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The distinctive shape of tortellini
Place of originItaly
Region or stateEmilia-Romagna

Tortellini are stuffed pasta originally from the Italian region of Emilia (in particular Bologna and Modena). Traditionally they are stuffed with a mix of meat (pork loin, raw prosciutto, mortadella), Parmesan cheese, egg and nutmeg and served in capon broth (in brodo di cappone).[1]

In the area of origin they are usually sold fresh or home-made. Industrially packaged, dried, refrigerated, or frozen tortellini appear in many locations around the world, especially where there are large Italian communities.


Tortellini in brodo

The origin of tortellini is disputed; both Bologna and Modena, cities in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, claim to be its birthplace.[2] The etymology of tortellini is the diminutive form of tortello, itself a diminutive of torta (lit.'cake' or 'pie').[3]

The recipe for a dish called tortelletti 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. In the 1800s, legends sprang up to explain the recipe's origins, offering a compromise. Castelfranco Emilia, located between Bologna and Modena,[2] is featured in one legend, in which Venus stays at an inn. Overcome by her beauty, the innkeeper spies on her through a keyhole, through which he can only see her navel. He is inspired to create a pasta in this shape. This legend would be at the origin of the term ombelico di Venere (lit.'Venus' navel'), occasionally used to describe tortellini.[4] In honour of this legend, an annual festival is held in Castelfranco Emilia.[5] Another legend posits that the shape comes from Modena's architecture, which resembles a turtle.[6]

Comparison with tortelloni

Tortelloni is pasta in a similar shape, but larger, typically 5 g, vs. 2 g for tortellini.[7] 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.

See also

Industrially-made tortellini made using a machine
Industrially-made tortellini, easily recognizable for the extremely regular cut of the dough and the symmetrical closing of the extremities

Media related to Tortellini at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ "Official recipe of the tortellino, as it was registered at the Chamber of Commerce of Bologna in 1974" (PDF). (in Italian). Retrieved 2018-12-31.
  2. ^ a b Zanini De Vita, Oretta (2009). Encyclopedia of Pasta. University of California Press. pp. 297–299. ISBN 9780520944718.
  3. ^ "The meaning of pasta names". Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  4. ^ The Oxford Companion to Italian Food by Gillian Riley
  5. ^ Poggioli, Sylvia (27 August 2013). "Tortellini, The Dumpling Inspired By Venus' Navel". NPR. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  6. ^ Marsden, Shelley (4 December 2015). "The secret to tortellini, Modena's special pasta". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 13 May 2018. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  7. ^ Barilla US (manufacturer) FAQ

External links