This homemade anellini pasta rings recipe comes from Abruzzo in Central Italy. It’s a dish you can find in many trattorias and homes there, particularly in and around the town of Elice in the province of Pescara. This pasta recipe is rich in veggies and perfect for vegetarians. Of course, you can use other types of pasta with the alla Pecorara sauce.
A unique pasta dish from Abruzzo.
In the world of Italian pasta, there are some traditional types of homemade pasta which are mostly only made and served with one type of sauce. A few that come to mind are silk handkerchief pasta with pesto, pansotti with walnut sauce, fregnacce Abruzzese and stuffed mezze maniche in broth (see links below).
Homemade anellini pasta alla pecorara is another of these recipes. Of course. this doesn’t mean you can’t serve the pasta with other sauces. It just means it’s not traditional to do so.
So, anellini alla pecorara is a dish of a particular type of pasta and sauce eaten together. In Abruzzo, you can find fresh anellini to buy in many food stores. Interestingly, the pasta is sold as anellini alla pecorara or pecorara di Elice. Although, many locals still make this pasta themselves. Outside of the region, the only way to enjoy this dish in its authentic form is to use homemade pasta, which is what we did.
What is anellini pasta?
In Italian, the word anello means ring. Hence, anellini are pasta rings. However, in most recipes for anelli anelletti or anellini the pasta is dried rings of various sizes. This is the pasta that people outside of Italy associate with Campbell’s spaghetti Os or Heinz spaghetti hoops! It’s considered a traditional pasta variety in Sicily, where they use it in a baked pasta dish called anelletti al forno or timballo di anelletti. Italians also use pasta rings in soups and salads.
With dried pasta rings, anellini or anelletti are generally smaller than anelli. But, homemade anellini pasta rings from Abruzzo are bigger. I guess it’s difficult to make very tiny ones by hand!
How to make homemade anellini pasta rings.
To make the pasta for this recipe you will need both Italian ‘00’ soft wheat flour and durum wheat semolina flour. Most recipes call for equal amounts of both, plus eggs and sometimes water and olive oil too. I used 150g of each flour, 2 eggs, a little water and a teaspoon of olive oil. You can use 3 eggs instead of adding water and olive oil and all-purpose flour instead of the Italian ‘00’ flour.
I made the dough in the same way as other pasta doughs by mixing the flours then adding the eggs and olive oil and then water as required. Durum wheat semolina has a higher gluten content than soft wheat flour, so pasta dough made with it requires a bit more kneading to get it soft and pliable.
Making the rings isn’t too difficult. After kneading, allow the dough to rest, then cut off small pieces, roll them out into thin ‘snakes’, cut the snakes into 6-7cm lengths (2.5”), wrap them around your index or middle finger and seal the ends together.
Freeze and cook from frozen.
Some people make the anellini a bit bigger than we did but I like them smaller. Put the ready pasta rings onto a floured surface as you make them. You can leave them out in a dry place and cook the next day. It’s also very easy to freeze them and cook from frozen. I often do this with homemade short ot filled pasta. Don’t keep the fresh pasta rings in the fridge as the humidity there will make them sticky and soft.
What are the ingredients in alla Pecorara sauce?
Although I have read that this recipe originally had some meat in it, the majority of versions today are mostly vegetarian ones. The pasta is dressed with a tomato sauce mixed with sheep’s ricotta, sautéed vegetables and pecorino. Of course, pecorino isn’t actually vegetarian as it contains animal rennet. Strict vegetarians can leave it out or use a vegetarian hard cheese.
The word ‘pecora’ means sheep in Italian and alla pecorara means shepherd’s style. So, I imagine this dish got its name from the generous quantity of sheep’s ricotta and pecorino in it. Like many traditional Italian pasta recipes, anellini alla pecorara is a dish that originated in what the Italians call ‘la cucina povera’, meaning the peasant kitchen. It’s made with produce the peasants and farmers made or grew themselves. Thus, the vegetables they grew, the cheese they produced and the pasta they made themselves!
How to make the pecorara sauce.
The condiment for homemade anellini alla pecorara has 3 main components, a tomato sauce, sautéed vegetables and fresh ricotta. Traditionally the latter is sheep’s ricotta, but you can use cow’s milk ricotta instead.
The tomato sauce.
The tomato sauce in this recipe has a base or soffrito of finely diced and sautéed onion, carrots and celery. Soffritto is the Italian mirepoix and is used in many sauce, soup and stewed meat recipes. Before it’s cooked Italians refer to it as ‘battuto’.
Sometimes, recipes call for garlic in the soffrito as well, although in general onions and garlic aren’t used together. Southern Italian tomato sauce is normally made without soffrito. Instead, they use tomatoes, garlic and basil.
Making this alla pecorara tomato sauce is quite easy. Just sauté the soffrito, then add tomato passata or chopped peeled tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 15-20 minutes and then take it off the heat and mix in the ricotta. I kept aside some ricotta to add to the plates before serving.
The sautéed veggies.
Nearly all recipes for homemade anellini alla pecorara call for sautéed egpplant, zucchini and bell peppers. The latter can be any colour but I prefer red, yellow or orange. This time, I used one red pepper and one yellow. These are all summer veggies, although nowadays we can find them year-round. Some recipes also include mushrooms but not the one I followed. Of course, you can add them too.
The vegetables are cut into cubes and sautéed in olive oil and garlic. Once the vegetables are cooked, you can add them to the tomato sauce or add them to the pasta after mixing it with the tomato and ricotta sauce, which is what I did.
Finish and serve.
Once your homemade anellini pasta rings, the tomato and ricotta sauce and the sautéed vegetables are all ready, cook the pasta al dente in boiling salted water. It’s best to test taste before draining as cooking time will depend on the size and thickness of your pasta rings.
Drain the pasta and add it to the tomato sauce and mix well. Then plate and add some sautéed vegetables, fresh basil leaves, extra ricotta and grated pecorino if using. As I mentione above Italian pecorino isn’t vegetarian so you can leave it out or use vegetarian parmesan.
Let me know what you think.
As I mentioned above, you can serve this sauce with other types of pasta. I think it would go really well with orecchiette or cavatelli, especially if they are homemade. However, if you make homemade anellini, I’m sure you’ll love the authentic version of this pasta recipe from Abruzzo as much as we do.
If you make this anellini pasta rings alla pecorara recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out. Please write a comment here on the blog, email me or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.
Your feedback is really appreciated!
Pin for later.
Other unique homemade pasta dishes to try.
- Silk handkerchief pasta with pesto from Liguria
- Fregnacce Abruzzese
- Stuffed mezze maniche in broth from Piemonte
- Pansotti pasta with walnut sauce
- Lorighittas with chicken ragu
Homemade Anellini Pasta Rings alla Pecorara Recipe from Abruzzo.
For Anellini pasta rings
- 150 g Italian 00 soft wheat flour (5oz) or all-purpose flour
- 150 g durum wheat semolina flour (5oz)
- 2 eggs (large)
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
- 1 pinch salt
- warm water as required
For tomato sauce
- 400 g tomato pulp or passata (14oz) or canned chopped tomatoes
- 1 onion peeled and finely diced
- 2 carrots washed and finely diced
- 1-2 celery stalks washed and finely diced
- 200 g fresh ricotta (sheep’s milk or cow’s milk) (7oz) drained
- 50 g Pecorino Romano grated (optional as not vegetarian)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
- 1 eggplant washed and cubed
- 2-3 zucchini (courgettes) washed and cubed
- 2 sweet peppers (bell peppers) washed and cubed
- 1 garlic clove peeled and crushed
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
- 8 fresh basil leaves washed and dried
Start the pasta rings
Combine the flours and eggs in a bowl or on a work surface using a fork and then your hands. Add a pinch of salt and olive oil and mix until you have the start of a dough adding warm water as required. Turn the dough out onto a pastry board if starting in a bowl. Knead until it’s soft and pliable and no longer sticky. Form the dough into a smooth ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest in a cool place for 30-60 minutes.
Make the tomato sauce
Chop the celery, carrot and onion finely (I use my food processor) and sauté them in olive oil for 5-10 minutes. Add the passata and cook over a low heat for 15-20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and then add the ricotta and mix. I set some ricotta aside to add to plates before serving.
Sauté the other vegetables
Wash and cut the other vegetables into cubes and sauté them in olive oil with a peeled and crushed garlic clove. Cook for about 10 minutes until they are soft and slightly browned. Add salt to taste and either set aside on kitchen paper to drain off the olive oil or add to the tomato sauce.
Make the anellini pasta rings
Cut off a piece of the dough. Roll it out into a 3-4 mm (1/8 Inch) thick ‘snake’, cut into 5-6 cm (2.5”) pieces, wrap each piece around your index finger and seal the ends together to form a ring. I wet my fingers to do this. Place the ready pasta rings on a floured tray or surface. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
Finish and serve
Cook the pasta rings in boiling salted water until al dente. Cooking times will depend on the size and thickness of the rings. Mine took 12 minutes. Test taste before draining.
Add the drained pasta to the tomato and ricotta sauce. Add some grated pecorino or vegetarian hard cheese and fresh basil. Mix together well and plate with sautéed vegetables and more fresh ricotta. Serve immediately.
Italian pecorino isn’t actually vegetarian as it contains animal rennet. Strict vegetarians can leave it out or use a vegetarian hard cheese.
It’s easy to freeze the pasta rings and cook them from frozen. Place them spread apart on a tray in the freezer. Transfer to a freezer bag once frozen. Don’t keep the fresh pasta rings in the fridge as the humidity there will make them sticky and soft. You can leave them in a cool dry place if cooking later the same day or even the next day.
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