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Bolognese culinary traditions: tortellini

tradizioni culinarie bolognesi tortellini hotel maggiore bolognaThe word ‘tortellino’ is the short form of ‘tortello’ and ‘torta’, both strictly related, and refers to the typical pasta filled with pork meat, Parmigiano Reggiano and hen eggs.
As per tradition, the tortellini recipe was created in a poor environment, where discards and left overs of meats served at the tables of rich nobles were re-utilised by the less wealthy. The history of the origin of tortellino is still source of major diatribes: were tortellini born in Modena or Bologna?

The origin of tortellini: Modena or Bologna?
Despite many people know them as a merely Bolognese food, the dispute between Modena and Bologna over the origin of tortellino still carries on nowadays and is source of great rivalry between the two cities.
The matter was clarified by the Dotta Confraternita del Tortellino, superior authority on the topic, thanks to which we found out that tortellini, surprisingly, were not born neither in Modena nor Bologna, but in Castelfranco-Emilia.
However the matter is even more complex because Castelfranco-Emilia was province of Bologna until 1927 under the Duchy of Este, then was incorporated into the city of Modena.

Who is the inventor of tortellini?
If the dispute on the place of origin of tortellini has been source of great diatribes over time, the topic of their creator is source of further confusion and ambiguity. There are many assumptions, some more real than others: according to some, tortellini were conceived by Dorotea Lapi, a noble woman inspired to create a new dish, by an ancient 14th century treaty.
Others instead suggest that the real inventor of tortellini was Pietro Filargo, better known as Pope Alexander V.
Regardless of the version you want to believe, the most suggestive tale on the birth of tortellino is certainly the one that involves Gods Mars, Bacchus and Venus.

The legend of tortellino
There are various legends on the origin of this dish: one of these legends tells that the owner of a hostelry in Modena, after looking through the key hole of a noble woman’s room, remained such astonished by the shape of her navel that he attempted reproducing it in one of his dishes.
One of the most famous traditional myths on the birth of tortellino, proposes a change to the tale which involves Goddess Venus: according to the legend, she spent the night in the hostelry and when she woke up, the inn keeper was looking at her naked and was so charmed such to use a sheet of pasta to recreate the shape of her navel.

The traditional recipe of tortellino
The topic of tortellini is fairly serious for Emilia citizens: for this reason, the traditional recipe of the Bolognese tortellino is a document that was filed with a notary deed at the Chamber of Commerce of Bologna in the ‘70s.
Its preparation consists in filling a sheet of pasta made with egg and flour, with a mix of prosciutto crudo, pork loin, mortadella bolognese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, eggs and nutmeg cooked in capon or chicken broth.

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