In a documented and in-depth report on Italian stuffed pasta, the New York Times paid particular honor to the agnolotti/raviole of the Langhe. The prestigious signature of Dawn Davis has chosen the “raviole del plìn” among the excellences, recounting the cultural and anthropological contents that make it a ritual and a myth of the civilization of the Alba table. The report published in two episodes of the “T Style Magazine” (13 and 17 May 2024) includes two trattorias in the Langhe among the 25 unmissable Italians: the Madonna della Neve in Cessole and Da Gemma in Roddino.

The Order of the Knights of the Truffle and the Wines of Alba, which collaborated with the American journalist, pays homage to the two trattorias with a story.

The hands of Piera from Cessole’s “Madonna dla Cuca” smell of raviole del plìn. Served without curdunà as in the home-made tradition of the Asti Langa, they look like rosaries and taste mysterious. In spring you can smell nettle, in winter borage. The flavors that so fascinated Ferran Adrià and Anne Sophie Pic.

From Gemma to Roddino, raviola is a social ritual worthy of study. Their preparation every Thursday brings together the women of the town in hard-working brotherhood. “We used to make them square, now everyone wants them with plìn. But the filling is the same: half vegetables and half meat”, says the cook.

The gesture is ancient, iterative, safe. But the relationship that unites pasta and filling is unique every time.

On the hills of wine and truffles, a World Heritage Site, raviolas are identifying, feminine, ritualistic. Characteristics that we find defined since the 15th century. It is the brand of rich and solemn dish for special occasions that accompanies ravioli throughout the centuries. Particularly in the peasant tradition, where they are established as an essential component of Carnival, Christmas and the feast of the patron saint, as well as wedding and military service lunches. A true ritual of peasant domestic religiosity that evokes images of warm family intimacy: the mother officiating the rite; everyone busy around the table; children compete to win the right to use the wheel; the count of ravioli by the dozen; the first taste, freshly seared on the potagé griddle.

A “strong” dish that tradition would require in broth or in any case cooked in broth. And which, due to its sacredness, demands the highest quality of each ingredient. A laborious dish from the “day before” and not from the “day after”, with ingredients designed to solemnize the party and not to recover the leftovers from the party. To the point that in the 1960s, the academic of Italian cuisine Carlo Nasi, recommending attention when choosing a restaurant, wrote: “Much better to be invited to some house where the good housewife supervises the preparation.”

Ravioli, therefore, are “the party” par excellence. But square or plìn? Between Langa, Roero and Monferrato, the issue is a serious one. Passionate and divide. It certainly cannot be traced back to the sphere of taste tout court. Because it draws geographical, historical and cultural boundaries. Because it borders on the anthropological ancestrality of the much claimed “albesità”. Demanding, therefore, respectful attention.

First of all, there is a need for lexical clarity, since, here and only here, “agnulòt” and “raviòre” are overlapping terms. There is no doubt that originally the two terms referred to different forms. A sign of the linguistic and gastronomic mixing that over time led the two terms to become synonymous. A journey still to be investigated.

If it is true that the name does not differentiate in cuisine, it is equally true that it demarcates. In fact, while the first is ecumenically shared throughout Piedmont, the second sectarianly narrows the field to that cultural enclave which has its heart in the Langhe. What marks a further line of demarcation is the shape, since the raviole del plìn are an expression of the truest and deepest Langa. A kitchen wisdom born of bad luck, or rather the need to multiply the ravioli by reducing their size. It is the miracle of the plìn, transmitted orally from generation to generation as a parable of saving and has become a symbol of the internationality of “made in Langa” taste. A beautiful metaphor of the path taken by the Langhe, capable of turning, or “raviulé”, into a modern myth the ancient flavors of the bad.

by Maestro Luciano Bertello