Pasta ripiena or ‘stuffed pasta’ goes back as far as the 13th century. Once a preserve of the aristocracy, stuffed pasta in its many forms is enjoyed across many kitchen tables. You’re likely to be familiar with ravioli and tortellini. But when it comes to filled pasta, these shapes are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many delicious varieties of filled pasta, with each bite a unique and satisfying morsel. We’re passionate about helping keen foodies try new and exciting varieties of fresh pasta. With that in mind, here are just a handful of filled pasta types you simply must try.
Possibly the most recognisable filled pasta type, ravioli are named after the Italian term ‘riavvolgere’ meaning “to wrap.” Ravioli have been a staple of Italian cuisine since the 14th century. One of the earliest recipes includes chopped green herbs, fresh cheese, and egg - with the ravioli then simmered in broth. Today’s ravioli dishes still use very similar recipes - a testament to the enduring quality of classic Italian cuisine!
Italy’s regions offer various takes on this classic pasta shape. For instance, in Emilia-Romagna, ravioli are served with ricotta e spinaci (ricotta and spinach). This time-honoured combination is both simple and satisfying. For something slightly more substantial, try Molise’s version of ravioli. In this mountainous coastal region, ravioli are filled with sausage and chard. This mixture balances rich and meaty flavours with a hint of sweetness. Ravioli are also a festive treat in Northern Italy, with pumpkin ravioli traditionally served on Christmas Eve.
If you’re interested in making your own ravioli. Why not take a look at our guide to homemade ravioli? This guide contains all you need to start whipping up some delectable pasta parcels.
In terms of pasta origin myths, tortellini certainly have one of the more exotic backstories. The story is that the goddess Venus sought refuge in a tavern on the outskirts of Bologna. The owner of the tavern, transfixed by her beauty, gazed upon her through the keyhole of her room. However, all he could see of Venus was her navel. Therefore, he replicated its shape in the pasta we know today as tortellini.
Dating back to the 13th century, tortellini soon became Bologna’s signature dish. The finest local ingredients - including pork loin, prosciutto di parma, and mortadella - were combined in a single mouthful. It wasn’t long before the navel-shaped pasta saw rapturous popularity in Italia and beyond.
Tortellini are undoubtedly one of the more versatile filled pasta shapes. You’re as likely to enjoy it with zesty lemon and ricotta, as you are with decadent beef and black truffle. Therefore, if you want to try making it yourself, you can let your imagination run wild. Excited by the opportunity of getting hands-on in the kitchen? Take a look at our comprehensive guide to making tortellini.
The historic town of Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna is known mostly for its medieval architecture. However, it also offers a unique filled pasta that flies under the radar of the keenest foodies. Cappellacci are one of Ferrara’s proudest exports, dating back to the Renaissance. They are named after the term caplaz meaning “little hats” in local dialect, referring to the unique straw hats worn by peasants and field workers.
Ferrara’s hallmark dish is cappellacci di zucca. The pasta is filled with either butternut squash or pumpkin and finished either with a silky sage and butter sauce or ragù. The end result of cappellacci con burro e salvia is a satisfying medley of rich, sweet, and herbaceous flavours. If you’re looking for an added texture to bring new dimensions to the dish, we recommend a sprinkling of breadcrumbs or poppy seeds. On the other hand, cappellacci al ragù are a relatively unique combination for Italy, pairing savoury with sweet. We recommend trying some if you ever find yourself in Ferrara as you are unlikely to find this combination outside this historic walled city.
Most tourists are drawn to the Dolomites for panoramic landscapes and lush green pastures. That being said, the North-Eastern mountain range also has something to offer foodies - a half-moon shaped pasta named casunziei. Traditionally, casunziei are made with ingredients foraged from the land. This means every provincial town offers its own distinct filling. Two particular varieties have emerged as trademark casunziei dishes. The first is casunziei rossi - fresh pasta filled with beets and Veronese turnips for a distinct earthy flavour and enticing red colour. The other highly-regarded casunziei dish is casunzieli verdi, which includes a blend of chives and spinach. This filling has both a lush green colour and a fragrant, slightly pungent flavour. Visitors to the Dolomites during the festive period should try casunziei with ground poppy seeds and honey. This unique combination of crunch and mild sweetness is favoured by many as a traditional yuletide dish.
Agnolotti hail from Piedmont, a region nestled at the foot of the Alps. Piedmont is known for its refined cuisine and agnolotti are a standout example. The origins of agnolotti are shrouded in mystery - their name has been attributed to a variety of sources. Some say that their namesake is a 14th Century cook named Angelot, who is often credited for inventing this pasta shape. However, it could also be a reference to the Italian word for lamb - agnello, a common filling for agnolotti.
Agnolotti have a unique pocket-like shape, making it easy to capture any satisfying sauce it's paired with. As with all filled pasta shapes, it is ideally paired with a simple sauce so as not to overwhelm the flavours of the filling. Ideal choices include a rich butter sauce or a soothing meat broth. Many nonnas opt for agnolotti because they are simple to make, compared to tortellini which require quite nimble handiwork. All you need to do is take a single sheet of pasta, and fold it over into a rectangle. Once you’ve done this, you can cut the pasta into individual shapes with a size of your choosing.
Liguria is a mountainous region lying at the heart of the Riviera, and is renowned around the world for its cuisine. The Riviera conjures up images of refined plates and fine dining restaurants. But we’re focusing on pansotti - a triangular pasta shape with deep roots in Ligurian tradition. Much like casunziei, pansotti hark back to times where foraging was a day-to-day practice. The most common filling is prebuggion, a mix of Ligurian wild herbs including nettles, dandelions, and chicory. These are mixed with prescinsêua, a fresh local known for its yoghurt-like consistency. This delicate and creamy cheese offsets the slight bitterness of the herbs. Since these ingredients are somewhat exclusive to the Riviera, spinach, chard, endive, and ricotta are common substitutes.
Pansotti are traditionally served with a luxurious walnut pesto or salsa di noci. This pesto stands out for its velvety texture and nutty aroma. This is achieved by combining Sorrento walnuts with garlic, herbs and a splash of milk, followed by a dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano.
We hope that over the course of this article, you’ve built up a substantial appetite for the many varieties of Italian stuffed pasta. At Pasta Evangelists, we’re here to cater to your pasta-needs until you’ve had your fill. Our mission is to spread the delights of authentic Italian pasta nationwide, delivering fresh pasta dishes to homes across the UK. Sate your appetite by perusing our weekly menu, which is filled with a wonderful range of fresh pasta dishes. We’ll even offer you 10% off your first order when you use BLOG10 at checkout. Grazie!