The great tortellini debate

Tortellini in Brodo at All’Osteria Bottega,Bologna

By Edoardo Celadon (

There is probably not a single country which became that popular all over the world for its cuisine as Italy did.
Well, to be honest, we Italians usually consider our fame as both a pride and a ruin; actually, the selection of products our country can praise and the mess around names and recipes is unbelievably endless.
Hundreds (or maybe more) of different shapes of pasta are created every day with different names and recipes depending on the region and the city we are, the family or even a specific generation of that family.
Things get harder when it comes to fresh stuffed pasta: it takes more time to cook, you need more ingredients, more memory and many kitchen utensils…coffee anyone?
The truth is that, when it comes to cook tortellini (usually during Christmas time), Italian grandmas prepare thousands of them just relying on their eyes, heart and palate.
So, let’s try to briefly introduce the subject in a few effective lines, but first it is mandatory to say that trying to canonize recipes is harder than booking a table at Sushi Saito one day in advance.

Making tortellini at Le Sfogline, Bologna ©Edoardo Celadon

Despite the lack of particular evidence, some boring history brings us back to 1100-1200 A.D.: according to some historians, it is actually said that, during their Christmas big meals, Bolognese upper classes and the Church used to eat Turtellorum, stuffed pasta served in a bowl with capon stock. This is probably the very first culinary example of this kind.
The legend about Venus’ belly button told in Giuseppe Ceri’s poem is obviously more fascinating, but at the same time drastically less realistic (anyway, never say never).
In the poem, we are said that, after one of the bloody battles between the two arch rivals Bologna and Modena, the gods Baccus, Mars and Venus were resting at one of the Castelfranco Emilia locandas (a sort of hostel which provides both bed and board). In that occasion, the locandiere (host of the locanda), who was extremely fascinated by Venus’ body, decided to reproduce the shape of her belly button with some rolled pasta dough. That is how he gave birth to our famous tortellini.
By choosing a neutral location, the poem tried to calm down the battles between Bologna and Modena that have always been fighting for the birthplace of tortellini, but nothing has actually really changed so far; many other recipes still sprout like mushrooms, instead.
So, in the thick of some culinary murders like pizza au tortellini, mac n tortellini and others, we want to provide you with the original recipe. We need to thank our Dotta Confraternita del Tortellino and the Accademia Italiana della Cucina that filed it on the 7th of December 1974.

Recipe of Tortellini in Brodo (amounts for 1000 tortellini)

For the Sfoglia (sheets of fresh pasta):
– 3 eggs
– 300 gr of flour

For the filling:
– 300 gr of pork loin
– 300 gr of Prosciutto crudo (sweet or semi-sweet)
– 300 gr of Mortadella di Bologna
– 400 gr of Parmigiano Reggiano
– 3 eggs
– 1 nutmeg

For the stock:
– 1kg of beef spare ribs
– Half of a free-range chicken
– Celery, Carrot, Onion
– Salt

For the filling:
Mince the meat finely (the pork loin should be diced and browned with butter); then add the eggs, the Parmesan and the nutmeg. Let this mixture stand in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
For the stock:
Put the meat and the half free-range chicken into a saucepan; pour 4 litres of cold water and bring to the boil. Use the skimmer to skim off the scum from the water and add the vegetables. Add salt to taste and simmer for at least 3 hours.
For the tortellini:
Use the rolling pin to roll out the dough on a wooden board until it is extremely fine. Cut the dough into 3-centimetre squares and put a knob of filling in the middle of each one; fold the dough in order to form a little triangle, letting its sides fit together. Fold the triangle and run your finger along the side overlapping the two opposite corners. Press tightly to seal so that the tortellini can hold their shape. Set aside on a board and repeat with remaining pieces of dough.
Strain the stock and bring to the boil again; lower the tortellini slowly and cook them gently for at least 3 or 4 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle with a great amount of Parmesan.

While the stock is cooking, you have some free time to book a trip in Emilia-Romagna. These are some of the best places where to eat Tortellini in brodo:


Thanks to Dotta Confraternita del Tortellino for providing information and the recipe.

The article has been kindly translated by Melissa Salvini

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