Why am I opening Tortellini Day with a collage of Venuses, you might ask?  (Or is that Veni?)  Depending on who you believe, the tortellini was conceived of by a Peeping Tom after observing either Venus’s or Lucrezia Borgia’s navel through a keyhole.  Venus was the goddess of love, blah blah blah.  About Lucrezia Boria, Wikipedia says:

“Lucrezia Borgia was the daughter of Rodrigo Borgia, a powerful Renaissance Valencian who later became Pope Alexander VI…  Lucrezia’s family later came to epitomize the ruthless Machiavellian politics and sexual corruption alleged to be characteristic of the Renaissance Papacy. Lucrezia was cast as a femme fatale, a role she has been portrayed as in many artworks, novels, and films.”

She was repeatedly married off for her family’s political gain, and was rumoured to have been involved in some pretty sinister plots.  She was even reputed to have a ring featuring a hollow gem from which she dispensed poison.  I can’t help but associate that ring with tortellini as well.

Speaking of rings, when I asked L if he knew the story behind the invention of tortellini he came up with the following gem:

“Back in the day in Italy the taxes were raised, so the people devised a stuffed pasta in which they could hide their valuables to avoid taxation.”

We’ll have to play a round of Balderdash someday.

Anyway, my tortellini process was very experimental.  It was the end of a long week and my usual “throw whatever together” philosophy of cooking came into play.  For my usual meals this works pretty well, but pasta is not something I’m very experienced with.  To start with, I fully intended to use semolina, but when it couldn’t be found at the two nearest grocers I resorted to the whole grain whole wheat flour in my pantry.  I’ll say right off the top: my results were okay, but I wouldn’t push my recipe on anyone.  Anyway, here’s what I did.

l      3 cups whole grain whole wheat flour with large bran sifted out

l      4 eggs

l      generous pinch salt

l      1 tsp water

l      4 Tbsp frozen spinach, thawed in the nuker hot enough to evaporate stray moisture

l      1 tsp chopped basil

l      1 tsp olive oil

Thursday I blended the above.  The ratio of dry to wet was too great so I gradually added water as I kneaded.  The flour choice wasn’t the best, and the ratio was problematic, so I had to knead for about 45 minutes to get the dough fairly smooth.  I was not too confident that it would work out.  I oiled it and wrapped it up in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight.

Friday I made the filling, which consisted of the following:

l      ¾ cup low-fat ricotta

l      1/3 cup grated parmesan

l      2 Tbsp pesto

l      1 egg

l      pinch of nutmeg

l      S&P to taste

I was afraid that my dough might not handle well, so I decided to roll it out one piece at a time to keep it manageable.  I was pleasantly surprised with how well the pieces rolled out.  I was able to roll 1” balls really thin and then use a glass to cut 3” discs.  I used a generous ¼ teaspoon of filling to stuff the pieces and sealed them with egg wash.

In my research I learned that tortellini is traditionally served in a light broth or “brodo”.  So I combined and simmered:

l      chicken stock (I think about 1 litre?)

l      white wine (I think about 1-1/2 cups?)

l      2 garlic cloves

l      1 Tbsp pesto

l      2 Tbsp flat leaf parsley leaves

l      S, P, cayenne to taste

Once simmering I added the tortellini and cooked it for about 6 minutes.

I haven’t yet prepared the whole batch, but I’d estimate that this recipe makes about 70 tortellini.

The broth was delicious, and the tortellini was pretty good too.  The combination was a pleasant and refreshing change from the normal pasta and sauce routine.  Honestly, it was a heck of a lot of work, but I’m glad they freeze well and I will definitely enjoy the next batch.  I may cheat and make ravioli with the rest of the ingredients – it’s a bit less work and I’ll admit I prefer a higher filling to pasta ratio.

Also, kudos to the Italians for being the best-dressed in the Opening Ceremonies.  That’s all.

– Sage

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