Itinerary: Bologna, Modena
Tortellini, the worldwide popular Italian pasta specialty
is a special stuffed pasta with a long history. It is one of the most popular and appreciated food inventions of Emilia Romagna
, one of the richest regions in Italy when it comes to food, local dishes, and excellent gastronomic products.
Where it is produced
There are no strict rules on how to prepare tortellini pasta, as this small stuffed-pasta can be made anywhere in thousands of kitchens in Italy and abroad. Nevertheless, tortellini are a type of pasta born in Emilia, the western side of the Emilia-Romagna region: here is where the tortellini-related legends, traditions, and historic recipes come from. Both Bologna
(both cities with excellent food traditions) consider itself the true birthplace of tortellini.
History & how it is made
Tortellini pasta harks back to an enchanting combination of history and legend. The first undefined references of this kind of pasta come from the 12th century from Bologna (pic n°1), or from a recipe book found in Modena one century later. Many other writers and poets talked about a special kind of stuffed pasta over the centuries, and from the fifteenth century on, references have become more and more precise.
Tortellini is a stuffed pasta featuring an unusual shape (pic n°2), and they are also known as “the navel of Venus”. This particular name comes from one of the most popular legends about tortellini, which was inspired by the endless wars between the people of Modena and Bologna. One day, Venus, Bacchus, and Mars (who were helping Modena in the war) went to an inn in Castelfranco Emilia, a town which was located right at the border of the two provinces. The innkeeper fell in love with Venus and, after he saw her beautiful body, decided to create a type of pasta which would resemble her perfect navel.
Throughout history, many recipes of tortellini have been invented. Supposedly it was originally a poor dish, which was probably created in order to reuse leftovers, and then it has turned into one of the most appreciated pasta types in Italy and beyond. Also, there are small variations between tortellini that are made in Modena and Bologna, where the rivalry is still alive!
Tortellini pasta is made with durum wheat flour, eggs, salt, and olive oil, and the best pasta is the one that is kneaded and rolled out by expert hands. The stuffing is made of a mixture of meat (capon, braised meat, ham, sausage, roasted pork or beef, mortadella, bacon, etc.) with a hint of Parmesan cheese. The pasta is cut into squares, that are stuffed and then closed using a special method.
Qualities & how it looks like
The original recipes of tortellini describe them as small bundles made of pasta with a meat-based stuffing inside. The making of this pasta seems easy, but it actually follows strict and accurate methods in order for them to be tasty and well done. When they are ready, tortellini look like a very special kind of pasta: small and yellow, smooth and with a beautiful shape. This pasta must be soft and the bundles must be closed appropriately so that the stuffing does not come out during cooking. If the recipe has been followed correctly, all the single flavors of the different kinds of meat should be perceived.
The best way to taste it
Traditions want tortellini to be served in capon’s or hen’s broth and eaten with a spoon. A very rooted tradition throughout Italy is to eat "tortellini in broth" (pic middle) during Christmas, but it is also one of the most spread comfort foods in Italy as it is perfect if you do not feel well and need something warm and comforting!
Another great way to taste tortellini is together with ragù like the typical meat-based Bolognese sauce which has become famous all around the world, or with a cream-based sauce (pic n°3) and Parmesan cheese but tortellini are served in many other ways too.
The wine which best matches with tortellini depends on the sauce or the way you taste them but since the stuffing is mostly made of meat, tortellini pasta is best tasted with red wines.
Some pics of Tortellini pasta:
Bologna & tortellini (pic n°1); Tortellini just made (pic n°2); Tortellini with a cream-based sauce (pic n°2); Tortellini in broth (pic middle);