My glorious and revered Citizens! This last week has been a difficult one indeed, as My depression had begun to spiral so badly out of control that it nearly got the better of Me (in the worst possible way) – thankfully, last night I turned a corner and started eating (and sleeping) to the point where today I feel a whole and proper man once again! To celebrate this blessed occurrence, I invoke the ancient Gods with a dish of profound comfort food inspired by the navel of Venus Herself – tortellini in brodo!
…however, being TFD – I will share the ULTIMATE version of this legendary recipe exactly as it is made in its ancestral homeland – the hybrid province of Italy known as Emilia-Romagna! This legendary and bounteous region is the home of mortadella, prosciutto, balsamic vinegar, legendary fast cars, and this especial dish that combines the best edible treasures of the region into one sumptuous (and yet at the same time very light) dish!
Emilia-Romagna is one of the 20 administrative regions of Italy, situated in the north of the country, comprising the historical regions of Emilia and Romagna. Its capital is Bologna. It has an area of 22,446 km2 (8,666 sq mi), and about 4.4 million inhabitants.
Emilia-Romagna is one of the wealthiest and most developed regions in Europe, with the third highest gross domestic product per capita in Italy. Bologna, its capital, has one of Italy’s highest quality of life indices and advanced social services. Emilia-Romagna is also a cultural, economic, and tourist center, being the home of the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world!
It also possesses Romanesque and Renaissance cities (such as Modena, Parma and Ferrara) and the former Roman Empire capital of Ravenna; encompassing eleven UNESCO heritage sites; as well as being a center for both food and automobile production (it is the home of automotive companies such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani, De Tomaso, Dallara, and Ducati).
The name Emilia-Romagna is a legacy of Ancient Rome. Emilia derives from the via Aemilia, the Roman road connecting Piacenza to Rimini, completed in 187 BCE and named after the consul Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. Romagna derives from Romània, the name of the Eastern Roman Empire applied to Ravenna by the Lombards when the western Empire had ceased to exist and Ravenna was an outpost of the east (540–751).
Emilia-Romagna is considered one of the richest regions of Italy with regard to its gastronomic and wine-making tradition. The region is known for its egg and filled pasta made with soft wheat flour. Bologna is notable for pasta dishes like tortellini, lasagne, gramigna and tagliatelle which are found also in many other parts of the region in different declinations. The Romagna subregion is known as well for pasta dishes like garganelli, strozzapreti, sfoglia lorda and tortelli alla lastra.
In the Emilia subregion, except Piacenza which is heavily influenced by the cuisines of Lombardy, rice is eaten to a lesser extent. Polenta, a maize-based dish, is common both in Emilia and Romagna. The celebrated balsamic vinegar is made only in the Emilian cities of Modena and Reggio Emilia, following legally binding traditional procedures. Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan Cheese) is produced in Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena and Bologna and is much used in cooking.
Although the Adriatic coast is a major fishing area which produces eels and clams, the region produces more meat products, especially pork-based, including Parma’s prosciutto, culatello and Salame Felino, Piacenza’s pancetta, coppa and salami, Bologna’s mortadella and salame rosa, Modena’s zampone, cotechino and cappello del prete and Ferrara’s salama da sugo.
Legend claims that tortellini was inspired by the goddess Venus’ navel and was born in the town of Castelfranco Emilia, in the province of Modena, near Bologna. An Italian medieval legend tells how Venus arrived in the town’s sole tavern in disguise. After eating a hearty dinner and becoming slightly drunk, she decides to retire to her room for the evening
The innkeeper, captivated after seeing her (even in disguise!), peeked through the keyhole of the bedroom door as the Goddess was undressing. However, all he can see through the keyhole is the navel of Venus. This vision leaves him spellbound – so much so that he immediately rushes to the kitchen and creates a pasta inspired by Venus’ navel…and so was the tortellini ostensibly born! This legend is the origin of the term “ombelico di Venere” (Venus’ navel), occasionally used to describe tortellini.
Every year, Castelfranco Emilia celebrates its favorite son — the nameless inventor of the most sensual of all pasta shapes. Drummers, flag-throwers and local residents parade through town dressed in elaborate Renaissance costumes. On a makeshift stage, the legend of the peeping-Tom innkeeper is more or less re-enacted. The mood is festive and suitable for children. “Inspired by the sight of the divine navel,” the master of ceremonies intones, “our innkeeper invents the prestigious … tortellino!”
Tortellini in brodo simply means ‘tortellini in broth’ and is a favored recipe of Bologna to this very day! The real origin of tortellini is disputed; both Bologna and Modena claim to be its birthplace. OxfordDictionaries.com traces the etymology of tortellini to the diminutive form of tortello, itself a diminutive of torta (“cake” or “pie” in Italian).
The recipe for a dish called ‘torteletti’ appears in 1570 from Bartolomeo Scappi. Vincenzo Tanara’s writings in the mid-17th century may be responsible for the pasta’s renaming to tortellini. Tortelloni is pasta in a similar shape, but larger, typically 5 g, vs. 2 g for tortellini, and with the extremities closed differently. While tortellini have a meat-based filling, tortelloni are filled with ricotta and sometimes with parsley or spinach.
Moreover, while tortellini are traditionally cooked in and served with broth, tortelloni are cooked in water, stir-fried (traditionally with butter and sage) and served dry. According to the people of the region, serving tortellini in ANYTHING except a meat broth is sacrilege of the highest order – and I for one heartily endorse their orthodoxy and inflexibility – because they are 100% correct! The rich filling of TRUE tortellini must shine, and the meat broth is the only medium that allows that to happen.
Tortellini were once exclusively enjoyed by the Cardinals of the Church and the ultra-wealthy of Bologna, as they include many of the most expensive and rare ingredients the region has to offer – only the very rich could afford to enjoy them! Today, they are still a revered item on the tables of the region, and I shall teach you the only TRUE path to tortellini en brodo GLORY! Salvation is at hand, members of TFD Nation – prepare to be blown away by My rich and subtle flavors of the province! 🙂
First off – the pasta! It must be supremely tender and rich, which means only 3 ingredients – flour, eggs and oil – but it must be the best flour, known as ’00’ (buy it here), the egg yolks ALONE are used for ultimate color and savor and a mere hint of oil adds suppleness to the final dough. Please – if you are going to make this recipe, ONLY use the finest quality filling ingredients – that means REAL mortadella (this is a good source) and real Prosciutto di Parma ham (this is the real deal and pre-sliced).
While My tortellini filling is resolutely traditional, I have slightly tweaked the broth recipe to include not just 2 different kinds of beef, but also chicken (or my preference, duck!) as well as some extra herbs and aromatics (as well as the classic rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano for added umami that FAR too many modern broths lack!).
Citizens – My eternal war against depression rages on, but at least for the moment I am Myself once again – please celebrate with Me and enjoy this ancient and deliciously rich comfort food! One taste and you will truly understand why the nickname for Bologna is ‘Bologna the Fat’ and why I am planning to enjoy this dish with frequency to put some meat back on My own bones! 😉
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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