As with many types of pasta, the true origins of tortellini are shrouded in mystery. Some say that it dates back to the 12th century, when a marquess visited an Inn at the town of Castelfranco Emilia, near Modena. According to the tale, the innkeeper was so taken by the beauty of the marquess that he formed a new pasta shape in the image of her navel and filled it with pieces of meat. Others say that the woman wasn’t a marquess, but the goddess Venus herself.
Our Head Pastaia - Roberta D'Elia showing off her perfect tortellini.
Regardless of how exactly tortellini came to be, they’re undoubtedly one of the crowning jewels in the culinary heritage of the Emilia-Romagna region, and are enjoyed all around the world. If you want to bring the smells and tastes of Bologna straight to your kitchen, read on for our simple guide on how to make your own homemade tortellini.
You can also follow along as our head chef Roberta make tortellini in the following video.
Our homemade tortellini recipe
Prep time: 2.5 hours
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Calories per serving: 544 (meat version); 340 (vegetarian version)
For the pasta:
- 400g ’00’ flour
- 4 eggs
For the filling (meat version):
- 150g pork loin
- 80g prosciutto di Parma
- 80g Mortadella
- 20g butter
- 1 egg
- 150g Parmigiano
- A grating of nutmeg
- Salt and pepper to season
For the filling (vegetarian version)
- 50g ricotta
- 25g fontina
- 25g of Parmigiano
- A grating of nutmeg
- A few sage leaves
- Salt and pepper to season
Step 1 – Make the pasta
- Pile the flour into a mound on a clean work surface
- Make a well in the centre of the mound with your hands, and crack the eggs into it.
- Using a fork, slowly work the flour into the eggs, going from the inside of the well outwards. When the mixture starts to thicken, use your hands to incorporate the rest of the flour.
- Once you have a ball-like form, it’s time to knead. Press the heel of your hand into the dough, pushing it away from you. The dough will roll into a shell-like shape. Turn it over, and press into it with your knuckles. Repeat this around 10 times, adding a sprinkle of flour whenever the dough feels sticky.
- Roll the dough back into a ball, and repeat the kneading process for roughly 10-20 minutes until you achieve a smooth and silky consistency.
- Place the ball in a bowl and cover with a tea-towel. Leave it to rest for about an hour.
(Need more help? – Check out our guide to making fresh pasta from scratch, with help from our head pastaia Roberta)
Step 2 – Make the filling
- Cut the pork loin into rough chunks and fry for around ten minutes, so that the meat is cooked but retains its juices.
- Once the pork is cooked, add to a food processor along with the prosciutto di Parma and mortadella, both of which should also be roughly chopped.
- Add the Parmigiano, a grating of nutmeg, and an egg to the mixture, and season to taste.
- Blend the mixture until it resembles a smooth paste.
- Simply combine all of the ingredients together in a blender, and mix until you reach a silky consistency.
Step 3 – Filling the pasta
- Once the dough has rested for an hour or so, place it on a floured work-surface and begin to roll it flat with a pasta machine or a rolling pin. The pasta sheet should be fairly thin but not about to tear.
- With a non-serrated pasta cutter, divide the sheet up into squares – aim to have about 4 cms in length.
- Put a small amount of filling (a little less than a full teaspoon), whether meat or vegetarian, into the centre of each square.
- Now comes the tricky part – how to fold tortellini. Start by taking a square and folding it diagonally to make a triangle, pressing the edges down firmly and squeezing out any trapped air. If the pasta doesn’t stick that well, put a little water on the edges before trying to fold again. Once you have made a triangle shape, take the bottom corners and fold around your index finger so that they meet. Squeeze the corners together so that they bind and again, use a touch of water to help if needed. Repeat until all the pasta and filling is used up.
How to cook tortellini
Using a slotted spoon, lower the tortellini into a pot of boiling water or broth. They only need around three minutes to cook – they’ll float on the surface once they’re ready.
How to serve tortellini
If you really want to delve into an authentic bolognese experience, then serve the traditional (meat) tortellini in boiled capon broth (if you can’t find capon, then any good quality chicken stock will suffice). The vegetarian version, on the other hand, is best enjoyed with a drizzling of sumptuous sage butter sauce.
Classic tortellini en brodo
How to store tortellini
We’d always recommend that you enjoy your fresh pasta straight away, but if you do get carried away when making your tortellini, you can store them in the fridge for up to 5 days in a sealed container.
Tortellini vs tortelloni
In Italian, the suffix - 'ini' is often used to denote small things. Think of the tiny pasta shapes of anellini or ditalini, for instance. The suffix - 'oni', conversely, is used to signal bigger things – rigatoni or cannelloni both spring to mind.
This is the same distinction between tortellini and tortelloni. One is bigger than the other. Whilst you can enjoy many smaller tortellini in a hearty broth, it’s more common to eat just a few of the larger tortelloni by themselves. Here at Pasta Evangelists, the larger variants often make an appearance on our weekly menu as they’re perfect for holding rich meat fillings.
If you want to make tortelloni, the method is exactly the same as for tortellini. The only difference is how large you cut the squares! You can see how Roberta makes tortelloni in the video below.
Tortellini are one of Italy’s most recognisable pastas. Whether filled with a helping of cooked and cured meats, or a silky ricotta mixture, one forkful is enough to take you away to the cobbled alleys of Bologna. Give our homemade tortellini recipe a go to bring Emilia-Romagna straight to your kitchen table.
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