Barbecued Pork Belly Agnolotti del Plin
Recipe and photos by Cecilia Luppi
This is a recipe from my repertoire where I combine two passions: pasta and barbecue. Being Argentinean, the barbecue tradition is well-rooted along with the pasta one. On Saturdays, we typically enjoy a massive barbecue while on Sundays we eat pasta. Always with family or friends, of course.
My passion for food, cooking, and using leftovers comes from my grandma. She would prepare entire meals out of leftovers from the previous day. One of her specialties was a spinach and chicken ravioli in a tomato-and-chicken sauce. To be honest, I’ve never had a more delicious dish. I don’t know if it was the way she cooked the sauce in the pressure cooker or the love she would put into it, but it tasted amazing.
Here I combine a delicious slow-cooked pork belly (resembling the Italian porchetta but without the roll up and trussing) with filled pasta. The smoky flavor is the king of the dish, rounded out by a silky butter sauce and freshly cracked pepper.
During the last two lockdowns, I started tweaking some pasta recipes to incorporate barbecue leftovers. Now every time we light up the grill, there is usually a portion of it dedicated to ingredients I will use for my pasta dishes. Zucchini and aubergine are the loyal ones, they never fail. But mushrooms and broccoli also have an incredible flavor when grilled.
I hope this recipe gives you some different flavors to enjoy and that you challenge yourself to light up the grill and enjoy two meals out of one fire. Asado amigos?
Barbecued Pork Belly Agnolotti del Plin
Prep time: 5 hours
Cook time: 10 minutes
For the pasta dough:
2 cups (250 grams) 00 flour
2 whole eggs (about 100 grams)
2 egg yolks (about 40 grams)
For the filling:
1 (5-6 pound) pastured pork belly, ¾ pound reserved for filling
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons peppercorns
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 cup (80 grams) grated Parmesan
For the sauce:
⅔ cup (150 grams) unsalted butter
Freshly cracked black pepper, q.b. (as needed)
Grated parmesan, for serving
To cook the pork belly and make the filling:
Remove the pork belly from the fridge 2 hours before cooking to let it come up to room temperature. This will help it cook more evenly.
Use a sharp knife to score lines through the pork belly skin, making lines about 1 centimeter apart and about 2 millimeters deep. Be sure not to score the meat. You only want to cut the skin and a bit of fat.
With a mortar and pestle, pound the seeds with the rest of the dry ingredients (except the parmesan) until fragrant and well combined. Rub it on the pork belly skin making sure you get it in all the cracks. Remove the excess and rub the pork belly with some olive oil to help with the crackling process. (You won’t use the crackling in the pasta, but I love the taste and texture it gives to the meat.)
Fire up the grill until it reaches 280°F. Place the pork belly on the grill, skin facing upwards, making sure there isn’t any charcoal right below it so it doesn’t burn. Distribute the charcoal all around except under the meat. Close the lid on the grill and cook for about one hour, or until you have a golden crispy crackling on the outside.
Turn the grill down to about 300°F. Place a tin with water underneath the meat so the pork belly doesn’t dry out. Cook at a steady temperature for another 3-4 hours, or until the meat starts to fall apart.
Enjoy a fantastic and delicious pork belly along with some roasted vegetables or with a fresh salad. Once you finish enjoying your pork belly, shred the leftovers using two forks until you have about 350 grams or ¾ pound of pork belly meat. You can keep the pulled meat in the fridge for up to three days.
Note: If you don’t have a grill you can cook your pork belly in the oven following the same temperatures and timing, using a pan with a roasting rack, and adding the water to the pan. It will taste fantastic, but it won’t have a smoky flavor. Use smoked paprika instead to add a bit of smoky flavor.
Blend the pulled meat in a food processor with the grated parmesan. Add a drizzle of olive oil if your mixture is dry. Set aside in the fridge until you are ready to fill your pasta.
To make the pasta dough:
Dump the flour onto a flat wooden surface or into a bowl and make a deep well in the center. Crack the eggs into the well and mix with a fork to thoroughly blend with the flour.
Use your fingertips to incorporate the rest of the flour until the dough starts to come together, then use the heel of your palm to start kneading the dough. If you notice that it’s too dry, add a few drops of water; if it’s too sticky, add a pinch of flour. Perfect dough should never stick to your fingers. It’s better to add a little (water or flour) at a time to adjust the dough. Scrape your board if you notice the dough is sticking to it.
Knead for 8-10 minutes, or until it springs back to the touch and is completely smooth, silky, and consistent. it should feel like play dough!
Leave the pasta to rest on the table for 20 minutes wrapped in cling film or covered with a bowl.
To shape the agnolotti del plin:
Unwrap the dough and cut it dough in quarters. With a rolling pin, flatten it out into a rectangular shape. Using a pasta machine, roll the dough into 1- to 2-millimeter thick pasta sheets.
Place half a teaspoon of filling in a row across half of one pasta sheet, lengthwise. Leave one finger space in between each dot of filling. Use a fine mist spray bottle to lightly spritz the dough with water to help it seal better. Fold the dough over (hot dog style) then press along the long top side to seal the pasta. Pinch the pasta between each pocket of filling with your thumb and index, pushing the air out as you go.
Using a fluted pasta cutter, cut the long side first, between the edge and the filling. Then, cut through each “pinch,” making sure you bring the top side to meet the edge.
Repeat this process until you have used up all of the filling.
To make the sauce and assemble the dish:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and generously add salt. Add the agnolotti del plin and cook for about 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan on medium heat and add the butter and cracked pepper. Once melted, remove from the stove.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the agnolotti del plin from the water to the butter sauce, adding about ¼ of a ladle of the cooking water to the sauce. Turn the heat on high and move your pan in circular movements, emulsifying the butter with the starchy water and coating the pasta in the sauce.
Divide among plates and garnish with grated parmesan. Serve immediately.
Cecilia Luppi is a professional pasta maker, chef, and teacher. Originally from Argentina and residing in London since 2014, her passion for cooking comes from her Italian heritage and her grandma. Lately, she has been exploring her Argentinean and Italian roots by adding a smoky flavor and grilled ingredients to her pasta dishes. A firm believer that no food should go to waste, Cecilia always encourages her community and students to reuse leftovers for their meals.