Tortellini in Brodo
A classic dish from Emilia-Romagna, tortellini in brodo are tiny pockets of egg pasta stuffed with a pork-and-cheese filling and served in a warm, simmering broth. Each bite is bursting with flavor, as the tortellini opens up and releases its savory stuffing.
The Origin of Tortellini
No one really knows for sure where or how tortellini originated. But of course, in true Italian fashion, there is one legend that seems to dominate tortellini talk.
According to folklore, tortellini were born in the small town of Castelfranco Emilia, a province of Modena, not too far from Bologna. One night, Venus, the goddess of love, was traveling through the area and spent the night in a local inn. While she was in her room, the innkeeper snuck a peek at her through the keyhole of her door (sneaky innkeeper!). He was immediately enamored by. her navel, so much so that he dove back into his kitchen and crafted a pasta inspired by the goddess’ belly button.
And so it is believed that tortellini are the shape of Venus’ navel. How’s that for a pasta legend?
How Tortellini in Brodo is Made
Many variations of tortellini in brodo exist across Emilia-Romagna, with each cook following their own family tradition. Nevertheless, the basic components of the dish generally remain the same: fresh egg pasta is rolled out thin and cut into small squares, between 1 inch and 1½ inches. Each square is filled with a blended mixture of pork loin, cured meats (usually prosciutto and mortadella, two staples of Emilia-Romagna), and parmesan cheese. The squares are folded over into a triangle, then the ends are swiftly wrapped around a fingertip and pinched shut. The best sfogline (pasta makers) and home cooks do this in a matter of seconds! The finished tortellini are left out on a sheet to dry, then plopped into a simmering broth (usually homemade using capon, onions, celery, and carrots) to cook for a few minutes. Finally, the tortellini are ladled into a shallow bowl, with about a tablespoon of broth per tortellino.
Tortellini in brodo is such an important dish for Bologna and the surrounding region that in recent years, the city has hosted a Tortellini Festival. Chefs from the region come together to compete for the crown of the best tortellini.
Tortellini in Brodo
Prep time: 45 Minutes
Cook time: 10 Minutes
For the pasta dough:
2 ⅓ cups // 360 grams of 00 flour,* plus a little extra set aside
4 eggs, at room temperature
For the filling:
5 ounces // 150 grams pork loin, chopped into small pieces
5 ounces // 150 grams mortadella
3.5 ounces // 100 grams prosciutto crudo
5 ounces // 150 grams freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Black pepper q.b.
1½ tablespoons // 20 grams butter, unsalted
For the broth:
2 liters chicken broth (you can make your own, or use store-bought broth. I like to add a Parmigiano rind to my broth for extra flavor!)
To make the pasta dough:
Dump flour out onto a clean countertop or surface. Make a well in the flour using your fingertips. Crack the eggs into the middle of the well, being careful not to let them spill out.
Using a fork, beat the eggs, gradually mixing in the flour. Mix until the eggs and flour start to come together into a single mass. Set the fork aside and knead the dough using your hands.
Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. It should be uniform in color, smooth, and soft. Cover in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. If preparing a day ahead of time, store dough covered in the fridge. Let it come back up to room temp before rolling it out.
To make the filling:
Melt the butter in a frying pan on medium-low heat. Add the chopped pork loin and gently cook. Set aside and let cool.
Add all of the filling ingredients, including the cooled pork loin, to a food processor and blend until smooth. Spoon into a sealable plastic bag or pastry bag.
You can prepare the filling ahead of time and store in the fridge until ready to use.
To shape the dough:
Divide the pasta dough into quarters. Take one quarter out, covering the rest up in plastic wrap. Sheet each piece of dough, one at a time, through a hand-cranked pasta machine until it is a 1/8-inch thick rectangular sheet. Using a pastry wheel, cut the sheet into 1¼-inch squares.
Snip one corner of the plastic bag holding the filling. Pipe a hazelnut-size piece of filling into the middle of each square.
To shape the tortellini, bring the two opposite corners of the square together to form a triangle. Pinch the edges together and seal tightly. Pinch the bottom two corners down and wrap the corners around a finger like a ring. Seal the corners together, then slide the tortellino off your finger.
Set the tortellino on a parchment-lined or tea towel baking sheet.
Continue in this way, until all the dough has been used. Leave space between each finished tortellino to prevent them from sticking to one another.
To cook the tortellini:
Bring the broth to a gentle simmer in a large pot. Add the tortellini to the broth and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Divide and ladle into soup bowls. Serve with freshly grated parmesan on top.