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Watch Party


Written by Linda SarrisPhotos by Alberta Cuccia

EDITOR'S NOTE: What's better than watching a riveting drama with great friends? Watching a riveting drama with great friends while having some delicious food and drink! Invite some friends over to watch MHz Choice and enjoy these scrumptious recipes crafted by Chef Linda Sarris! ~ J.C.


Sweet Ricotta Pastries

italian party Cassatelle 21 1540x1027
Cassatelle (Sweet Ricotta Pastries)

Notes from the Chef:

When thinking of desserts in Sicily, everything ricotta-filled will pop into your mind. There are dozens of famous pastries including this self-indulgent sheepy specialty. Cannoli are the crisp pastry shell tubes filled with ricotta cream and sometimes with candied orange, chocolate chips or ground pistachios on the ends. Sfince are airy fried cream puffs made for Fathers Day that can be filled with ricotta or drowned in thick honey. Genovese are baked sweet handpies filled with ricotta or yellow pastry cream. Cassata is the queen of all layer cakes with sponge cake, ricotta cream, candied fruit and almond paste marzipan. But our dessert of the day is casatelle — half-moon ravioli filled with a sweet ricotta cream seasoned with ground cinnamon and bits of chocolate.

Casatelle are a typical sweet from Trapani but they are made all over Sicily, especially for Christmas or at Easter time. They can vary a bit whether you prefer to fry or bake them but for the most part the filling will be the same. The sweet pastry dough is jazzed-up with fresh lemon zest, a pinch of salt, and a dash of marsala wine to balance the decadent creamy filling. I like to make them on the smaller side so you can treat yourself to more than one. These “sweet ravioli” are similar to empanadas that are stuffed and folded, then sealed on the edges with the back of a fork or a rolling zig-zag pastry cutter. Test out this recipe next time your friends are coming over. Move over popcorn, these are the perfect treats to bite into while snuggling up on the couch for the night with a good flick.

Cassatelle Dough Ingredients:
4c. AP flour, 00 or fine semolina
1/2c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4c. marsala wine
zest of one lemon
pinch of sea salt
1c. sugar
2 eggs

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Filling Ingredients:
8oz. ricotta, strained of all additional liquid
3/4c. sugar
1/3c. chocolate chips
pinch of cinnamon
3c. vegetable oil to deep fry — optional
powdered sugar to dust the cassatelle before serving

This dough recipe can be made by hand in a large bowl or with a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour, sugar, pinch of salt and lemon zest. Mix to incorporate all of the dry ingredients first. Make a small well in the middle of the bowl and add the olive oil, marsala, and two whole eggs. Mix slowly to combine ingredients and if the dough feels very dry you can add a small splash of cold water to bring it together. The dough doesn’t need to be kneaded too thoroughly. Like making a pie crust or cookie dough, it just needs to come together evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rest.

In a small bowl, mix together with a fork the ricotta, sugar and chocolate chips. Do not mix too much or use a machine because the ricotta will become too soft. On a lightly floured surface, start rolling out the dough for the cassatelle. Roll out the dough in a long even strip (about 1cm thick). Evenly place small spoonfuls of ricotta along the center of the strip. They should be placed at least 2-inches apart. Sprinkle each one with cinnamon. Fold the bottom half of the dough up over the filling to evenly close it into a thinner strip with little mounds of filling pressing against the bottom folded edge. Like making small half-moon ravioli, use the side edge of your hands to seal each mound of filling and get the extra air out between the two pieces of dough. With a zig-zag pasta cutter or a small pairing knife, trim the edges of each cassatella into half-moon shapes. Use the back of a fork to seal the edges like you would do with an empanada! Rest on a baking tray until ready to cook. Continue with the rest of the dough until you use it all up. The cassatelle can be either fried or baked. Below are the two variations.

Baked Cassatelle:
Preheat the oven to 350F. On a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, evenly place the cassatelle on the tray without touching each other. Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes until they become golden brown. Check that the bottom is crisp like a cookie and then set aside to cool before eating. Serve at room temperature with a light dusting of powdered sugar over the top.

Fried Cassatelle:
When frying the cassatelle, it is even more important that they are sealed properly so the filling doesn’t come out while cooking. In a wide sauce pan, heat at least 2-inches of vegetable oil over medium heat. There must be enough oil to deep fry. It will actually help keep them from becoming greasy if you use more oil and allow the food to float. Carefully place a few cassatelle into the hot oil so they can float around without being too crowded. It’s best that you do not flip them too much, let them cook on one side, flip, then cook the other side and “basta” — they’re done. When they become golden brown, they can be removed with a metal spider tool. Let the oil drain off over the pan before moving them to a paper-lined tray to blot off and absorb the additional oil. Continue with the next batch and let the cassatelle cool slightly on the paper. Serve at room temperature with a light dusting of powdered sugar over the top.

Pair this recipe with:

Quirky and comic Italian mysteries from the producers of ‘Detective Montalbano’.

Italian Watch Party Recipes

About the Chef
Linda Sarris is a food/wine travel consultant and private chef based in Palermo, Sicily. From her sun-lit kitchen studio above the 1,000 year-old Ballarò food market, Linda works as a freelance writer, social media manager, and culinary communications consultant while still traveling regularly for private chef work with clients in the fashion and music industries. Under her brand, @thecheekychef, she is self-publishing a Sicilian food and wine ‘zine and curates a series of Mediterranean culinary/lifestyle retreats and travel experiences. Her first book will be published in 2022 with Hachette Book Group.