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Tortellini from Artusi to “Venus’ treasure chest”
Please raise your hand if you have eaten Tortellini during the holidays. This dish traditionally calls for broth, but I can assure you that there are many more equally delicious ways to enjoy Tortellini.
The “Dotta Confraternita del Tortellino” (the Tortellino association) may not agree with this statement, but I am about to unveil three recipes that match up to the classic version.
Tortellini according to Artusi
Pellegrino Artusi wrote a very interesting recipe of what he calls “Tortellini alla Bolognese” (Tortellini Bologna style) in his cookbook Science in the kitchen and the art of eating well.
Just for information, Artusi’s work includes 790 recipes, which were written adopting a learning approach, as he himself said: “I practice using this manual, one simply needs to know how to hold a ladle”, as well as the author’s reflections and anecdotes.
For instance, that’s how the Tortellini from Bologna’s recipe starts out: “When you hear someone speak about Bolognese cooking, salute it, because this cooking deserves it.”
Let’s get down to the Tortellini filling. The real recipe that was lodged by the association called for pork loin seared in butter, dry-cured ham, Mortadella from Bologna, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, eggs and nutmeg, but the pork loin was replaced in this case by ox bone marrow.
By doing so, the filling became softer and creamier. To be honest, bone marrow isn’t eaten very often nowadays and one needs to have a fine palate to fully appreciate its slimy consistency. It is worth a try, though, at least once.
Tortellini with Parmigiano cream by Massimo Bottura
The dough and the filling are made according to tradition, and, truth be told, so is the broth, but then these Tortellini are drained and dressed with a thick and enveloping sauce.
The star-rated chef Massimo Bottura uses 300g of 24-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and 200g of prime-quality fresh cream. The recipe is actually very simple: as the cream is heated to 60°C, all you have to do is add the Parmigiano cheese, mix with an immersion blend, heat the sauce to 80°C and serve.
After Tortellini are made, they should be cooked in boiling broth. When they are ready – and you can see it, because they float to the surface – they have to be drained and dressed with a lot of sauce.
Let me give you a tip: save this recipe, because the Parmigiano cream is so delicious that it can turn any dish into a delicacy. I use it, for instance, instead of béchamel sauce to make Pasta bake.
By the way, since we are talking about Parmigiano cheese and cream, did you know that in the chef’s restaurant “Osteria Francescana” they also serve Tortellini with cream? It is a historical recipe that was actually invented by cheesemakers in the 40s to use up the cream rising to the surface that was left after having used the milk to make Parmigiano cheese.
So, it has nothing to do with the cream that you might find in the supermarket. If you happen to dine at chef Bottura’s restaurant and you find this great classic recipe on the menu, do not miss out!
Venus’ treasure chest, from tradition to Bruno Barbieri
It is quite a laborious dish including Tortellini, ragout sauce, béchamel sauce and shortcrust pastry. It made a comeback when chef Barbieri suggested it during the TV show Masterchef, but the recipe “Scrigno di Venere” (Venus’ treasure chest) is much older.
It was allegedly invented in the middle of the 60s by chef Evio Battelani in the restaurant “Al Cantunzein”, a historical inn in Bologna.
It is a delicious, 100% Bolognese treasure chest. Making Tortellini would be, at the end of the day, the least of your problems, since you would also have to make ragout and béchamel sauces, as well as a very elastic and very thinly stretched shortcrust pastry.
First hurdle: removing the chest from the baking tray. If the pastry is not made with the right amount of butter or if it is not properly stretched out, it will stick. When you get it out of the mould, the outside layer will break and you can bid farewell to your treasure chest.
Second hurdle: cooking. The filling is already cooked, so you will have to bake the dish just to brown the pastry. Therefore, make sure to drain the Tortellini right on time and take the béchamel sauce off the heat slightly before it is ready, so that it doesn’t become too thick while it’s in the oven.
Third hurdle: sapidity. Salt carefully, all the ingredients are already very flavourful!
Bonus: the real recipe for the Tortellini broth
On the 7th December 1974, the “Dotta Confraternita del Tortellino” (the Tortellino association), together with the Italian cooking academy, lodged with a notarial deed the original recipe for Tortellini from Bologna, and also detailed how to prepare the broth.
This is the one and only original recipe:
1kg of beef (from the flank)
½ free-range chicken
Celery, carrot, onion
Salt to taste
Place the beef and the chicken in 4 litres of cold water and bring to a boil, then remove the foam that forms on the water with a slotted spoon, add the vegetables, salt if needed and let it simmer very slowly for at least three hours.
Drain the meat, turn up the heat to bring it to a boil once again, plunge the Tortellini slowly and let them cook on medium heat for at least three to four minutes. Serve them very hot with a copious amount of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
These are some recipes we love involving the exceptional Tortellini. Try them all or test out new flavour combinations: with such a delicious product, it is impossible to go wrong!