The origins of tortelloni are lost in the mists of history. The big square flat shape, sometimes also known as ravioli, is first mentioned in a manuscript of a merchant from Prato, Italy. Many confuse tortelloni with tortellini, a specialty of Bologna with a shape that is inspired by a bishop’s hat, the navel of Venus, or Lucrezia Borgia’s belly button. Although very different, they are both elegant and delicious, perfect for celebrating Valentine’s Day or any day of love.
In our house, filled pasta is a dish to look forward to and, often made for celebrations. It isn’t as difficult as one might believe, but it takes time and patience and is well worth the effort. Soft pillows of pasta coated in a delicious tomato sauce, is the ultimate showing of love from a partner. Nothing can compare to eating food that is created with love and care from one’s companion. My in-laws, Victor and Marcella Hazan’s anniversary date is coming up soon and this is a dish she might have made for him.
In the Emilia Romangia region of Italy where my husband, Giuliano, is from, making pasta is something that is handed down from parent to child. Although most people in Italy consider the food of their region to be the “best”, much of the rest of Italy would concede that the best pasta does come from Emilia Romagna, especially tortelloni. Giuliano learned to make them from his mother, Marcella Hazan, and he has taught our daughters to make them as well.
When both our daughters were in kindergarten, they asked Giuliano to teach their class to make pasta. Over twenty little ones trooped into our house with their bemused teachers and concerned parent chaperones. They successfully made and enjoyed their pasta, and we soon received phone calls from parents saying “my child only wants Mr. Hazan’s ravioli, he won’t eat the ones I bought at the store!” The teachers said it was one of the most successful field trips of the year. If the kindergarteners can do it, we are confident you can too.
Begin by making the filling. First, boil Swiss chard or spinach leaves in salted water. Sauté finely diced onion in butter then add finely chopped prosciutto. Squeeze the water from the greens, chop them fine with a knife (not a food processor), and add them to the skillet. Sauté for a few minutes, then transfer to a mixing bowl where you will mix in ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, an egg yolk, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Make pasta dough with eggs and flour (see our in depth post on homemade pasta), roll it out very thin then use the filling to make square tortelloni. Cook them, toss them with Giuliano’s mother’s famous tomato sauce and a dash of cream, and serve them to your loved one(s).
You can watch Giuliano make them by enrolling in his class on Craftsy (use this link to save 50%!) Or better yet, learn alongside Giuliano at the stupendous Renaissance Villa Della Torre in Northern Italy.
When people ask Giuliano what wine pairs well with a dish, he always says “one that you like!” With tortelloni, you can’t go wrong with an Allegrini Valpolicella. Ruby red and fruity with hints of cherry, it is a wine Earnest Hemingway famously said was as “friendly as a brother with whom you get along”. Perfect for this pasta, it is a lovely wine for the entire meal.