The tortellino Bolognese: legends, recipes and more.
What is it?
Tortellini is a very famous first course of the Italian tradition particularly of Bologna. Bologna is an ancient city located in the Region of Emilia-Romagna still surrounded by old walls, and walking inside you feel a closeness to your ancestral origins. You also feel this feeling while eating a real tortellino Bolognese, strictly drowned in a warm meat broth.
I researched the history of this Italian specialty for a long time and found several versions of its origins the most beautiful is definitely the mythological one.
Legend has it that during the war between Modena (an Italian city) and Bologna, the three gods Bacchus, Venus and Mars came to the aid of the city of Modena. The three gods tired from the journey stopped at a local inn called "Corona," the next morning Mars and Bacchus went away and left the beautiful Venus to sleep. The owner of the inn captivated by the beauty of the goddess wanted to spy through the keyhole of the room where Venus was sleeping and saw her navel. The innkeeper was thunderstruck by the goddess's navel and ran to the kitchen seized with inspiration, thus created the tortellini recalling the shape of Venus's navel.
The true story is another and is documented in several written texts.
The writer Cervellati (an Italian historian) mentions tortellini on Christmas Day in his 12th-century manuscript. In the 1400s, tortellini is also mentioned in the novella Decamerone by Boccaccio (a famous Italian writer).
An important date for tortellini is definitely 1904. In this year tortellini became world famous thanks to the Bartani brothers (two brothers who came from Emilia-Romagna), the two participated in the Los Angeles fair and presented tortellini as a dish and explained the right way to preserve it.
Another important date for tortellini is December 7, 1974 when the Confraternita del Tortellino registered the recipe with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce. This recipe obviously calls for tortellini served in meat broth.
What about today?
Even today, tortellini in Bologna are the Sunday dish, that dish to be eaten with the family for a special occasion: because the nephew is coming back from a study trip, because it's Mom's birthday, because it's Father's Day. In short, Bolognese grandmothers and mothers still hand down the family recipe for the best tortellini and woe betide them if they reveal the secrets of the famous dish.