Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Back to my village in Italy and making tortellini without meat

Back to my home village and to my roots, making tortellini with 92 years old Agnese and her son Antonio. Agnese has been making fresh pasta since she was a child, like all the women in these mountains, and before Christmas a number of friends and village women come over to make tortellini with her, because you don't make tortellini alone, you do it in company, as you have to work fast filling and folding and you need many tortellini (at least 30 per plate if eaten in broth, more if served with cream). So you work, and chat at the same time, and perhaps it is this conviviality that makes the women of this area live a long life.

I remember my grandmother and her sister making pasta by hand, with a long rolling pin. Today Agnese (my grandma's cousin) uses a pasta machine because she has arthritis, and her sono Antonio helps her.

But she can still cat and fold the tiny tortellini!

I often make tortelloni, which are bigger and with a vegetarian filling, so it was great to make tiny little tortellini again, hundred of tortellini!

This is to give you an idea of the size.

At home I decided to make them again with my kids, and with a non-meat filling. For the fresh pasta the ratio is 1 medium-large egg for 100 g of flour, considering that 100g of flour make about 2 servings of tortellini. For the filling I made some fresh bread crumbs with stale bread, mixed with a little beaten egg and milk, and added tons of grated aged Parmigiano Reggiano, then black pepper and freshly ground nutmeg (adjust with salt to taste, but since I used plenty of Parmigiano I didn't need any). The filling should be quite firm and easy to roll into little balls. 

Roll one piece of pastry at the time, so it doesn't dry up, then cut it, add the filling, fold into triangles and then each one around your finger into a tortellino. Agnese cuts the tortellini shapes by hands, so some of the shapes differ lightly in size (and may fold differently) but for home use nobody worries here: it is the content and final taste that counts. Restaurants often follow suit, bus pasta shops tend to make all the tortellini the same size so they look better. I got a tortellini square cutter which helps  with the size, and the off cuts of pasta are kept aside too, these are called maltagliati (literally badly-cut) and they are used for soups like pasta e fagioli or minestrone (below you can see them in the tray on the side).

And here are our meatless tortellini! I served them with a vegetable broth, buonissimi!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Ferrara, city of art, bicycles and 'coppie'

Ferrara is a small but beautiful city in Italy, in the region of Emilia Romagna. It has been said to be one of the most liveable cities in Italy (and the world) and the best for cycling. Everyone has a bicycle and young and old use it daily to go to work, to school, for shopping... for everything!

The city has a long history, beautiful elegant buildings and many cobbled streets, it is perfect for a day visit, and has been not invaded by tourists like nearby Bologna. 

Girolamo Savonarola was born in Ferrara in 1452

The food is delicious, like everywhere in Emilia Romagna, and the 'symbol' of the city is its bread, called 'coppie'. There are many types, long and short, and we tried a few: the centre has a soft white dough and the 'legs' are crunchy.

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©


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