Last summer, we spent two months backpacking Italy to truly immerse ourselves in the culture. We embraced the attitude of the people, splurged on the wine that came from each region, and connected to the symbiotic relationship between the land and the food. It was a stupendous journey.
While in Bologna, we were fortunate enough to take a pasta making class with a sfoglino (pasta master)–Pio. Pio brought us to his home and showed us the art of hand-rolling egg pasta. There, we filled our bellies with great wine, exquisite pasta, and even better conversation. Jotting down each step and measurement, we tried our best to record all his expertise and wisdom.
This tortellini recipe was one of two we made at his home. Something about the texture of the pasta, the depth of the filling, and the nutty creaminess from the sauce, made for a rounded bite that, when closing my eyes, I can relive all over again.
1 serving of egg pasta
For the filling:
4 oz mortadella
4 oz prosciutto di parma
4 oz cooked ground pork
1/4 cup of grated parmigiano reggiano
1/4 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper
For the sauce:
500 ml cream
1 cup (or more) of grated parmigiano reggiano
Make the pasta dough the night before, and allow it rest in the fridge overnight. You can find the pasta recipe here. Take out the dough 30 minutes before rolling out to come to room temperature.
Make the filling. Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor until it has a smooth, paste-like consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Roll the pasta out using a pasta rolling machine or by hand until it is thin enough where you can see through it slightly. Cut the dough into four equal parts. Roll each part individually. If you’re using a machine, start on the biggest setting and continue rolling it out through each setting until the smallest one. Cover the dough while you continue to roll out the other pieces of dough so it does not dry out.
Cut the rolled out dough using a pasta wheel cutter (or with a knife if you don’t have) vertically and horizontally to create 1 inch squares. Cut one at a time, and keep the others covered with a kitchen towel to prevent drying out.
Now, you must work quickly to prevent the dough from drying out. Using the tip of your pointer finger, scoop a peanut-sized portion of the filling and press in the middle of each square. There should not be too much filling, or your pasta will be overfilled and hard to close. Move quickly to fill each square. Cover with a clean kitchen towel.
Fold the pasta into tortellini. Keep the towel covering the tortellini that have yet to be folded to prevent from drying out. Pick up a square with the filling and fold one corner over the other in half. Press the seams, so now you have a triangular shape. Using your left hand, slightly pinch the left side over (having your thumb on top, and your index finger on the bottom). Using your right hand, pinch the right side to give the tortellini a “belly” (this time, having your index finger on top, and thumb on the bottom). Wrap the two ends together around the tip of your left index finger. AND VOILA! You’ll have a cute little tortellini. Continue until all of your dough is folded. You may have leftover filling. If you do, freeze and save for another time. Put all the tortellini on a sheet tray with semolina flour. Set aside until ready to cook.
**Now, this takes time and practice to perfect. Do not be discouraged if your first few look like sad little dumplings. The important thing to remember is to have that “belly”. This is what makes the tortellini.
Boil the water. Add a generous amount of salt and a little olive oil.
Make the sauce. Warm the cream over medium heat in a saucepan and whisk constantly until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Slowly add the parmigiano reggiano to the cream. Continue to whisk until desired thickness, another 2 minutes.
Drop the pasta in the water. Because it is fresh pasta, it should only take about 2 minutes to cook. When the pasta is floating to the top of the water, it’s cooked. Add the pasta straight into the sauce, add about 1/4 cup of starchy cooking water, and continue to cook the pasta with the sauce for another 3 to 4 minutes. Most of the sauce should have cooked down into the pasta. Remember—the pasta is the star, not the sauce. Serve right away and garnish with more grated parmigiano reggiano.