This article originally appeared in the June/July 2019 issue of Dream of Italy.
Parma is a city full of bicycles with a luscious and loved green park dedicated to the Duchess Maria Luigia, the second wife of Napoleon, at its center. Huge cuts of ham and mammoth wheels of cheese decorate shop windows. If by chance your eyes are too distracted by the whizzing bicycles passing by, the meaty, cheesy, delicious perfumes from these storefronts will enchant your sense of smell.
Everyone thinks of Prosciutto di parma and Parmigiano Reggiano when they think of Parma, but the culinary traditions of Emilia-Romagna are so much more than that. A staple in the households of the charming Emilia-Romagna city is tortelli di erbetta. They’re often customized with whatever greens the home cooks had on hand, but are always centered around a generous dusting of parmigiano and good butter.
My mamma Enza makes these tortelli for our birthdays in October which are one day apart. She makes them when relatives come to visit. We ate them to celebrate my parents 40th wedding anniversary and at my wedding rehearsal dinner. Any occasion is the right time to make this pasta but my mom says the secret touch is to have a husband who is willing to be your sous chef in the kitchen.
My father Fernando expertly scoops out the tortelli at the perfect moment before the pasta gets too soft and breaks but after the filling is nice and warm on the inside. He has the best job in the house because he “must” taste the tortelli during the cooking process to make sure they are ready to be taken out of the boiling water. My mom keeps a tally on how many he eats at the stove side and subtracts them from his plate when she serves him. All is fair in love and pasta. – Sara Matteis
Recipe: Tortelli di Erbetta
Ingredients for the dough:
2 ¾ cups of flour
4 medium/large or 5 small eggs
Ingredients for the filling:
1 ¼ cup of ricotta
1 cup of cooked chard, cooked in a pan with a pad of butter
1 ¼ cup of Parmigiano cheese (aged 36 months is best)
Sprinkle of Nutmeg
Pinch of Salt
Ingredients for the sauce:
A few pads of butter
1. Mix the ingredients for the dough together and roll it out to a thin rectangle about 1.5 inches thick.
2. Mix the ingredients for the filling together. Using a teaspoon, measure out rounded spoonfuls and put them on the dough two inches apart along one side of the dough. Fold one side of the dough over the little mounds and close the dough into little pockets being sure to push all the air out of the pockets. With a pasta cutter (or a knife) cut around the tiny mounds making the square tortelli.
3. In a big pan, melt some butter for the sauce.
4. In a large pot, boil water, add salt and a drop of seed oil. Add the tortelli, not more than 15 at a time to prevent sticking. Test the borders of the tortelli to see if they are at your desired texture. When they are ready, dip a colander into the water and gently transfer the tortelli to a dry, clean dish cloth on a counter or large plate. Dry them slightly for a few seconds.
5. In a serving dish, add the melted butter and the tortelli. Mix gently.
6. Serve the tortelli with a generous dusting of Parmigiano on top.