Ravioli / tortellini
What is ravioli?
Ravioli and tortellini are varieties of stuffed Italian pasta. The filling often consists of cheese and/or vegetables such as spinach, although you can also get meat fillings. Ravioli and tortellini are cooked quickly and served with a sauce. In Italy, tortellini are also served in brodo, i.e. in a broth.
Ravioli consists of a filling sandwiched between two thin pasta sheets (they look like little cushions). Tortellini is ring shaped and, according to legend, the navel of the goddess Venus inspired the shape.
Ravioli was first mentioned in Italian letters from the fourteenth century. It involved dough packets filled with pork, cheese and parsley. During Lent people ate vegetarian fillings, such as spinach and/or fresh cheese; sweet fillings also existed.
In Italy, both ravioli and tortellini were originally dishes for special occasions. The women in the family sat around the table, rolled the pasta and filled it with ricotta and mashed vegetables. The children helped. Nowadays this doesn’t happen very often. Instead, there are many shops where you can buy freshly made stuffed pasta.
In northern Italy, Christmas begins with a bowl of tortellini in brodo: fresh pasta, filled with meat and cheese, served in a beef broth. In the same area they like ravioli stuffed with mashed pumpkin. Some chefs are even more creative and add shaved truffles, lobster, caviar or foie gras to the filling.
Did you know...
Although tortellini and ravioli are available in dried form in stores in the rest of Europe, Italians always make them from fresh (egg) pasta.
How to make ravioli?
For a simple ravioli or tortellini with ricotta and spinach, first make fresh pasta dough (see pasta). Blanch the spinach leaves, squeeze dry, chop and mix with Parmesan cheese, ricotta and nutmeg. Season the filling with salt and place in a piping bag.
To make ravioli, spread the filling on one half of the pasta sheet in small clumps. Place the other half of the pasta sheet on top. By hand, gently push the air out from between the sheets and press the dough around the piles of filling together. With a serrated pasta wheel, cut the ravioli into separate pieces.
For tortellini, the dough is first punched out in circles. Small piles of filling are place in the centre, and then the pasta is folded around the finger or thumb to form a tortellini.
The stuffed pasta is quickly cooked and, according to Italian tradition, served with a simple sauce, such as butter and sage.
Fresh pasta needs fresh Parmesan. Grate your cheese from a fresh piece, because fresh Parmesan has much more flavour than pre-grated cheese.
Ravioli and tortellini have much in common with Asian dumplings such as Chinese jiaozi and Japanese gyoza.