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Tortellini bolognesi: history, curiosities and traditional recipe

Bologna is world-famous for its porticos, medieval squares, the Torre degli Asinelli and the Garisenda, one of the greatest attractions of the city, strategically placed at the point of entry into the city from the ancient Via Emilia.

Whether it’s a day trip or a real holiday, Bologna is absolutely one of the Italian cities to visit, especially for its gastronomic tradition. There are many traditional Bologna dishes, from the cotoletta bolognese (Bolognese cutlet) to the torta di riso (rice cake) and the famous egg pasta, whether tagliatelle al ragù or tortellini in broth.

Below we will tell you some interesting facts about tortellini bolognesi and reveal the delicious recipe!

History and curiosities

Tortellini in broth have always been considered a purely Bolognese dish. Perhaps few people know that even today Bologna and Modena are contending for its paternity, and it is this eternal rivalry that is linked to the history of tortellini.

If you talk to a Modenese, there is no doubt that the origin is in Modena, but so can a Bolognese.

Legend has it that in an inn in Castelfranco Emilia, the Corona, then under the control of Bologna, came a beautiful Marchesina to stay overnight after a long journey. The owner of the inn, enchanted by such beauty, peeked through the keyhole and glimpsed the noblewoman’s navel. He was inspired and created the tortellino, reproducing its shape.

The historian Cervellati, in one of his manuscripts, mentions ‘Tortellum ad Natale’ on the tables of the Bolognese as early as the twelfth century. In fact, historical and literary references appear as early as the early 1300s, in a recipe in the Modenese dialect ‘torteleti de enula’, while in the 1400s the tortellino is even mentioned in a novella by Boccaccio, the ‘Decameron’.

Certainly one of the most important dates for the tortellino is 1904, the year in which the Bartani brothers from Emilia, participating in the Los Angeles fair, presented the tortellino: from that moment on, tortellino became famous all over the world.

The official recipe for tortellino in broth, because tradition dictates that it should be cooked and eaten exclusively in broth, was registered on 7 December 1974 by the ‘Dotta Confraternita del Tortellino’ with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce.

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The tortellini bolognesi recipe

200 g 00 flour
2 eggs

100 g pork loin
100 g of raw ham
100 g of Bologna mortadella
150 g of Parmesan cheese 36 months (if you use a less mature Parmesan cheese 250 g)
1 egg
scent of nutmeg

500 g capon
300 g beef doubloon
1 piece of beef knee
1 bone with marrow
1 celery stalk
1 small onion
half an onion with golden skin (from Medicina)
Parsley to taste
15 g course salt


For the stuffing: marinate the pork loin for 48 hours with course salt and whole pepper. Once marinated, cook the whole loin on a low heat with butter. When cooked, remove the pepper and chop finely, then do the same with the ham and mortadella. Then combine all the ingredients, mix well, add the egg, Parmesan cheese and nutmeg and continue to mix. Once all the ingredients are well mixed, leave to rest for 24 hours before packing the tortellini.

For the dough: Make a well in the flour on a pastry board. Break the eggs in the centre and beat them with a fork, slowly adding the flour until the dough is thick enough to work with your hands, kneading vigorously without tearing the dough. When the dough is smooth and homogeneous, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for about 1 hour. Roll out the dough about 2 millimetres thin and cut out squares using the smooth cutter. Add the filling in the centre and shape the tortellini.

For the broth: toast the onion on a hot plate. After washing and draining the meat, place it in a large pot. Add 3 to 4 litres of cold water and bring to the boil, gradually adding the herbs and simmering over a low heat for about 4 hours in a half-covered pan. Remember to add a sheet of greaseproof paper to the surface so that the stock does not foam up. Once ready, keep some of the stock for presentation and cook the tortellini in the remaining stock.

Freshly made tortellini can be frozen, well separated from each other for 30 minutes and then collected in a freezer bag.

Tortellini bolognesi are a great dish for cold winter evenings, especially at Christmas, for a light dinner after a long lunch!

tortellini bolognesi

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