I’ve always been interested in the origin and history of food, it just makes eating a little more interesting .
After discovering the origin of tortellini, eating them becomes even more interesting! It makes me feel a little ticklish to find out that one account suggests Venus’ navel as the inspiration.
My mother never made tortellini for us most likely because her mother never made them either. This could very well be because it was not the regional pasta of Puglia and the Pugliese were quite happy making their orechiette instead. The region of Castelfranco Emilia, halfway between Bologna and Modena boasts being the originator of this interestingly shaped pasta with recipes dating back as early as 1570.
I must say, Italians take their pastas very seriously, just consider the names bestowed to every cut and shape of known varieties. Who knows if some have yet to be discovered!
I don’t make tortellini often, mostly for special occasions but the interesting part is that traditionally they are served in broth not a cream or tomato sauce. Even not having any previous knowledge of this information I’ve instinctively always served them in a tasty chicken or turkey broth.
The fillings seem to be left to preference, everything from cheese to cured meats to spinach. I’ve always filled them with lean, well seasoned, ground chicken meat. To me it just pairs well with chicken broth.
Time and patience goes into these cute little dumplings as well.
Set aside a couple of hours of the day, assemble all ingredients and get to work. You may soon wonder what ever made you begin this endeavour and you may even want to quit half way through but you won’t. I know, I’ve been there myself.
In the end the sense of accomplishment will be priceless not to mention how well they are received by all as they disappear from their bowls in minutes!
The amount of filling to make depends on how many tortellini you wish to make.
The following recipe uses one pound of ground chicken and four batches of pasta dough which yields approximately 270 tortellini. Quantity of tortellini made can easily be reduced if need be and filling can also be adjusted to taste.
1 pound ground chicken
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup grated cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
- Add beaten egg and remaining ingredients to ground chicken and combine well.
- Cover and refrigerate while making dough.
Pasta Dough (one batch)
Make dough one batch at a time to prevent it from drying out. For more detailed instructions on how to make pasta dough visit this blog post.
¾ cup flour
1 extra large egg
1 tablespoon corn or vegetable oil
- Place flour into a small bowl and make a well.
- Add egg and oil.
- Stir until dough starts coming together.
- Place on lightly floured surface and knead until soft and pliable.
- Form into a ball, cover with bowl and let rest 10 minutes.
Let’s make them…
Combine filling ingredients. Filling should be on the moist side. Refrigerate until ready to use. Since using up the filling may take some time, place the bowl over a container of ice to keep meat at a safe temperature.
Make 1 batch of dough. Let rest about 10 minutes.
Roll dough to desired thickness in about 3 inch wide strips, the thinner the better you don’t want the tortellini too doughy. Dough can also be rolled out with a rolling pin if no pasta machine is available.
Brush a small amount of water over the strip just to moisten. This ensures a good seal.
Place a small amount of filling at about 1 inch intervals on the strip. Using a pastry bag and quarter inch tip makes the job easier and cleaner.
Fold strip over and press out any air pockets in between. Using a 1 1/4 inch ravioli cutter cut out semi circles encasing each portion of filling. There are other methods of filling tortellini but this one is faster, neater and the filling isn’t going anywhere once it’s crimped closed with the ravioli maker.
With fingers, slightly stretch and draw together the 2 ends of semicircle and pinch together until they stick.
Place on a tray lined with a clean tea towel and when the tray is full place in freezer until frozen. If cooking tortellini the same day cover and refrigerate until ready to use. .
When frozen, place in a plastic storage bag and store in freezer until ready to use. Cook from frozen state.
- To cook, bring a pot of water, size depending on how many tortellini being cooked. After coming to a rapid boil add salt then the frozen tortellini.
- Cook until tender, drain and add to hot chicken or turkey broth.
- Serve with grated cheese.
More stuffed pasta…