As much as I like to think I know a lot about “Italian food”, the fact is that the older I got and the more familiar I become with Italian life, the more I realize that I actually know very little about the astonishing variety of dishes that fall under that umbrella.

Case-in-point: this past summer I was contacted by the lovely Rossella of the blog Ma che ti sei mangiato?. She asked me if I wanted to participate in a blog event dedicated to a specialty of the northern Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. The specialy in question is a type of stuffed dumpling known as cjalsòn.

I’m always eager to learn about new Italian dishes so of course I said yes. In due time, Rossella sent along an information package that included numerous cjalsòn recipes that we could try, as well as some background information about the dumplings.

Rossella decided to organize the blog event after reading the biography of Gianni Cosetti, a renowned Friulian chef.

Of all the recipes provided, I chose to make one called Cjalsòns Rustìcs.

What is especially interesting about this dough used for these dumplings, is that it’s made with potato and flour. In fact, while making the dough, I almost felt like I was making gnocchi-dough. However, instead of cutting and rolling gnocchi, I rolled out the dough and cut out rounds to be filled.

The cjalsòns were stuffed with a sausage filling and topped with a sauce of ricotta.

While they were good, for me the most remarkable part of this recipe was definitely the dumpling dough. The texture of the dough, once cooked, was very supple. The cjalsòns were deceptively light, though. While I felt like I could eat a plate full, the potato/flour dough make these little lovelies quite filling.

I’m very thankful to Rossella for including me in this event. As I watch another year slowly come to an end, there is no question that learning about cjalsòns has been of my favourite food lessons of 2010!


Cjalsòns Rustìcs

Note: This is one of the recipes included in the package that Rossella sent me and the one that I used when I tried these dumplings. I made a few alterations, noted below. I also revised the directions slightly to reflect what I did when making the cjalsòns

For the dough:
300 g. potatoes
200 g. flour
1 large egg
a pinch of nutmeg (I did not use nutmeg)
some parsley ( used 2 chopped tablespoons of parsley)

For the filling:
100 g. sausage (or fresh lung) (I used spicy sausage)
½ glass of white wine
1 large egg, beaten

For the dressing:
200 g. fresh ricotta
1/4 cup heavy cream
pepper (I did not use pepper because I used spicy sausage)

1. Boil the potatoes with the peel on. Once cooked, remove from the water and allow to cool until potatoes can be handled. Peel the potatoes and put them through a ricer. Add the egg, flour, nutmeg (if using) and parsley. Mix until the dough comes together into a ball. Set aside and cover with a cloth while you prepare the filling.

2. To make the filling, in a pan saute the crumbled sausage (or fresh lung), moisten with white
wine and and cook until the wine evaporates. Let the filling cool slightly. Meanwhile, place a large pot of water to boil. Salt the water generously once it boils.

3. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface. If necessary, be generous with the flour so that the dough doesn’t stick. Cut out rounds that are roughly 6 centimetres in diameter. Place at a spoonful of filling at the centre of each disc.

4. Fold the discs in half and close them by pressing the edges well. (If necessary, wet the edges before sealing to help form the seal.)

5. Cook the dumplings in the boiling salted water for several minutes, then drain. (I cooked the dumplings for about 4 minutes.)

6. In a large pan, over low heat, warm the heavy cream and ricotta. Whisk the sauce gently to break up the ricotta and ensure that you have a smooth consistency. Allow the sauce to simmer for a few minutes and salt to taste.

7. Once the cjalsòns are cooked, drain and add to the pan with the ricotta sauce. Serve immediately and enjoy.