The New Gastronome


And The Battle Between Two Cities

There are few dishes that are so popular and appreciated, but also related to their tradition and territory, as the tortellino of Modena and Bologna. These two cities form the epicenter of diffusion and fight over who makes them better. First traces of tortellini date back to over 400 years ago, and today, every inn and restaurant in the area offers them. However, it’s the grandmothers who keep the best recipes and above all, the know-how–the central factor for the perfect tortellini–so much so, that even the best chefs come to them to learn and to find out about their secrets.


With broth, it’s a dish that lends itself to the coldest days and it’s especially appreciated during the Christmas and New Year holidays. But, how much do we know about this magnificent stuffed pasta?


Here are some important tips and interesting information:


Tortellini are small, stuffed pasta typical of Bologna and Modena, filled with meat, mortadella, ham and Parmesan cheese. The Main ingredients include: Type 0 flour, stuffed eggs, mortadella, ham, parmesan, meat (veal, pork, chicken), beef marrow and spices. When  making the dough, in the traditional preparation for tortellini, one egg is used for every 100 grams of flour. This combination must be kneaded well and then, it must rest for at least an hour.


Since 1974, the Italian Pasta Academy and The Tortellino Confraternity, in Bologna, established doses for the traditional filling for 100 tortellini:


  • 150g of pork loin browned in butter
  • 150g prosciutto crudo
  • 150g of real mortadella from Bologna
  • 225g Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1.5 eggs
  • half a nutmeg


The very thin paste should be cut into 2cm squares, filled with a walnut-sized amount (or one teaspoon) of stuffing. Then, the square-shaped dough should be gently folded into a triangle by pressing the edges together and then working your fingers down the edges to seal the dough. It’s difficult to properly shape tortellini, but to do this, bend it by bringing the edges together and turning it around the tip of the finger.




Tortellini Trivia



Tortellini is typically served during Christmas time and New Years and it’s usually served in a stock. Only in recent times has it begun to be served with different seasonings such as butter and sage, meat sauce, etc.



Few housewives and few elderly women know how to make real “Bolognese” which is unique in thickness and texture and is often served with tortellini.



The Guinness world record of the smallest tortellino keeps the Bolognese Court of flavors.



In the Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (Venice, 1570), he spoke of “tortelletti, in a jargon called annolini ” and specified the ingredients and the preparation that are still considered typical today.



Tortellini, cappelletti, or anolini?

Cappelletti are often synonymous with tortellini, especially from Emilia Romagna, even though the stuffing can vary and even be thin. Anolini are more typical of Piacenza and are larger, with a skinny or overcooked filling.




Chef Massimo Bottura changed the way tortellini was served with his dish “Tortellini Walking on Broth”, that features six tortellini served on broth, instead of the usual 20, 30, or more tortellini that’s usually included in a serving.



For all those who do not have Emilia origins (includes myself), tortellini will most likely be a very easy, tasty and fast dish for any kind of lunch or dinner. Knowing the origins and traditions related to this stuffed pasta, however, is not enough to fully appreciate it. Only after having been in the area and having eaten a tortellino prepared with care, love and passion–with precious raw materials and in the right atmosphere–in good company, could I taste the real tortellino.


I understood why it could almost become a religion!


Photo credit ©Aarón Gómez Figueroa

About the author

Philipp Oggiano

He's South Tyrollean with an undeniable German influence, despite being Italian. Well versed with cultural and gastronomic fusion, he’s always excited to learn about the world’s culinary habits, fighting for the environment, and artisanal production of food. He's passionate about nature, music, cooking, and interested in all kinds of cuisine-with a main focus on science, haute cuisine and pastry. He is a recent graduate of the University of Gastronomic Sciences.