Tortellini: Walking on Broth


I’m not one for Valentine’s Day I’m afraid… However, I am a fan of showing my love for people through filling their bellies and making an effort to show how much you care for them in the food you serve them!

So, if you’re thinking of making something for your loved one, or to cook something extravagant together, why not try a recipe from one of the world’s best restaurants…? I’m lucky enough to own ‘Never trust a skinny Italian chef’ by Massimo Bottura and have only made this one recipe from his book, Tortellini: Walking on Broth. I did a separate blog post for the stock in particular as that takes a bit of time, but because the recipes are so involved, I believe they should be saved for special occasions. The book is definitely worth purchasing as it’s full of passion and tells stories of the development behind each recipe, giving you a huge appreciation for the work that went into them. His tortellini has an inspirational description, especially because I’m a big fan of not wasting anything in the kitchen!

It all started with the broth. During the sixteenth century, broths became fashionable in noble kitchen of northern Italy. The recipe for consommé, enjoyed by popes and dukes alike, had trickled down from the French. The broths were made by slowly boiling meats on the bone: capon, quail, duck, ox and beef. The broth took on all the flavour and nutrients from the meat, but no one dared throw away the edible meat.

Instead, the kitchen staff prepared an ad hoc filling with scraps of Parmigiano Reggiano, off cuts of prosciutto or mortadella, with salt, pepper and nutmeg to season. With an egg and some flour, a sheet of pasta could be rolled out in an instant. The filling was placed on a small pasta square and folded with a single motion around the finger into the shape of a handkerchief.

Voila: tortellini.

It does take some work in making this dish and the first thing I’d say to do, is get your brown stock sorted. Either buy it ready-made or make it from my step-by-step instruction here. The tortellini does end up looking like the most simple of dishes you’ll ever make (!), but the taste, oh the taste… it’s surprisingly indulgent for something that’s so small… And when a dish is as rich and flavoursome as this, you don’t need a lot of it.

Serves 2 (recipe only slightly changed by me to suit the normal kitchen in any home!)

Tortellini filling:

  • 15g pork loin
  • 15g veal fillet
  • 10g mortdella
  • 10g prosciutto
  • 10g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • Black pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg

Toast the pork in a pan to brown the outside, then remove and let cool. Grind the rest of the meat together in a meat blender (or chop it into very tiny chunks) then add the rest of the ingredients. Mix it all together in a bowl to create a homogenous mixture. It is very important to check the flavour of the filling at this point – I like mine to be a little bit heavier on the pepper and nutmeg side but that’s up to you!

Clarified broth:

  • 500g stock
  • 1 egg whites
  • 1 sheet quick dissolving fine leaf gelatine

Place the gelatine in some cold water to expand – 4-5mins. Remove from the water and gently squeeze out the excess water. Whisk the egg whites gently in a bowl, making them slightly foamy (just a few bubbles are fine; they don’t need to have peaks). Mix the egg whites with the cold stock, gradually heating it over a low heat. When it starts to boil, remove from the heat and let it rest for 10mins. Strain through a sieve and let cool. Add the gelatine and heat over a low heat till melted completely. This is the longest process I promise!

PS 2Traditional tortellini dough:

  • 100g ‘00’ flour
  • 1 egg
  • Broth

Sift the flour on to a board and make a well in the centre. Add the egg in the well, incorporate the flour and knead by hand until it becomes elastic. Roll out the dough on a wooden board with a wooden rolling pin to make a large single sheet 1mm (1/16 inch) thick.

Cut the sheet into 3cm (1 ¼ inch) squares. Place some of the filling in the middle of each square and fold over the dough to make a triangle shape, then seal the triangle like a handkerchief. Cook the tortellini for 5mins in the broth.

PS3To serve:

On a long, rectangular plate (clearly I didn’t have one!), create thin layers of broth, using a paint brush, to look like waves of the sea. Let cool, then add the tortellini walking in a line across the broth.

In case you wondered why it’s called Tortellini: Walking on Broth, let me tell you a couple of quotes from the book to explain.

“Around here, tortellini are a religion. And inhabitant of Modena who doesn’t believe in God believes in tortellini. A chef learns early on that no matter how much effort, or how good the tortellini are, a Modenese diner will always say, “Your tortellini are excellent, bit nothing compares to my mother’s.”

“I had always wondered why Jesus walked on the water. Was it to provoke his critics or to reassure his followers?”