If you were raised on Nonna’s cooking, chances are you have warmed up with a bowl of tortellini in brodo. This dish is from the Emilia-Romagna region and consists of tortellini, a stuffed pasta, traditionally served in a capon stock, though beef and poultry stock are common substitutions.
For this recipe, we are using a delicate broth infused with the flavour of Parmigiano Reggiano DOP rinds. This simple (yet delicious) broth is key to ensuring the pasta’s filling is the star of the final dish.
The origins of tortellini are ambiguous. One legend has it that tortellini, which are sometimes referred to as Ombelico di Venere, was inspired by Venus’ navel. An innkeeper tried to replicate her navel using a sheet of pasta after seeing Venus.
In another version of the tale, tortellini’s shape is inspired by another woman’s navel. Ombelico della marchesina comes from an alternate version of events, where the pasta’s shape is derived from the daughter of a marquise in the same fashion.
Stuffed pasta first originated in the Po Valley, going as far back as the 14th century, when the first recipe for tortellini was written down. Tortellini is typically a small, hat-shaped pasta that is often stuffed with meat or cheese. It can be served alla panna, con burro e salvia, or in brodo, and is similar to other stuffed pasta varieties. Take tortelloni for example, the larger version, or tortellacci, the giant version of tortellini. These are more commonly filled with ricotta cheese or leafy vegetables.
Ravioli, agnolotti and cappelletti are also examples of stuffed pasta — or pasta ripiena — with small nuanced differences between each type. Ravioli can be big or small and are square or circular in shape. Agnolotti are similar to ravioli, but are easier to master because they are made using one sheet of pasta folded over and pinched shut. Cappelletti’s shape resembles a cappello which translates to ‘cap’. These little ‘caps’ are made with a thicker dough than most other stuffed pasta.
Tortellini in brodo is a dish served as a first course during a celebration. Nothing says ‘special occasion’ like carefully and lovingly making a stuffed pasta from scratch. For this particular recipe, we will be making tortellini stuffed with pork loin, prosciutto and mortadella di Bologna IGP in a Parmigiano Reggiano DOP broth.
This recipe calls for prosciutto crudo — you can choose which variety you would like to use. Generally speaking, the correct type would be prosciutto di Parma DOP, because it is the traditional type from Emilia-Romanga, where tortellini in brodo is from. However, you could switch things up and experiment with the flavours of prosciutto Toscano DOP or prosciutto di San Daniele DOP. For a smoky flavour infused with juniper and bay leaf, try Speck Alto Adige IGP — a variety from South Tyrol in northeast Italy, strongly influenced by its German and Austrian neighbours.
Recipe: Tortellini In Brodo Di Parmigiano Reggiano
Early recipes for this dish from the Emilia-Romagna region, as is seen in Pellegrino Artusi’s cookbook, omit pork loin and instead include Mortadella di Bologna and bone marrow in the tortellini filling.
- Prep Time: 4 hrs
- Cook Time: 25 mins
- Total Time: 4 hrs 25 mins
- 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
- 2 stalks each of rosemary and sage
- 6 stalks each of basil and parsley
- 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
- 4 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 280 g Parmigiano Reggiano DOP rinds
- 450 g of chicken carcass (ask your butcher for chicken backs or necks)
- 8 cups cold water
- 200 g of 00 flour, sifted
- 2 eggs
- 200 g of pork loin, finely diced
- 2 tbsp. of unsalted butter
- 200 g of prosciutto crudo, finely diced
- 100 g of Parmigiano Reggiano DOP, grated
- 2 eggs
- nutmeg, freshly grated
- freshly ground black pepper
- Add a small amount of extra virgin olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. Next, add the carrots, onions and celery.
- Season the vegetables generously with salt and cook them, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are very lightly browned and the onions are translucent.
- Add the remainder of the broth ingredients into the pot. Bringing it to a boil.
- Reduce the heat, and continue to simmer for two hours. Remove any foam that forms on the surface.
- Allow the broth to cool slightly before removing the chicken carcass, vegetables, and Parmigiano Reggiano rinds .
- Pass the broth through a sieve to remove any remaining particles.
- While the broth simmers, make the pasta dough.
- Form the flour into a well on a work surface and crack the eggs into the centre.
- Gradually incorporate the flour little by little into the mixture by whisking with a fork.
- Once the dough has started to come together, begin kneading the mixture with your hands.
- Continue to knead the dough for 10 minutes, then shape into a ball.
- Wrap the dough ball loosely in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- While the pasta is resting, make the filling. Start by melting butter in a frying pan set over medium heat. Add the diced pork loin and brown it on all sides.
- Combine the diced pork loin and diced prosciutto, chopping until you achieve a very fine paste,
then add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano DOP, eggs, and season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Divide into 3 pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll the balls out into sheets of dough. Pass the sheets through a pasta machine, starting on the widest setting and moving progressively down to the narrowest.
- Lay the pasta sheets on a floured work surface.
- Cut each sheet into 3 centimetre squares. Next, place a pea-sized amount of the filling onto each square. Fold the square diagonally in half onto itself to form a triangle. Fold it again, joining the corners at the base to form a pocket. Dip your fingers in warm water and run them along any edges that need a tighter seal.
- After you’ve finished folding the tortellini, reheat the broth.
- Season to taste and bring to a simmer.
- Add the tortellini, cooking for about 3 minutes before removing from the heat.
- Distribute the tortellini and broth equally between 6 serving bowls. Garnish grated Parmigiano Reggiano DOP.