Filled Modena-style Tortelloni

The simple traditional tortelloni recipe

If we can say that the fresh filled pasta queen of the dinner tables in Modena and nearby is, without a shadow of a doubt, the tortellino, it is also true that there is another traditional pasta which you can also be sure to find on the tables of the homes, trattorias and restaurants in the same area: we are talking about tortelloni. Here we will explain step by step how to make pumpkin tortelloni, served with a drizzle of traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena. Pumpkin is a fruit of the Cucurbitaceae family, to which courgettes, cucumbers, watermelons and melons also belong. It is typically consumed in the cold season, light, super versatile and rich in fibre. Then, we’ll also make a simple and tasty variant with a ricotta and spinach filling.


Tortelloni, or tortelli, are a type of filled pasta that were originally made to use up leftovers: the story goes that in 1100, the people in the Lombard Padania invented the dish to avoiding wasting table scraps. Instead, the forerunner of the recipe we know today probably appeared around the 14th century in the areas around Bologna. What is certain is that the original recipe was typical of medieval culture, combining the arts of pasta and cake making to perfection. In fact, it consisted of a thin sheet of dough, made with soft wheat flour and eggs, then cut into small pieces, each one closed with a savoury (meat, cured meats, cheese) or sweet (jam, mostarda, raisins, candied fruit, biscuits) filling inside. Tortelli were cooked in two different ways: boiled in water or broth, served with cheese and spices, or fried and sweetened with sugar and honey. In any case, every region has its own speciality tortello: each one carries on its own tradition, based on the typical products and stories handed down there, all with different fillings, sauces and even shapes: here in Maranello, we make our tortelloni in triangles and fold them over. We fill them with pumpkin or ricotta and spinach, then serve them with a simple butter dressing or a tasty ragù sauce. Now we’ll tell you how the pasta and filling are prepared according to the tradition of our rezdore.


Ingredients for the pasta

  • 4/6 people
  • 300g plain Flour
  • 3 Yellow yolk eggs (1 per 100 g flour)



Spread the flour out on a pastry board and make the classic well shape in the centre. Add the eggs to the well and start kneading with your hands until the dough is soft and smooth. Leave to rest at room temperature in a covered bowl for at least an hour before rolling out. For the first sheet, roll out the dough with a wooden rolling pin until about half a centimetre thick. Then cut into strips of the right size to fit inside the rolling machine. The first time the dough is passed through the machine, the thickness should be set to between 1 and 3. Then pass it through at least one more time until the desired thickness is reached. Continue rolling out by placing the dough on the board and cutting into strips and then squares with sides of about 6 cm. Add a spoonful of the desired filling, fold into a triangle and close. 

For the best results, the tortelloni should be cooked no longer than a few hours after preparation. However, if this is not possible, they can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two, provided they are well floured and do not stick to each other or to the container.

Pumpkin filling

  • 4/6 people
  • 500g pumpkin
  • 50g Parmesan cheese
  • Salt to taste
  • Nutmeg to taste

Wash and cut the pumpkin into strips. Bake in a static oven for about 30 minutes at 200 degrees. The flesh should be easy to pick up with a spoon. Transfer it to a bowl and mix with Parmesan cheese, nutmeg and a pinch of salt.

Ricotta and spinach filling

  • 4/6 people
  • 300g cow’s milk ricotta
  • 400g spinach (net of waste)
  • 5-6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt to taste
  • Parsley to taste
  • Nutmeg to taste

Clean and wash the spinach. Sauté for about five minutes, squeezing to remove excess water. Return to the heat with a knob of butter, some parsley and salt for another five minutes. Allow to cool and stir in the ricotta, Parmesan and nutmeg. 

Cooking and seasoning

Drop into boiling water on the stove, a few at a time, and stir gently with a wooden spoon. Cook for a few minutes (6 to 10). Remove gently with a slotted spoon and, after draining well, place about 10 tortelloni directly on the plate, the right quantity for a good portion. Add your favourite seasoning: sauté some butter in a pan, melted with a little sage, then sprinkle with a generous spoonful of Parmesan cheese; or in the case of pumpkin filling they are also delicious with a tasty meat sauce. Of course, don’t forget to serve with a good bottle of Lambrusco, for the perfect mix of quality and tradition.

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