Modena is my hometown, the city where I was born and raised. The city where my family and friends live and of countless amazing memories. It is a city that has been underestimated for a long time as a touristic destination. Modena, as many other Italian cities, has a millennial history with some first Etruscan settlements dated to 180 B.C. Among the monuments and attractions that Modena has to offer, there is the Duomo di Modena with its glorious tower, the Ghirlandina (above) that is part of the UNESCO. The construction of this cathedral, designed in a Romanesque style by architect Lanfranco, started at the end of 1000 A.D and ended at the beginning of 1300.
Modena is one of Italy’s little jewels with many wonders to discover including one of the main reasons why it should be on the “must visit” cities: its food and timeless culinary traditions. Here I want to offer you one of the most traditional and probably world known recipe: tortellini.
For centuries, the debate whether tortellini are from Modena or Bologna has been going on. These two cities, about 30Km apart, engaged in many battles in the past to obtain economic and political supremacy, but also fought for a broken bucket (supposedly hidden in the Ghirlandina now), and of course to have recognized the origin of tortellini. Poets dedicated verses to tortellini, and legends tells that the shape of this stuffed pasta was inspired by Venus belly button when she “visited” Modena with other Gods. Who knows what is true and what not. I am from Modena and here I give you the Tortellini of Modena.
For this recipe you need the following
for the pasta
– 4 organic eggs and 400g “00” flour for the pasta (one egg for each 100g of flour)
for the stock
– Cornish hen (the leg and upper leg part and one wing)
– beef loin, make sure it has a good piece of fat as it will give a rich taste to the stock (400 – 500g)
– 1/2 golden onion, 2 carrots, 2 celery stems, salt
– water, approximately 6L
for the filling
– 250g prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham)
– 50 – 80g pancetta
– 100 – 120g Parmigiano cheese, grated
– 150g veal meat
– 200 – 250g pork chop
– 1 tea spoon of nutmeg
The first thing to do is to prepare the stock; you can make it a couple of days in advance and refrigerate it. This is the recipe that my mom taught me and it is also used in many other parts of Italy. Use good ingredients and the result will be spectacular!
In a large and deep pot place the meats and the veggies then cover completely with the cold water. As the meats will give a rich taste to the broth, wait till the end to add some salt if needed. Cover with the lid and place on medium fire; once it starts boiling, lower the fire to the minimum and let cook for at least 3 hours if you are using a regular pot, or half of the time if you are using a pressure cooker.
For the pasta, also called “sfoglia”, you can start by making a little “volcano” with the flour and placing the eggs in the middle. Remember that the eggs should be at room temperature, this way it will be easier to work them with the flour. Work the flour and the eggs with a fork initially and then work the pasta with your hand; the heat from your hand will help the mix to stay together. You can refer to the “Lasagne” recipe to see how to make the pasta https://laurina86.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/lasagne-di-modena/. Let the pasta rest for 2 hours outside of the fridge wrapped in a piece of clear plastic wrap before flattening it.
After cooking the meats in a pan with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, let them cool down. Place them in a food processor with Parmigiano cheese, pancetta and prosciutto di Parma, and the nutmeg till you obtain a soft homogeneous mix. If the mix results too dry, you can add a couple of table spoons of warm water so you don’t alter the taste.
Flatten the pasta (1mm ideally) and cut little squares (4X4cm) then place some of the mix in the middle of the square.
Take two opposite corners of the square and close the tortellino to obtain a triangle; press on the edges to seal it, then take the two extremities of the longer side and pull them together to obtain a shape like this one below
They are not going to be all the same, but it’s ok because you are hand making them! If the shape reminds you of a belly button, you are doing it right! It will take some practice at first, but after a while, it will get easier. Just make sure that they are well sealed otherwise they will open while you boil them.
Place the stock on the fire and once it boils, drop the tortellini in it; it will take between 7 and 10 minutes for them to cook, according to how thin you flattened the pasta. They are ready to be served. And eaten!