Kale pesto stuffed pasta with squash

Kale Pesto Cappelletti with Butternut Squash Sauce

Written by Laura Comandini

Everyone has their form of meditation, and mine is cooking. Making fresh pasta is, for me, an exercise in zen and moment of harmony. La sfoglia, rolled out by hand with a rolling pin, is the oldest connection I have with the kitchen. I saw my nonne, or grandmothers, doing this many times throughout my life, and I consider it a sort of inheritance. However, the theme of this contest is Tuscany, and I thought of celebrating it with an homage to Giulia of Jul’s Kitchen and of her kale pesto, which I’ve turned into a filling for this Romagnolo pasta shape with some slight modifications. This recipe represents the kind of kitchen pampering that my family did together during lockdown, and the recipe that I made the most during this time. In fact, I was honored that it was my own mother who asked me to prepare this pesto, given that she is my first teacher in the kitchen, and she graciously gave up the stove for a night. When not used for pasta, we’d spread this pesto on thick crostini – the only rule is that when we say “thick,” we mean a full two inches high!

This recipe was submitted in our October 2020 Recipe Contest. Find out how to participate in our next contest here.

Kale Pesto Cappelletti with Butternut Squash Sauce

Serves 4

Prep time: 60 Minutes, plus resting
Cook time: 20 Minutes


For the fresh pasta dough:
2 eggs
90 grams semola flour
90 grams  “00” flour
1 pinch of salt

For the filling:
500 grams Tuscan kale
1 clove of garlic
30 grams almonds
50 grams Pecorino Romano, grated
Olive oil, q.b.
Salt and pepper, q.b.

For the sauce:
350 grams Butternut squash or Delica pumpkin*
4-5 sage leaves
1/4 onion, diced
Olive oil, q.b.
Salt and pepper, q.b.
*Note: Delica pumpkin is a sweet, delicate variety found in Italy. In North America, feel free to substitute butternut squash to equal effect.


To make the pasta:

Mix the two flours together and add the pinch of salt. Form a volcano with an open well in the middle on your wooden pasta board. Break the two eggs into the well.

Start beating the eggs in a circular motion with a fork, slowly mixing in the flour from the sides as you move around the volcano, until you can mix the dough by hand. Knead the dough by hand into a ball, continuing to knead until a smooth and homogenous ball has formed.

Place the ball in a bowl or container, cover with plastic wrap, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

To make the filling:

Bring a pot of water to boil. In the meantime, de-stem the kale leaves, pulling off the tough stems, and wash the leaves well. When the water is boiling, toss the kale into the pot and add a teaspoon of coarse salt. Cook for 10 minutes, then use a strainer to pull it out of the pot. Drain well, even squeezing out the water with your hands (you want the kale to lose as much water as possible). Keep the cooking water for later.

Next, heat two tablespoons of olive oil and a clove of garlic, light smashed, in a sauté pan. Add the kale and cook for five minutes to flavor the greens, then remove from heat and let cool. Transfer the kale to a food processor, along with the almonds, and pulse together. If the pesto is too dense, add a bit of the cooking water you reserved. Then, add the pecorino and some freshly cracked pepper, pulsing continuously until the pesto is creamy. Taste and add salt if needed (remember, the pecorino itself is salty).

To make the cappelletti:

Take your pasta dough and roll out into a thin sheet (by hand with a rolling pin, if you can!). Then, cut round discs out of your pasta sheet using a cookie cutter or a ravioli stamp. Take your pesto and put into pastry bag, and pipe small walnut-sized dots of filling onto each disc. Fold each cappelletto into a half moon shape, then pinch the corners together around your finger to close each little hat.

kale pesto cappellette - Laura Commandini - q.b. cucina

To make the sauce:

These cappelletti are delicious with a squash reduction sprinkled with sautéed squash. Finely dice a quarter of an onion and sauté in a tablespoon of olive oil until golden. Add 4-5 leaves of sage and add a splash of water to lightly stew them. After 5 minutes, add 250 grams of the squash (peeled and diced into cubes), salt to taste and cover with hot water. Bring to boil, then simmer for 10 minutes, adding additional water if it becomes too dry.


Once the squash is soft, transfer to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. If you want an extra velvety sauce, pass through a sieve, then reduce further in the sauté pan.

Peel and dice the remaining squash into very small cubes (about 1/2 inch). Add more olive oil and a pinch of salt to the sauté pan, and sauté over a medium-high flame for about 4-5 minutes.

At this point, boil a pot of water for your pasta. Salt the water well and cook the cappelletti. When they have turned golden yellow, let them cook a bit longer (since the sfoglia is doubled). Drain well, and sauté for a minute or two in the pan, drizzling with a bit of olive oil if desired.

Serve with 2-3 spoonfuls of squash reduction on the bottom of the plate, then the cappelletti, and topped with the sautéed squash cubes.

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