Stuffed pasta, the best Italian comfort food (2023)

The birth of the wonton is full of legends.

Although "riavvolgere" means "wrapping", most agree that the dish is named after Ravioli, a 13th-century chef from the Republic of Genoa (now roughly the region of Liguria in Italy). Famous chef credited with the invention of Ravioli. But, as with the most enduring and beloved culinary creations, there are countless stories and conflicting stories about their origins. After all, who wouldn't want to be praised for this clever gourmet gift? Although the form of this dish was known in early Roman times, it was not until the 12th century that the first manuscripts were found describing ravioli – a square or round pasta dish, probably filled with ricotta and other toppings. However, ravioli is just one of many types of stuffed pasta (or "tortelli" in Italian), all of which are noble descendants of torta, a delicious medieval pastry.

Torte (plural), tortelli and ravioli originated in medieval Italy. Contrary to popular belief, the so-called The Dark Ages is a time of innovation in cooking methods and the true beginning of more sophisticated dishes. The earliest versions of the pie were not much different from the one we know today: vegetables cooked with herbs and spices, often mixed with ricotta or other cheese, and wrapped in dough. Eclectic and appreciated by all social strata, the cake quickly became popular. They are delicious, nutritious and store for a long time - easily taken to the fields by farmers and soldiers. The creative cooks of the then wealthy and aristocratic families developed the idea of ​​cakes; in order not to waste large leftovers from grand banquets and court meals, new forms of stuffed pasta began to be developed. From tortelli derived from tortellini, tortellini and tortelloni (demonstrating a beautiful Italian way of expressing size variation), ravioli and cappelletti. In the 14th century, a variety of ripiena (filled pasta) began to appear in many regions of northern and central Italy. The recipe spread from palaces to noble courts and was eventually adopted by almost every social class in all the major regions of Italy - from Bologna, Parma and Ferrara, and later Piedmont and Lombardy. As these recipes spread, the names changed, as did many of the ingredients.

Basically, these delicious creations consist ofpin outLayers of very thin dough made of wheat flour, water and sometimes eggs. (In south-central Italy, however, eggs are rarely used.) Then the dough is cut into small squares, circles or triangles. Each piece is covered with a bit of ripieno (stuffing): vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, and salumi (cured pork) are used in various combinations, not necessarily just from leftovers. Fresh game was often used as stuffing, such as roasted deer, wild boar and rabbit, or fresh fish from rivers, lakes and seas. Spices such as nutmeg, saffron, poppy seeds, and pepper became more widely used in later centuries. Until the 16th century, it was customary to serve various pasta dishes with sweet additions, such as jam, gooseberries or almonds. The same ingredients can be used to prepare stuffed pasta, often with the addition of ricotta or pecorino (feta cheese). Ripe pastes are most often boiled in water or broth and served with spices such as cinnamon or ginger. Or fry them and sweeten them with sugar or honey.

Today, little has changed in the way Repiene is made, except that meat grinders and food processors have replaced mortars for chopping and mixing the filling ingredients. As before, there are still huge regional differences. Sometimes the same pasta with the same filling has completely different names in towns only 20 miles apart. In other cases, the same name (e.g. ravioli) means different things depending on the region. Of course, there is also the individuality of each chef - altering and embellishing traditional recipes, tweaking the proportions used, or altering or substituting ingredients based on what is available. However, the traditional recipe remains intact. Here is a list of the most important and popular charcuterie pasta dishes in Italy today - from region to region, traveling south from the north-west top of the boot - to give you ideas for making your own stuffed pasta:

Piedmont

A specialty of the region is agnolotti, which is usually square in shape. A common variant is the agnolotti gobbi ("gobbi" means "humpback") from the city of Asti, which is so stuffed it bends over. Typically, agnolotti is stuffed with a mix of various cooked meats - leftover strcotto (slow-cooked braised beef), roast rabbit, chicken breast or sausage - and vegetables such as spinach, beetroot or cabbage. Add Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper to the filling. The sauce is most often made on the basis of roasted meat juices, alternatively, ragù alla Piemontese (a local version of pâté) is served. Another mature sauce commonly used throughout Italy is burro fuso e salvia (melted butter and sage). Just heat the butter until it foams slightly and turns light brown, then add the sage at the end. The browned butter gives this dish a wonderful nutty flavor that is always sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. The noodles can also be served simply in beef broth.

Liguria

Here you can eat ravioli and pansotti (meaning "little belly"), both pasta dishes, often made with similar fillings. Ravioli (singular) is a type of pasta common in Italy, and although its composition varies, its shape is always the same: square or slightly oblong. In Liguria, the classic filling is made with grilled sausage, beef and pork, eggs, Parmesan cheese, plenty of borage (a common leafy vegetable in Liguria) and marjoram. These ravioli are traditionally served in bowls with a mix of beef broth and Garvey wine - the same wine you get by the glass! Garvey ravioli can also be seasoned with concentrated roast sauce and sprinkled with grated parmesan. Another filling can be prepared with leftovers of grilled fish, such as sea bass (branzino), shrimp (gamberetti) and other seafood, all chopped, seasoned and fried, and served with a delicate sauce of fresh tomatoes.

Lombardy

In the northern valleys bordering Switzerland, a delicate stuffed pasta called casoncelli is produced, although there are several variations of the name in dialect. Typical fillings include salami, roast meat, pear, currants, grana cheese, breadcrumbs, macaroons, garlic and parsley; as you can imagine, there are countless variations. Correspondingly, casoncelli are shaped like small wrapped candies, topped with butter and sage. Another well-known dish of the region is Tortelli di zucca mantovani, filled with pumpkin, macaroons and mostarda (fruit mustard, very popular in Lombardy, especially in the cities of Mantua and Cremona). The 2.5-inch rectangular dumplings (called ravioli in other parts of Italy) are cooked and served with burro fuso e salvia.

Emilia Romagna

The region (including Bologna) is called the capital of pasta. The classic tortellini (also called cappelletti or tortelli) can be found in all the provinces of Emilia-Romagna. The dumplings are made in the shape of knots, there is a legend that the navel of Venus was the inspiration! Unlike pasta, tortellini is stuffed with raw meat – mortadella, ham (parma ham) and/or guanciale – mixed with Parmesan cheese, nutmeg and pepper. Traditionally, tortellini is served in beef or capon broth or with the world famous Ragù alla Bolognese meat sauce. An easy but delicious substitute is fresh cream and Parmesan cheese. Another regional variety is anolini, which is crescent-shaped pasta with a filling similar to Piedmontese pasta, or stuffed with stewed pork. But the vegetarian version - the classic stuffed ricotta and spinach - is hugely popular both domestically and internationally. This filling, known as ricotta spinach, is often served with tortellini (larger versions of tortellini) or ravioli. Cappellacci (literally translated as "ugly hat") are usually stuffed with pumpkin or squash and potatoes. Other fillings are constantly being invented, such as ricotta and radicchio (from the Veneto region), ricotta and asparagus, as well as fava beans, artichokes and asparagus. The final recipe tastes great with sun-dried tomato sauce and extra virgin olive oil. But most of the time, these vegan repiens are flavored with just butter and parmesan—with or without sage.

Tuscany

A very old recipe for stuffed pasta is called Tortelli allalastra ("on sandstone") and comes from the mountains between Tuscany and Emilia, where it was originally cooked over a fire on a piece of sandstone. The dough is kneaded with flour and water and rolled out into thin, large cubes, and the filling consists mainly of mashed potatoes, sometimes with the addition of thin meat. These dumplings are usually served with a sauce made of stewed onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, sage and garlic.

Abruzzo

This beautiful region west of Rome is considered the home of Italy's best gourmet chefs and the birthplace of Tortelli abruzzesi di Carnevale, a unique pasta dish. The dish is usually served on the last Sunday of the carnival, although it is also served on other occasions. The filling for tortellini comes in various shapes and consists only of feta cheese, eggs and cinnamon. These tortillas are cooked in broth - in accordance with centuries-old tradition - and served with grated feta cheese.

Molise

This small but beautiful region has its own traditional and favorite pasta dish: ravioli scapolesi, named after the small village of Scapoli. The filling consists of boiled and chopped beets (bietola), grilled minced meat, sausage, beaten eggs, ricotta and young Pecorino cheeses. This recipe uses egg batter. The large ravioli are first cooked, then seasoned with pork and bolognese sausage, and finally baked.

Sardinia

The most popular stuffed pasta from beautiful Sardinia is called culurjonis in the local dialect, and culurgioni in Italian. The dough is made from fresh durum wheat and water and is shaped like the tip of a straw when filled. The filling consists of fresh goat or sheep ricotta, eggs and saffron. Sometimes fresh, local pecorino cheese, beets or spinach are added. Culurgioni are boiled in water and served with a sauce of fresh tomatoes and basil, and always sprinkled with grated ripened Pecorino cheese on top. Various varieties of filling are available in the southeast of the island and inland, such as very fresh pecorino cheese (only kept for a day or two), boiled mashed potatoes, and mint. Sometimes mint is replaced with oregano or onion.

Today, the specialty of the region is no longer limited to its place of origin - all kinds of mature sauces can be found and loved all over Italy. However, most Italian families have homemade pasta sauce on hand for special occasions due to the amount of work involved - it takes a lot of time and hands to prepare enough pasta for the whole family and guests. However, freshly stuffed pasta (also known as pasta fresca) is sold in specialty shops called Pastifici throughout Italy. The tortellini, tortellini and ravioli in these stores are usually excellent. And let's face it, the commercially available fresh pasta sold in grocery stores and supermarkets is usually of pretty good quality too. But there is nothing better than a hand-made mature sauce.

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