If you travel to Italy because you are a pasta lover, you definitely owe a visit to Varese Ligure in Val di Vara to admire the art of making Croxetti, beautiful hand made pasta from Liguria
Pasta is a must eat when visiting Italy, a culinary tradition that is reinterpreted in almost every corner of the country. There is no small village of the most secluded coustryside that doesn’t have its own way to make pasta. It’s just amazing.
In Liguria, and mostly in the eastern Riviera, Croxetti, or Corzetti are small circles of pasta in the shape of a medallion on which with a wooden mold, a design is embossed in the dough. In the historic centers, even today, it is possible to find ancient shops that produce the essential molds to prepare corzetti at home.
The pasta was meant as a display of wealth and status of a host to the diner
The croxetti or corzetti rose to the Republic of Genoa chronicles for the first time in the last years of the 1700 on the the menu of an official lunch organized for the ambassadors of Morocco. But it was already there in the Renaissance, when the noblemen started to have their crest embossed in fresh pasta. Even today, in some parts of Liguria, the custom survives, on the occasion of weddings to prepare the croxetti with the couple’s initials.
The genuese name “cruxettu" derives from the stylized image of a small cross, (“cruxetta") with which one of the two sides of these medallions was originally decorated. In the Ligurian east, the word “corzetto" means both the wooden mold and the paste thus engraved.
Precious woods such as maple or beech or even apple or pear trees were used (and still today is for the artisans who produce them); the wood used for the molds had to be free of tannin or resins that release aromas to the dough.
In Varese Ligure, the artisan Pietro Picetti is the most renowned croxetti molds maker of the area
He actually is one of the artisans who helped to revive the tradition of croxetti making:
All the families of Varese had molds at home to prepare the croxetti, but they did not use them anymore to make pasta. Suddenly I remembered that my mother also had one that belonged to my great-grandfather and I discovered that I had a mold from the 1700’s. So I decided to save the tradition and I managed to get old molds out of the cupboards, dust them off and revive them. Today, the croxetti are part of the culinary tradition of Liguria, especially in the eastern Riviera.
Picetti has his own special way of making croxetti: he makes them one by one and he embosses them on both sides, which makes them more beautiful and ready to prepare more tasty pasta (the sauce imbues the pasta through the embossing).
Today, the fame of Picetti and of the good – besides beautiful – pasta that is carved with his special molds has crossed the borders of Varese. The artisan was, in fact, interviewed by numerous national and international media, and today he gets requests from all over the world to have the pasta sent with specific shapes embossed. But this did not affect his life in the peaceful workshop of Varese Ligure.
The recipe of the Croxetti of Varese Ligure (once you have bought the mold)
Ingredients for the pasta
6 ounces of flour
a knob of butter
a handful of parmesan
a glass of water
Ingredients for the white sauce (pine nuts pesto sauce)
150 gr of pine nuts
1/2 clove of garlic
little milk (I did not put it)
a pinch of marjoram
In a pastry board make a mound with the flour, add all the ingredients, knead until you get a homogeneous dough, roll it out, mash it well with the croxetto to cut the medallion and, at the same time, engrave the design. Let it rest.
Blend all the ingredients in the mixer until you get a creamy sauce, taste and, if necessary, add salt. You can add some toasted pine nuts at the end if you like.
Pietro PIcetti in his workshop