A bowl of tiny hats

January 11, 2011 at 4:07 pm (Uncategorized)

My Great-Grandfather on my Dad’s side, Giuseppe Palazzari, immigrated to the United States when he was around 15 years old to find work. After some time working in Pennsylvania he made his way to Southeast Kansas to work in the mines and this is where he met my Great-Grandmother (she was born in the United States, but her parents came from Italy) and stayed. In fact, Southeast Kansas was quite the hot spot for many young immigrants due to the coal mining. 

The recipe for cappalletti’s (pronounced: cahp-uh-let-eez) probably came from my Great-Grandma’s side of the family, but since I don’t know as much about her history I shared a little about the side I am more familiar with. Also, we’re suspecting that my Great-Grandfather would have been familiar with them. When my family visited our Italian relatives a few years ago in the same home where my Great-Grandpa was born and raised, low and behold our relatives served cappalletti’s. Just like what we were familiar with, but maybe smaller in scale. Cappalletti’s, which means little hats in Italian, are a stuffed pasta like a ravioli. They are traditionally stuffed with a variation of meats and cheese, but in our family we use ground steak, pork and chicken mixed with equal portions pecorino romano cheese and served in a chicken broth. 

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I grew up eating these tiny hats on Thanksgiving and Christmas. If we were lucky there were enough to take home for some extra meals during the week. The cappalletti’s were always lovingly and probably painstakingly made by my Grandma and her two younger sisters. It was quite the process.

Oh yes! I know this now because this was the first year that I participated in making these tiny, delectable hats. 

We always intended to learn how to make these from our Grandma. Excuses can be made and cheesy cliché’s can be tossed around about “time getting away from us,” but it’s a moot point now. The fact of the matter is time DID get away from us and before we knew it, our Grandma was gone. 

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This past November though, we (my sister, Dad, Mom and even Emmeline!) learned how to make cappeletti’s from our Great Aunt Bae, one of my Grandma’s sisters. We heard her hilarious stories about the sisterly trio trying their hands at cappeletti making for the first time after their own Mother had passed away. We heard about the evolution and variations of the recipe while making our own cappeletti’s for the first time. She described how her own mother rolled out the pasta dough with a rolling pin the size of a baseball bat and how the pasta had a sheen like satin. She described how the whole process took them the better part of three days, and how they would always argue about how much cheese to mix with the meat, and how after making 300 or more cappalletti’s, the neat tiny hats started to get much bigger and a little sloppy. 

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When I was younger and I had no idea how much love and family history went into what I was eating. To me, cappalletti’s just tasted like Christmas. Now though, they taste like much, much more – and I’ll try my hardest to make sure Emmeline can taste that too. 

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