The “Rabatòn” are a typical first course of the Alessandria area, a dish whose texture reminds a little bit that of gnocchi, but whose main ingredients are ricotta cheese, eggs, chard, parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.
They are therefore a rather humble dish, with ancient origins. It is said that at the time of the transhumance in spring, Piedmontese shepherds used to stop in the villages of Fraschetta (the name of the plain between Alessandria and Tortona) to stock up on food before returning to the mountains after a winter in the valley to graze their cattle. Here they exchanged what they had (ricotta cheese, wild herbs, etc.) for bread for the long journey.
The local women then began to prepare a dish, the Rabatòn, combining the shepherd’s products, eggs, stale bread, seasoned cheese and wild herbs to make it all more tasty. These kind of meatballs were then cooked in broth and au gratin in the oven.
Today, wild herbs are no longer used, but chard and spinach, more easily available. Even today, however, they are still eaten boiled and au gratin in the oven and can be enjoyed exclusively in local gastronomies and restaurants.
The name seems to derive from the Piedmontese term “rabatà”, meaning ‘to roll’ and refers to the gesture made to create these traditional elongated shaped meatballs.
Since 1981, on the first weekend of September there has been an unmissable event, the annual village festival dedicated to these delicious gnocchi that attracts many people (just think that in 2015 even 25 thousand portions were served!).
Below you can find the recipe of sapu.ri that offers you two versions of this dish: a traditional one (gratinated with butter and sage), a Sicilian one (gratinated with béchamel sauce).
(for about 20 Rabaton)
- 600 g Swiss chard or spinach
- 250 g of fresh ricotta
- 70 gr of grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
- salt, pepper and nutmeg at taste
- vegetable broth
Seasoning (version with butter and sage)
- 80 gr of butter
- 6 Sage leaves
- 30 g of Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
Seasoning (version with béchamel)
- 50 gr butter
- 50gr flour
- 500 ml milk
- Salt, pepper and nutmeg at taste
- 30 gr of Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
Boil and squeeze the beets or spinach well, then chop them finely.
Drain the ricotta and then crush it with a fork together with salt, pepper, nutmeg.
Add the egg, Parmesan cheese and finally the spinach.
Add the breadcrumbs a little at a time until you get a moist but compact mixture.
Form large dumplings and pass them in the flour.
Prepare some vegetable broth (you can also use a bouillon cube but make sure that it does not contain monosodium glutamate and has little salt) or simply boil some water with salt.
Then boil the Rabatòn a few at a time until they come to the surface, it will take about 1-2 minutes.
We will now proceed to the gratin.
After boiling them, place the Rabaton on an oven dish greased and sprinkled with breadcrumbs.
Melt the butter with the sage over low heat and then pour it over the dumplings.
Then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs and bake au gratin in the oven at 180 degrees for about 15 minutes.
We prepare the béchamel by melting the butter over low heat.
Turn off the heat and add the flour stirring well with a whisk to avoid lumps.
Put the pot back on a low heat and stir until the mixture is golden.
Pour the milk a little at a time, continuing to stir so that the roux (butter and flour mixture) melts well.
Then add a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Cook for about 5-6 minutes continuing to stir until the mixture starts to thicken and then boil. The béchamel is ready!
Spread a veil on the bottom of the pan, place the previously boiled Rabaton and cover them with more béchamel. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs and bake in the oven at 180 degrees for about 15 minutes.
The Rabaton are ready!
Enjoy yout meal!