Caramelle is a stuffed pasta that is shaped to resemble a piece wrapped candy. Our homemade caramelle tutorial can be made with any type of savory filling - but to mimic the sweet meaning of caramelle, we are using a roasted sweet potato filling and serving the dish with our simple balsamic & brown butter sauce and crispy prosciutto.
Homemade caramelle can be made with any of your favorite pasta fillings. For a classic Italian flavor, try this pasta shaping tutorial with the cheesy ricotta-based filling from out Four Four Cheese Ravioli recipe.
What Are Caramelle?
Caramelle translates to "candies" in Italian. This playful pasta preparation is a stuffed pasta (like ravioli) that is shaped to resemble a wrapped candy. Caramelle are thought to have originated in the Emilia Romagna region and can be prepared with any wide variety of pasta fillings and sauces.
For this caramelle recipe, I decided to lean into the candy-shape by using a sweet potato pasta filling for a dish that has a delicate balance of sweet and savory flavors.
- Homemade Pasta or Wonton Wrappers - We use our homemade semolina and egg pasta dough recipe. I included the recipe below, but if you are new to making pasta, I recommend checking out the entire post for step-by-step photos and expert pasta making tips.
- Sweet Potato
- Parmesan - Any hard Italian cheese like Parmesan, Pecorino or Grana Padano adds a salty, savory kick to the filling. For a nuttier flavor, I sometimes use finely shredded Comte or gruyere cheese, instead.
- Cinnamon & Nutmeg - A tiny amount of baking spices lends just a touch of warmth and depth of flavor without being overpowering.
- Salt & Pepper
Kitchen Equipment and Hand Tools
Believe it or not, making caramelle pasta is pretty easy but it does require some standard kitchen equipment and pasta making tools. Make sure you have what you need before you get started.
- Bench Scraper - For making homemade pasta.
- Ruler - If you have a silicone pastry mat that has grid measurements, now is the time to use it! It makes measuring the pasta dough super easy.
- Pasta Maker - I will live and die by my Marcato 150 pasta maker! It's a simple hand crank tool that is made very well. Mine is over a decade old with hundreds (and hundreds!) of uses and it still works like a charm. If you're ambitious, you can sheet your pasta dough with a rolling pin, instead. Check out my pasta dough recipe post for tips on rolling hand-sheeted pasta. Just be sure to roll it quite thin!
- Sharp Knife or Pasta Wheel - I like to use both a straight-edged brass pasta shell and a fluted edge wheel for a festive candy-like look.
- Piping Bag or Small Scoop - I like to use a piping bag. I buy disposable bags from Amazon for cheap. A half Tablespoon scoop will work well, too.
Sweet Potato Filling
This recipe requires a 1 pound sweet potato that has been cooked soft. It's perfect for a leftover baked sweet potato! I recommend roasting the sweet potato to help concentrate the flavor and keep the filling dry. If you are in a time crunch, you can boil the potato, instead.
- Scrub your sweet potato clean. Prick the skin with the tines of a fork and wrap in foil. Bake at 400° Fahrenheit for 75 minutes or until the potato is very soft. With a sharp paring knife, carefully peel away the skin and discard.
Pro Tip: Catch the Drippings! - Whenever I roast a sweet potato, I like to bake it wrapped in foil, directly on the rack of my oven. Baking it on the rack allows the heat to circulate around the entire potato, cooking it evenly and more quickly.
As it roasts, the sweet potato's natural sugars will caramelize, and often spill and drip out of the foil wrapping. The sugars will quickly burn and smoke on the bottom of your oven so I recommend placing a foil-lined baking sheet on the rack below your potatoes, to catch any of those pesky caramel drips and avoid a major mess!
- With an immersion blender (or traditional blender), process the sweet potato until smooth. Add the finely shaved/grated cheese, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Process until smooth. (If the filling is SUPER thick, you can add a teaspoon or two of water but be very careful - you want the filling to be thick and hold its shape.
- For a super silky texture, press the sweet potato filling through a fine mesh sieve. Transfer the filling into a piping bag (or you can use a small scoop).
Saving & Storing: If needed, the filling can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for 2 - 3 days or frozen for 3 or more months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator the day before shaping your caramelle.
Shaping Caramelle Pasta By Hand
Now comes the fun! Caramelle is one of my favorite shapes to make - the candy wrapper look is just so cute! You can feel free to make them larger or smaller, but I've found that using 3 x 3 inch squares of pasta (the size of an average wonton wrapper) makes for perfect two-bite caramelle that have the perfect ratio of filling to pasta.
- Divide the pasta dough into 6 portions. Work with one portion of dough at a time, keeping the remaining dough covered in a clean, damp kitchen towel. If using wonton wrappers, skip to Step 4.
- Sheet the portion of dough until it is about 1 millimeter thick (about the thickness of a credit card or setting 6 on an Atlas Marcato 150 pasta machine).
- Measure and cut the sheeted pasta dough into 3 x 3 inch squares (about 7.5 centimeters). If you would like, you can use a fluted pasta wheel on perpendicular edges to add a little candy-like detail.
- Pipe (or scoop) a half Tablespoon of sweet potato filling onto the bottom third of a square of pasta dough.
- Roll the pasta dough around the filling to create a tube of pasta with the seam on the bottom.
*If you are using wonton wrappers, you may need to lightly moisten the dough with a damp pastry brush, to ensure a proper seal. Lightly moisten the wonton wrapper around the filling and on the seam edge.
- Use your finger tips to press on either side of the caramelle, snugly around the sweet potato filling. Press the pasta firmly onto your work surface to seal the dough on either side of the filling.
Try to seal the dough only in the center of the tube, leaving excess dough on either side of your the seal that can be pinched to complete the shape in the next step.
- Use your thumb and pincer finger to pinch the excess dough around the seal and create the "twisted" candy wrapper look. Flip the caramelle over and repeat by pinching the excess dough on the bottom half of the shape, as well.
- To finish the caramelle shape, press your fingertip into the center to create a dimple. This indentation is optional, but recommended as it makes for a perfect little vessel to capture extra sauce. Allow caramelle to dry on a semolina dusted baking sheet until ready to boil.
- When ready to cook, bring 4 - 6 quarts of water to a rapid boil. Season generously with salt. If serving the sweet potato caramelle with our brown butter balsamic sauce (or any sauce, really), I recommend adding an additional Tablespoon of semolina flour to the boiling water. This helps the pasta water to be extra starchy and helps to thicken and bind the sauce together.
Optional: Brown Butter Balsamic Sauce & Crispy Prosciutto
This sweet potato stuffed pasta is the perfect paring for our brown butter balsamic pasta sauce recipe. The sauce requires just a few ingredients, and a few minutes. The buttery sauce is rich and nutty balanced with the sweet and acidic flavors of balsamic vinegar and essence of fresh herbs. It's great way to bring balance and depth of flavor to enhance the roasted sweet potato filling.
For a salty accent, and a bit of added protein, we like to serve this pasta with some crispy pancetta, bacon or prosciutto. Of course, the meat is completely optional and the dish is fantastic with or without it.
Pasta Sauce Ingredients
- Prosciutto, Bacon or Pancetta are completely optional but add a nice salty component that pairs well with the caramelle and buttery sauce.
Saucing & Serving
- If using prosciutto, bacon or pancetta - I like to cook that in the pan first, to add extra flavor to the sauce. I used prosciutto and cooked it up in a pan for 2- 3 minutes, until shrunken and crispy. If using bacon or pancetta, drain off any excess fat leaving just a Tablespoon, or so, behind. Set the meat aside while you prepare the sauce.
In The Sage Apron kitchen, we love a good sauce. To make sure every bite is sufficiently saucy, this caramelle recipe uses a double batch of the recipe posted on our balsamic brown butter recipe page.
- Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat. When the butter begins to simmer or boil, add the herbs. (Be careful, the butter may spit out of the pan.) Stir frequently until the butter is browned and very aromatic. Remove from the heat immediately, to avoid burning.
- Whisk in the balsamic vinegar. Set aside while you boil the sweet potato caramelle.
- While the caramelle is cooking, carefully remove some of the starchy pasta water from the pot. Return the brown butter balsamic sauce to medium-low heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Slowly whisk in about ½ - ¾ Cup of hot pasta water. Whisk vigorously, while simmering, until the sauce is smooth, slightly thickened and emulsified together.
- Discard the herbs and season to taste with salt and a few crack of black pepper. Using a spider tool, transfer the caramelle pasta directly into the simmering sauce. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 1 - 2 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and is clinging to each piece of pasta.
- Serve immediately in warm bowls topped with shaved Parmesan and crispy prosciutto (bacon or pancetta), if using.
Other Serving Suggestions
Homemade caramelle are delicious any way you serve them! They taste wonderful in regular brown butter or in a simple cream sauce. For a lighter meal, try them in a Parmesan brodo sauce.
Sweet potato caramelle are fantastic with classic Italian cheeses but also with nutty alpine cheeses - like gruyere and Comte.
Sometimes I like to add a little texture to this dish with some herb toasted breadcrumbs or toasted nuts. Pecans and hazelnuts are especially nice pairings with the warm Autumn flavors.
Of course, a warm crusty Italian bread and a simple salad is a nice way to complete a special home-cooked meal. Serve with a full bodied, oaked white wine or a savory glass of red. A Chianti Classico or Southern Rhone blend would be my choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! While I certainly encourage you to make your own fresh pasta (it's easier than it sounds!), this recipe can be prepared with wonton wrappers.
Absolutely! Try this recipe with the filling from our homemade cheese ravioli recipe, or any pasta filling you desire.
Caramelle can be served with any of your favorite sauces. This sweet potato caramelle is delicious with our balsamic brown butter sauce but can also be served in a tomato sauce, pesto sauce or cream sauce.
Yes! Freeze caramelle on a baking sheet until frozen solid. Then, transfer the frozen caramelle into a freezer safe bag. When ready to eat, the pasta can be boiled from frozen. The pasta quality is best enjoyed within 1 - 2 weeks but can be frozen safely for several months.
Caramelle with Sweet Potato Filling (Candy Shaped Pasta)
- Immersion Blender (or Standard Blender)
- Bench Scraper
- Pasta Maker (or rolling pin)
- Pasta Wheel (or sharp knife (I like to use both straight edge and fluted pasta wheels))
- Piping Bag (or small scoop)
- Sauce Whisk (optional, for making balsamic brown butter sauce)
- Spider Utensil (or large slotted spoon)
- 1 ¼ Cups semolina flour plus 1 Tablespoon for extra starchy pasta water
- 1 ¼ Cups all-purpose flour OR bread flour
- 1 large whole egg (about 1 ¾ ounces room-temperature
- 5 large egg yolks (about 6 ¾ ounces) room-temperature
- water as needed, about 1 - 2+ Tablespoons
- sea or kosher salt as desired, for seasoning during boil
Sweet Potato Filling
- 1 pound sweet potato
- ½ ounce Parmesan (or Grana Padano) finely grated
- 1 teaspoon fine kosher salt* or to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 dash nutmeg preferably freshly grated
- Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Balsamic Brown Butter Sauce (Optional)
- 2 - 4 ounces prosciutto, bacon or pancetta optional
- 1 Cup butter 2 sticks cut into Tablespoon sized pieces
- 3 - 5 sprigs thyme and/or sage
- ¼ Cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 - 1½ Cups pasta water
- fine kosher salt* to taste
- Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
- In a medium mixing bowl, add semolina and bread flours and whisk to combine. Transfer flour mixture in a mound on a smooth, clean work surface. Shape a well in the center of your flour.
- Add the egg, egg yolks and about 1 Tablespoon (15 milliliters) of water to the well. Using a fork, begin to whisk the eggs and water together until smoothly combined. Continue whisking, while slowly bringing flour into the eggs to form a smooth paste.
- Once most of the pasta flour is incorporated and the dough begins to come together, switch from using the fork to using your bench scraper. Scrape the dough up from your work surface and fold it over itself. Use the bench scraper to chop the mixture together and evenly distribute the flour throughout a shaggy dough. If the dough is too dry to come together, drizzle a little additional water over the mass of dough and continue to combine with the bench scraper.
- Use your hands to pull the dough together and knead. Use the mass of dough to pick up any scraggly dough scraps or loose flour on your work surface. The dough should be firm and may be slighlty tacky but should not stick to your hands or the work surface.
- Once all the flour is incorporated and dough is homogenous, form into a ball. Cover the dough with a damp towel or plastic wrap to prevent drying. Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
Sweet Potato Filling
- In a 400° Fahrenheit oven, roast your sweet potato for 75 minutes, or until very soft. Alternatively, you can use a leftover baked sweet potato or boil the sweet potato until tender. Carefully peel the potato and discard the skin.
- Use a blender to puree the potato with Parmesan cheese, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper. If desired, pass the sweet potato filling through a fine-mesh strainer. Transfer the filling to a piping bag, if using, and set aside.
Shaping the Caramelle
- For a detailed caramelle shaping tutorial with step by step photos, please scroll up in the post. Divide the pasta dough into 6 equal pieces. Working with one portion of dough at a time, keep the remaining dough covered in plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. Using a pasta machine (or rolling pin) sheet a portion of pasta dough until about 1 millimeter thick (about the thickness of a credit card, or setting 6 on an Atlas Marcato 150). Dust the dough and work surface with a little flour, as needed, to prevent sticking.
- With a pasta wheel (or sharp knife), cut the dough into 3 inch (about 7.5 centimeter) squares. I like to use a fluted pasta wheel on perpendicular edges to add a decorative detail to this shape. Save any pasta scraps to re-roll and make more pasta.
- Pipe or scoop a ½ Tablespoon of sweet potato filling in the center of the bottom third of each pasta square. Roll the pasta around the filling to create a filled tube of pasta, seam side down.*If you are using wonton wrappers (or your dough is very dry), you may need to add a little moisture to help create a good seal. Use a damp pastry brush to lightly moisten the dough around the sweet potato filling and seam's edge.
- With your fingertips, press down to seal the pasta on either side of the filling. Use your thumb and pincer fingers to pinch either side and create a cinched candy-like shape. Flip the caramelle over and repeat pinching either side to seal the remaining dough around the filling. Flip right-side-up and use your fingertip to create a dimple in the center of each caramelle.
- Transfer caramelle to a semolina flour dusted baking sheet to dry. Repeat with remaining pasta dough and filling.
- When ready to cook, bring 4 - 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Season generously with salt. Add in the caramelle pasta and 1 Tablespoon of semolina flour (to create a starchier pasta water). Boil for 4 - 6 minutes or until the pasta is floating, tender and cooked through. In the meantime, prepare the sauce.
Balsamic Brown Butter Sauce
- If using, cook prosciutto, bacon or pancetta until crispy. Set aside. Drain any excess fat from the pan (but, for extra flavor, do not wipe it clean).
- In a lightly colored pan that is large enough to hold the pasta, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir often. The butter will seperate into milk solids and butter fat. At first the butter will be foamy, then boil (be careful, the butter may spit out of the pan), and finally begin to caramelize as the foam subsides. (If the butter begins to boil rapidly, reduce heat to simmer).
- Add the sage and/or thyme. Watch closely, stirring often until the milk solids (white specks) begin to caramelize (about 5 - 10 minutes). Continue stirring until the butter is brown, nutty and very aromatic. Remove from heat immediately to avoid burning.
- Carefully whisk in the balsamic vinegar. Set aside while you boil the pasta.
- When ready to serve, return the sauce to a low to medium-low heat and bring to a gentle simmer. While whisking vigorously, slowly stream in the starchy pasta water. Continue to simmer and whisk for 1 - 2 minutes until the sauce comes together into a thick silky emulsion. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Remove the herbs and discard.
- Use a spider tool to add the boiled caramelle directly to the sauce pan. Continue cooking on low heat, stirring constantly, for 1 - 2 minutes until the sauce has thickened and is clinging to pasta. Serve immediately in warm bowls. Garnish with shaved Parmesan and crispy prosciutto, bacon or pancetta, if using. Bon appetito!
* A Note About Salt
Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on The Sage Apron are developed using Diamond Crystal Kosher salt. It is a great all-purpose salt for cooking and baking. If using table salt, reduce quantities by about half.