Agnolotti al plin.© Luigi Bertello |

Autumn has finally arrived according to the calendar, but you would never know it from the 90-degree weather in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, stick-to-your-ribs fall food is starting make its way into my psyche. One of my favorite autumn foods is short ribs. I like to use boneless ribs, because they throw off very little fat but can still be so melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

I recently met Chef Isabella L’Orsetto Angeleno, who trained under Los Angeles’ famous Gino Angelini. I was on a mission to improve my pasta making, especially Agnolotti al Plin (“little pillows pinched”), which come from Piemonte. The traditional approach is to stuff these little pillows with ricotta, greens, and braised meat—thus, perfect for short ribs. Chef Isabella and I spent an afternoon making this wonderful stuffed pasta, and I’m so happy to be able to share it with you. Plus, the sauce is so crazy easy, and so delicious, it may really surprise you! Thank you Chef!

For the stuffing:

  • 2 pounds boneless short ribs

  • 3 carrots, roughly diced

  • 3 celery stems, roughly diced

  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly diced

  • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced

  • Several sprigs of rosemary, basil, sage and thyme, tied together

  • 1 bottle dry red wine

  • 1 small can good quality tomato paste

  • 3 Tbs. olive oil, divided

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta

  • 1 cup loosely packed grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plus more for serving

  • 1 bunch spinach, cleaned and stems removed

  • 2 tablespoons butter

For the pasta:

  • 14 ounces flour (preferably double “00” flour)

  • 5 eggs

Special equipment:

  • Dutch oven large enough to hold the short ribs

  • Pasta machine

  • Piping bag or a 1 gallon plastic bag

  • Pasta cutter

  • Pastry brush

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Generously apply salt and pepper to the short ribs. Over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the Dutch oven and allow it to heat. Sear the short ribs on all sides to get a deep brown crust. Remove to a sheet pan.

  3. Add the carrots, celery, onions and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and translucent.

  4. Add the tomato paste and the tied bunch of herbs. Add half the bottle of red wine, reserving the rest as needed to cover the short ribs.

  5. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from heat. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly. Submerge the short ribs into the liquid and cover tightly. Add more wine if needed to cover.

  6. Place in the preheated oven for about 3 hours, until the meat is fork-tender and falling apart. Check at the 2-hour mark to see if the meat is starting to soften.

  7. While the short ribs are cooking, in a separate sauté pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the spinach until it’s completely wilted. Let it cool and then gather the spinach and slice it into a very small dice.

  8. Let the short ribs cool enough to be able to handle. Discard the tied herbs. Now this is where a little judgment comes in.  In a large bowl, pull the short ribs apart with your hands and then add the ricotta, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and sautéed and sliced spinach. Work the ingredients into a thick paste, but one that is soft enough to feed through a piping bag. Add a little of the cooking liquid if the mixture is too dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  9. Make the pasta dough. On a wood board, place the flour in a mound and make a well in the middle. Crack the eggs into the well and add a pinch of salt. Using a fork, beat the eggs and then add flour from the mound until you have a very thick paste.  Using your hands, combine the remaining flour until you have a gathered ball of dough that feels like Play Dough. Don’t add more flour than you need. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Add a little more flour if the dough is sticking to the board. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

  10. Using a knife, separate the dough into 4 wedges. Using a pasta machine, roll out the dough to the #5 setting and a full width of the machines roller. Do one sheet at a time, and then stuff so the dough doesn’t dry out. Keep the dough that you’re not using wrapped in plastic.

  11. Fill the piping bag with the stuffing and dot the pasta with about 1 tablespoon of filling spaced 1-inch apart along one edge of the pasta – inset by about ½-inch.  Gently brush between the filling with a little water.

  12. Roll the pasta over from the edge closest to the filling till the pasta covers the filling and has about ½-inch overlap with the bottom piece of dough. Press down with the side of your hand to seal the pasta.

  13. Now use your thumb and forefinger to pinch between each mound of filling.

  14. Using the pasta cutter, cut first along the long edge of the pasta and then between each mound of filling. Move to a tray sprinkled with semolina.

  15. To make the sauce, take some of the braising vegetables and mash them with the little bits of meat left in the braising liquid. You want a thick paste. In a sauté pan, melt 2-tablespoons of butter and add the mashed vegetables and sauce.

  16. Drop the agnolotti in salted boiling water until the water returns to a boil and then for 1 more minute.  Using a sieve, drain and add the pasta to the sauce. Add a generous about of pasta liquid to the sauce too.

  17. Cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, tossing the pasta in the sauce. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
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