April 26, 2012

Bolognese Stuffed Pasta: the Tortellino

Of the tasty morsels that make up Bolognese cuisine, one of the most famous worldwide is the tortellino

Tortellino (left) and Tortelloni (right)

According to the legend, Venus, Mars, and Bacchus were travelling and stopped at a local inn near Bologna for the night.  The next morning, when Venus woke up late, she started calling for Mars and Bacchus, who had already left the inn for the day to do some business.  When the innkeeper heard the ruckus Venus was causing, he clambored up the stairs to check on her.  However, the door was locked so he peeped through the keyhole to see what was the matter.  While doing so, he caught a glimpse of her belly button and was so inspired by its perfection that he went down to the kitchen and created a pasta to resemble it that very night.  Thus, tortellini were born!

Tortellini are the smallest of the stuffed pastas, among which there is also the tortelloni and tortellacci which are also native to Bologna and the surrounding Emilia-Romagna region.  Tortellini generally weigh around 2 grams each, and are most often filled with a mixture of parmesan and different meats, often local prosciutto and/or mortadella. These little morsels are usually served in brodo, which means in broth, a dish commonly found in Bologna, especially during the chilly winter months.

Although tortellini is claimed to be a Bolognese product, the nearby town of Modena also claims to be the home of the tortellini.  Tortellini are rumored to have been created in Castelfranco Emilia, a town which was once a part of Bologna, but now part of Modena which explains why the tortellino’s birthplace is contended between Bologna and Modena.

Whether or not you are eating Bolognese or Modenese tortellini (or can even tell the difference), tortellini are always a scrumptious choice when meal time rolls around!

by D.R. (intern @ Taste of Italy)

Note: For more information about the differences between the tortellino and the tortelloni follow this link.

April 8, 2012

Colomba Pasquale

Looking for a tasty Easter treat from Italy? If so, you might be interested in Colomba Pasquale (or Easter Dove).  This Italian Easter specialty is a soft, sweet bread similar to the more famous Panettone and Pandoro, which are common during the Christmas holidays.

Colomba Pasquale is traditionally made from flour, eggs, butter, and sugar, often with candied orange peel (or cubes of candied oranges) and a thick glaze scattered with almonds.  This Easter dessert is commonly formed into the shape of a dove, which is the literal meaning of the Italian word colomba.

The dove is a common symbol of peace, relating back to the biblical story of Noah and the Ark.  In the story, Noah releases the dove after forty days and nights of flooding and the dove returns with an olive leaf in its mouth, symbolizing reconciliation between God and humanity.

The origin of the Colomba Pasquale, however, is a bit harder to pinpoint.  It might have been created during the Middle Ages as a peace offering from the community of Pavia to the conquering Longobard King Albion, supposedly on Easter. However, the Colomba Pasquale that we see in most stores today is credited by some to the company started by Angelo Motta in the early 1900s, now a mass-producer of many different kinds of sweets (including the aforementioned Christmas specialties).

Whether purchased at the supermarket or made by specialized bakers, the Colomba is a must on Italian tables on Easter day. Why not add it to your Easter table ? It might be a tasty addition to your Easter desserts and its origin a fun story to share with friends and family!

by D.R. (intern @ Taste of Italy)