One of the best things Jeff and I ate on our honeymoon in Italy was a simple soup called tortellini en brodo. We had this soup while dining outdoors at a small restaurant in Bologna, the city where tortellini is said to have been invented. I ordered the soup as my appetizer and ended up having to share the whole bowl with Jeff. I still think about that soup to this day, and just over a year later, I finally re-created it in my own kitchen. I won't say my version was as intensely flavorful as the one we had, but it definitely satisfied that year-long craving.
I followed a recipe in The New Book of Soups for the brodo (or broth) and then used recipes from the cooking class I took with Jody Adams for the pasta dough and tortelloni filling. (Tortelloni are a little bigger than tortellini, and I thought the bigger squares of dough would be more manageable for my first attempt.)
I got going on the filling first since it requires cooking pork and garlic and then letting them cool before proceeding. Once the pork mixture was cool, I added minced mortadella and prosciutto, some ricotta, minced parsley, Parmesan, and an egg and stirred it all together.
The prospect of making pasta always intimidates me, but then I start doing it and remember how easy it is. This dough is a simple mixture of all-purpose flour, a little semolina flour, and salt that gets moistened and brought together in the food processor with a couple of eggs and lots of egg yolks. Once it comes together, it needs a 20-minute rest and then it's time to start rolling.
I have a crank-style pasta machine. I really wanted it at the time, but now I think the KitchenAid attachment might be a smarter choice and save a bit of time (and muscle). Still, it's easy enough to use. I rolled out the dough in small pieces, running it through over and over again, changing to a thinner setting each time, and then cut each sheet into 3-inch squares. I arranged the squares on a baking sheet lined with a semolina-dusted towel and covered them with another towel to keep them moist.
Once I had all my squares cut out, I filled them and shaped them into tortelloni. I covered my shaped tortelloni and put the whole sheet of them in the freezer. Once they were frozen, I transferred them to a freezer bag. I took out as many as we wanted to eat that night for the soup and kept the rest in the freezer, using them each night throughout the week.
I added the frozen tortelloni to the broth and simmered them until tender and heated through.
And then I ladled soup into our bowls, sprinkled a little grated Parmesan on top, and served the soup with homemade cornetti (traditional rolls from Emilia-Romagna; I found the recipe in The Modern Baker) and a simple arugula-Parmesan salad.
My tortelloni en brodo was definitely reminiscent of the the delicious soup we'd eaten in Bologna. I loved the meaty tortelloni filling and knowing that I had made every component from scratch.
(We also enjoyed the tortelloni in red sauce to break up just having them in soup. They'll last for about a week in the freezer.)
Have you ever made filled pasta?
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