Tortellini are a traditional and popular first course in Bolognese cuisine. They are small squares of egg pasta first stuffed with a meat filling, then folded to form a triangle and finally closed leaving a hole in the center.
The recipe for tortellini to this day is world-famous. A very old recipe, certified at the Bologna Chamber of Commerce and codified by the Confraternita del Tortellino.
Like any traditional recipe there are different versions and some regional variations, but also some nuances among the various Bolognese families!
The one I am showing you today is the authentic Italian recipe for tortellini, the one made by grandmothers in Bolognese kitchens! It’s a great recipe, although long and laborious. You have to spare a few hours to devote to this preparation. Besides, trying your hand at making homemade tortellini, perhaps in the company of grandparents, children or friends, can be a very enjoyable convivial experience!
First you need to make the filling. The secret to great stuffing is to rest in the refrigerator for 24 hours, where all the ingredients mix and flavor. So better make it the day before.
Then you have to prepare the fresh pasta and make the tortellini. And as tradition commands, you have to follow 2 rules when forming the tortellini: first make squares of 3 to 4 cm (between 1.20 and 1.60 inch) per side. Then carefully seal the triangle by squeezing the edges so much that it doesn’t pop open when cooking!
Once you have made the tortellini you can cook them any way you like! A must for Christmas Eve Lunch and Christmas Menu, cooked in Meat Broth to make Tortellini in Brodo! Or just boil them in water then season as you like: Tortellini with cream, or with a tasty Bolognese sauce.
Would you like to make them at home too? Here’s the Homemade Tortellini Recipe, with all the Tips and Tricks illustrated with step-by-step photos for perfect success, just like the ones made by Bolognese pasta makers!
- Prep Time: 3-4 H + 24 H resting time in the refrigerator for the filling
- Servings: 4
FOR THE DOUGH:
- 150 g (1 cup) of “00” soft wheat flour
- 150 g (1 cup) of durum wheat flour (semolina flour) + more for dusting
- 3 eggs of at least 70 g (2,5 oz) each. Fresh homemade pasta usually wants 1 egg x 100 g (3/4 cup) of flour
FOR THE FILLING:
- 100 g (3 1/2 oz) of pork loin
- 100 g (3 1/2 oz) of Mortadella, single slice
- 100 g (3 1/2 oz) of Parma Ham, single slice
- 100 g (1 cup) of Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
- fine salt to taste
Kitchen Tools and Equipment
To make tortellini at home you need a pasta machine or a wood rolling pin.
You can opt for the Imperia pasta maker machine to roll fresh pasta. This is maybe the most famous pasta maker machine in Italy. This kitchen tool is equipped with both a wood grip handle, to roll out the dough manually, and a two speed motor attachment.
How to Make Tortellini Filling
BEFORE YOU START: The stuffing needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least a full day to allow all the flavors to blend. Therefore, I recommend making it the day before.
Step 1) – Roughly chop the mortadella, Parma ham and pork loin. Sauté the pork in a pan with a knob of butter for a few minutes. Then cover and cook over low heat for 3-4 minutes.
Step 2) – Place the cooked pork loin, ham and mortadella in a blender. Blend until smooth and finely chopped.
Step 3) – Transfer to a bowl and add the nutmeg, egg, a pinch of salt to taste and Parmigiano Reggiano.
Step 4) – Mix until you have a thick mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
How to Make Pasta Dough for Tortellini
Step 1) – Place the flours on a work surface, mix them and create a hole in the center with your hands. Break the eggs and place them into the hole.
Work the ingredients with your fingers until you have incorporated all the flour into the eggs. Pull it back and forth with the palm of your hand for a few minutes. Using a spatula, remove the dough from the board, scrape off any dough that has stuck to the surface, and start kneading again. Knead vigorously for at least 10 MINUTES.
Step 2) – Finally, form a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap to protect it from drafts, and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes so that it loses elasticity and softens a bit.
How to Roll Out the Dough
Step 3) – Dust your work surface with some flour, using SEMOLINA (that’s important!). Take a lump of pasta dough the size of a tennis ball and press it out flat with the palms of your hands. Set the knob of the sheeter to level 1 and speed 2 on your pasta machine. Put the dough in the rollers and pass it the first time.
PLEASE NOTE: Keep the rest of the dough wrapped in cling film to keep it soft.
Step 4) – Now you need to make the folds. So, fold the dough in half, and then in half again.
Step 4) – Flour with semolina and pass it through the rollers again. Repeat 2 or 3 times (fold/pass – fold/pass), until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
Remember to flour the pasta sheet with semolina flour whenever you feel it’s sticky. If the sheet of dough becomes too long, cut it in half.
Step 6) – Now turn the knob of the sheeter to position 2, again at speed 2, and repeat the steps, to further roll out the dough. DO NOT make any more folds and start thinning the dough by running it through the smooth roller at least a couple of times.
From position 2 move to position 3 and repeat. Roll the dough again between the rollers, gradually reducing the thickness until it’s about 1-2 mm; if the dough is too wet, you can lightly dust it with semolina.
The pasta to make tortellini should be about 1-2 millimeters thick. So stop at position 4 if you like thick pasta. If you prefer thinner pasta, roll it out to #5. NOT THINNER, OTHERWISE THE TORTELLINI WILL BREAK!
For more information, tips and tricks read our recipe How to Make Homemade Pasta.
How to Make Tortellini
Step 1) – Once you have the sheets of pasta, dust them with semolina and cover them well with plastic wrap, otherwise they will dry out and it will be difficult to form the tortellini.
Now cut one sheet at a time. Cut strips 3 or 4 cm wide, then overlap them with each other.
Step 2) – Cut squares 3 or 4 cm on each side.
PLEASE NOTE: Italian tradition calls for small tortellini, made with 3 cm (1.20 inch) squares of dough on each side. I make them 4 cm (1.60 inch) because they are easier to make and easier to handle. Your choice.
Step 3) – At this point, with your hands make balls with the filling the size of a chickpea and place them in the center of the squares. Continue adding the filling about 10 squares at a time.
How to Close Tortellini
Fase 4) – BEFORE YOU START! First, moisten the squares with a little water. This way they will close tightly, but more importantly they will STAY CLOSED even while cooking!
Fold the square back on itself, tip to tip, to form a triangle. Press the edges well to seal them.
Step 5) – Once you are sure that you have sealed it well, press the corner of the resulting triangle downward.
Step 6) – Make small folds on the sides of the triangle and finally join the two edges, leaving a hole in the center and sealing them with a pinch.
Place the tortellini on a lightly floured dishcloth in a cool place.
Make yourself comfortable, because making all the tortellini will take 2-3 hours, but the satisfaction will be great!
Your homemade tortellini are ready!
How to Store Tortellini
Storing homemade tortellini properly is essential to maintain its freshness and flavor, whether you’re planning to enjoy it within a few days or save them for a future meal. Here’s how to store your tortellini in the refrigerator and freezer to ensure it remains delicious.
In the Refrigerator
For refrigerator storage, it’s best to consume your tortellini within 1-2 days. Begin by sprinkling a bit of semolina flour over the tortellini to prevent them from sticking together. Then, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and put the sheet in the refrigerator for a few hours. This initial chilling helps to firm up the tortellini.
In the Freezer
If you opt for freezing, which allows you to keep your tortellini for several months, follow a similar initial step as refrigeration. Spread the tortellini out on a baking sheet, not touching, and freeze them for about 30 minutes to an hour.
Once the tortellini are individually frozen and firm, transfer them to a freezer bag or airtight container.
When it comes time to cook the tortellini, there’s no need to thaw them if they’re frozen; you can cook them directly from the freezer by adding a minute or two to the boiling time.
How to Serve Tortellini
There are many delicious ways to serve tortellini, whether you’re looking for something traditional like “tortellini in brodo” or something more indulgent like “tortellini with cream”. Let’s see some of them!
Tortellini in brodo:
Tortellini in brodo translates to “tortellini in broth.” It’s a classic dish that’s especially popular during the Christmas season in Italy. It requires a rich meat broth. Cook the tortellini in the broth for 2-3 minutes and serve hot topped with grated Parmigiano.
Tortellini al Ragu:
Tortellini al ragu is tortellini served with a hearty meat sauce, typically a slow-cooked Bolognese. Cook the tortellini in salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain, season with the ragu and serve.
Tortellini with Cream:
This dish features tortellini in a rich, creamy sauce that is simple yet decadent. Cook the tortellini in water, then season with a sauce made with butter, heavy cream and Parmigiano Reggiano.
Baked tortellini is a comforting, casserole-style dish perfect for a hearty meal. You can even make this dish if you have leftover tortellini. The tortellini are tossed with a tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella and parmigiano cheese. Bake until bubbly and golden brown.