Tiny hat-shaped bundles of filled pasta (Tortellini) are one of the most iconic and beloved dishes of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, especially at Christmas. They are particularly associated with the provinces of Bologna and Modena; each has claimed for centuries that they originated the dish and that their version is the best. Either way, tortellini from the provinces of Northern Italy are considered the “gold standard” by which all tortellini is measured against in Italy and the rest of the world.
Tortellini have been around since the Middle Ages, with written documents referring to them dating to the early 12th century. There are many legends of their origin. The province of Modena claims that tortellini were created there after a local innkeeper sneaked a peek through her door’s keyhole and spotted the navel of Renaissance beauty Lucrezia Borgia. Bologna, which since ancient times has had a rivalry with nearby Modena, has an even more fanciful claim, believing tortellini were invented there and modeled after the navel of Venus, the goddess of love.
A yearly tortellini festival, Sagra del Tortellino, with costumed characters re-enacting the legendary creation of tortellini, takes place every September in the town of Castelfranco Emilia, midway between Bologna and Modena. Tortellini are so popular that they have even been giving their own food holiday- February 13th is National Tortellini Day.
Tortellini en Brodo Bolognese (Tortellini in Broth)
- Large soup pot
- 5 quarts Highest quality chicken or vegetable stock possible
- 1 lb Highest quality fresh or dried meat tortellini
- 2 cups Freshly grated Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Place tureen and bowls in a warm oven. Bring pot with broth to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Drop the tortellini into pot and after 2 minutes, taste one. It should be tender but have some "bite". Fresh tortellini will take from 2 to 5 minutes to cook. Dried or frozen will take a little longer. Ladle the broth and tortellini in the tureen and serve with grated cheese on the side for sprinkling over the top.