Pigu (Italian Gougeres)
It wasn’t until I broke one of these open for the purpose of my photographs that I realized what the perfect description for them is:
Well, maybe a cross between an Italian Gougère and a baked ravioli (minus the ricotta). My grandma has made these the week of Easter for as long as I can remember. I am not sure where exactly the tradition or recipe comes from, but it is certainly a large part of my family’s Easter tradition. Since we typically do not eat meat on Good Friday, the pigu serve as a great alternative for snacking or, in large quantities (which I have been known to consume), for a meal. Aside from the no-meat-on-Good Friday Easter tradition, these would also be great for any party or get together where you’d like to serve appetizers or snacks that aren’t messy and easy for guests to pick up and eat with their hands.
The pigu are assembled pretty much just like your typical ravioli – a classic pasta dough is rolled out, filling placed on top, covered, and cut into cute little squares. The big difference here comes in the actual filling and the way the pigu are cooked. The filling for the pigu is straight Romano cheese, combined with egg and as much black pepper as your taste buds desire. My grandma usually makes two separate batches – one with a respectable amount of freshly ground black pepper, and another batch that is peppered with pepper. So, whatever you prefer! The Romano cheese is a sharp variety and gives the pigu a tangy flavor that pairs really well with the freshly ground pepper. As for the cooking method, after a brief egg wash, the pigu are placed on a baking sheet and baked in the oven. No pot of boiling water for these guys!
The result are cheesy pillows encased in a soft, yet still firm dough that have a nice bite.
Pigu (Italian Gougères)
2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 cup flour, plus more if needed (dough should be soft and elastic)
2 eggs, beaten
12 ounces (¾ pound) grated Romano
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat, or spray with a non-stick baking spray.
2. Prepare the dough as you would a typical pasta dough, with a mound of flour with a well in the center. Into the middle break the eggs, add the water and oil, and mix together with a fork until combined and then begin incorporating the flour a little at a time. Once the dough comes together as a shaggy mass, knead it by hand until you have a soft, smooth, elastic dough. Add more flour or water, a small bit at a time, until that consistency is reached. Cover and set aside.
3. To make the filling, combine the eggs with the Romano cheese and black pepper in a medium bowl and stir until thoroughly combined.
4. Roll out the pasta dough to about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thickness. Place 1 tablespoon of the filling two inches apart across half of the rolled-out dough. When finished, fold the unused half the dough over the filling. Press around each mound of filling to release air and cut into squares with a knife or pasta roller. If using a knife, seal the edges with a fork. Place pigu on the baking sheet.
5. With a fork, beat together the egg and water and brush the tops of the pigu with the egg wash.
6. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.