A Thousand and One … Tortellini

The galaxy of Italian stuffed pasta is dotted with all kind of names and sizes: cappelletti, cappellaci, agnolotti, anolini, tortelli, tortellini, tortelloni, ravioli, and so on and so forth. To make it even more confusing and complex, as if this were not enough, there are different regional names and even “internal struggles” related to the motherhood of a recipe. 🙂


A Closer Look

 There are a “Thousand and One (stuffed) Pasta” on the Italian supermarket shelves, made with eggs, flour and dough of every color and texture.  Therefore what is the difference between tortelli, tortellini and tortelloni?


Starting with tortellini, the type of Italian stuffed pasta perhaps best known in the world. It is most likely that Bologna and Modena share equal merit for the Tortellini, along with the town of Mantova. As explained in Bologna “until the fat lady sings”

It is worth knowing the history of the recipe for tortellini Bolognese, maybe after reading it, one can savor and really appreciate this Emilian specialty, whose filling must be composed of pork loin, prosciutto, Bologna mortadella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, eggs and nutmeg and placed in a sheet of flour and eggs of 6/10 mm.

Small-sized tortellini, particularly the ones as above with meat, are always best served in broth.


In Emilia-Romagna the tortelli (or tortelloni) of lean meat are a little bigger tortellini, from which they also differ for the stuffing, consisting of ricotta, parmesan and parsley (in Romagna, however, they may be called Cappelletti! 🙂).

Of the tortelli, however, there are many variations in the filling, which can be composed of cooked meats, eggs, Parmigiano, nutmeg, to which are added, raw, local delicatessen, such as ham or mortadella, or the simple ricotta and spinach stuffing.

If you think that the nuances of tortello are over, than think again! 🙂 There are the Mantova (Mantuan) pumpkin tortelli (the absolute best in pumpkin tortelli! 🙂 I’m not kidding), the Maremma tortello, square in shape and larger than a raviolo, filled with ricotta cheese, spinach, nutmeg and cheese. Or again, the tortellola tortellano, also of Tuscan and square origin, which contains a mixture of boiled potatoes, Parmesan, nutmeg and salt. And other endless types of tortello that you may come across if you visit Italy and that region.


Now, what is the difference between these two? Well, the raviolo is a square or round egg pasta, stuffed in the most disparate ways: according to the tradition of a particular town/region you’ll find it stuffed with meat, vegetables, cheese or fish. To be clear, the Tuscan tortelli, the Piedmontese agnolotti, the cappellacci from Ferrara are all different types of ravioli.

Now that you have clearer ideas on these types of stuffed pasta, we can take a look at what is available on the shelves of Italian supermarket. Each time I’ll go shopping for tortellini I get intimidated by the numerous choices behind the refrigerated shelves. The classics are with Porcini Mushroom, Artichoke, Radicchio, Prosciutto, but recently we also have Asiago, tomato and Burrata; or how about Eggplant Parmiggiana. But to my surprise today I saw; Indian Tortellini with Curry and Almond, Greek Tortellini with Kalamata Olives, Mexican Tortellini with Chili con Carne, and Spanish Tortellini with Paella! 

A Last Word 

A last word on dressing, for me the best way is always with butter and sage, by browning the butter with the sage and then stir the tortellini in it and serve with freshly grated Parmigiano.


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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

4 thoughts on “A Thousand and One … Tortellini

    1. I didn’t know that pasta con sarde was served on Garda. Though it makes sense. I always thought it was a Sicilian dish.
      Thinking about it, Bigoli + Sarde must be a delicious combination.
      I’m planning to write something about pasta; like what shape goes best with which sauce. For example Bigoli need a strong-flavored sauce. That’s why I think sarde over Bigoli must be good.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. And don’t forget Casoncelli! Bergamo and Brescia, fierce and mutually despised opponents in virtually every domain, have dueling Festivals of Casoncello, each claiming to be the historical birthplace of these delicious bundles of joy. Bergamo wins the competition if only because their first archival mention of the dish (13 May 13 1386) predates that of Brescia by a hundred years or so. Typically half moon or rectangular with the ends curled up to catch the sauce, they are stuffed with sausage and/or minced beef, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic, herbs and egg with a sauce of butter, pancetta, sage and a bit of the cooking water. In dialect, it is Casonsèi dela Bergamasca, and it is even worth singing about. https://youtu.be/F7pTy0yNaWQ

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the comment. I knew I was going to leave out some, in fact it just occurred to me that there are some interesting type of tortelli in Friuli. They are called Cjalzons, and they are the sweet-savory kind.
    I think it is impossible to cover them all. But thank you for it, I want to cover Bergamo and Brescia too eventually.


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