to seal the end of the culurgiones, working side by side , like in the video below
12.add the tomato sauce, basil leaves, salt pepper. Leave it to cook at low temperature for 30 minutes and remove the garlic
13.now you can cook the culurgiones: boil some water, add salt and cook the pasta for 4/5 minutes
14.drain the pasta using a colander and mix it with the tomato sauce