The History of Tortellini

By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:

As you know, I'm in Florence, Italy. There is nothing "normal" about life here in my country, but I'm trying to keep myself calm by cooking, writing and reading. One of these days, I’d love to write a cookbook about filled pastas from around the world. Every country has its own filled pasta, from the Tibetan momo to the Turkish manti or Chinese dumplings. One day I’ll find a publisher interested in my idea, but for now I'll start with this blog and with my dear country—telling you the origin story of our delicious tortellini.


Tortellini originates from the Emilia Romagna region, in the city of Modena. The legend says that they were inspired by the shape of Venus’ navel.


The first accounts of this ring-shaped pasta with minced-meat filling date back to 1112. The first recipe was written in the fourteenth century. Tortellini was created as a way of using leftovers to make the filling of this delicious egg pasta. In Modena, the filling is made with minced pork meat, mortadella, prosciutto, parmesan, sausage, nutmeg, egg, and bread crumble, but there are infinite versions all around Italy.


The art and the craft of tortellini is very difficult. You need years of experience, so it is much easier to buy them already made. There are a lot of good Italian brands on the web. You can even use tortellini with stock like we make for a traditional Christmas dish—Tortellini in Brodo.

In Bologna they make tortellini with the delicious ragù bolognese.


Here is my personal interpretation of the ragù recipe. This recipe is different in every Italian kitchen; some add pork sausage, dried mushrooms, and heavy cream. In other cities, they don't use tomato and use only minced meat, wine, and herbs.


It’s a rich beautiful dish, and you’ll love it!


Tortellini al Ragù

Serves 4


12 oz (350 g) tortellini

8 oz (200 g) minced beef and pork (mixed)

1 Tbsp (20) unsalted butter

1 Tbs Extra Virgin olive oil

1 oz (30 g) soffritto: (carrot, celery, and onion)

1 cup beef stock

1 can of tomato sauce

1 cup red wine

2 Tbs of whole milk

Fresh sage and Rosemary, finely chopped

1 bay leaf

1 juniper berry

Salt and Pepper


Make the soffritto—finely chop the carrot, celery, and onion. Sauté in butter and oil in a thick-bottom pot over medium heat.


  • Add the herbs and the juniper berry and both kinds of meat. Cook until meat has slightly browned.

  • Add red wine and let evaporate.

  • Pour in the broth and let simmer.

  • When the stock is absorbed, add the tomato sauce.

  • Add salt and pepper and continue to simmer until the ragù is thick.

  • Add milk at the very end, and stir.


Cook tortellini in boiling salted water according to package directions.


Drain tortellini. Spoon the ragù on top with a generous amount of grated Parmesan.

Contessa Ippolita Douglas Scotti di Vigileno is a true Italian—born in Florence, Italy, from a long line of eccentric Italian aristocrats, she has traveled the world in search of adventure, romance, and magical, mouth-watering recipes. "Ippo" loves Italian history, especially as it relates to food. Author of There's a Beatle in My Soup, Curcuma e Zenzero (Ginger & Tumeric), 101 Perche Sulla Storia di Firenze (101 questions on Florence History), and Superfoods, Ippo is currently finishing her latest work, The Lords of Florence (all published by Newton Compton Publishers).

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