Among the many stuffed types of pasta that populate the regions throughout Italy, there is one, namely casoncelli, that seems to have come long before tortellini, and agnolotti. Although casoncelli is common in many parts of Lombardy, such as Brescia, Bergamo and Val Camonica, the original recipe comes from Bergamo.
The etymology of the name, which, according to some historians, derives from “caseus”, or cheese, refers to the ingredient used for the filling. Others derive the name from “calzoncino”, alluding to the shape of the casoncello described in some recipes that called for the dough to be folded from a horseshoe-shaped square.
There are many variations of this traditional pasta dish. Both the precise recipe for the dough and the filling may vary. Typically, the filling consists of a mixture of meat, vegetables, breadcrumbs, and Italian cheese, while the dough is made from flour, water, and salt. However, certain local recipes also add eggs.
Even the shape of the pasta may vary. Some form the rolled out, thin dough into shapes of a half-moon, handkerchief, and a candy shape. A traditional sauce consisting of melted butter, bacon, and sage is the most common sauce served with casoncelli, however, this too may vary from the area of the region.
Casoncelli has an ancient history dating back to 1366 where it is first mentioned in manuscripts from the city of Bergamo. In fact, Bergamo is considered the birthplace of this stuffed pasta from where it spread to different towns and regions during the Middle Ages acquiring new names and recipes.
As is often the case with the origins of a particular dish, casoncelli was created out of the need not to waste any leftovers. The dish was perfected over time until it became the dish of honor and distinction at festivals, such as the one held in Pievedizio every September where one can taste a variety of fillings for casoncelli.