Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tortelli Cremaschi – Traditional Pasta of Ferragosto - Specialty of Crema

Holidays are often more associated with the foods prepared than the meaning of the holiday. Across Italy there are different traditions. When I first visited Crema Raffaella’s mother prepared their traditional dish. When thinking about the ingredients of Tortelli Cremaschi things do not seem to fit. Perhaps this unusual combination of flavors is what makes them so desirable. Tortelli Cremaschi are unusual not just for the ingredients but also for the time of year they are made. The temperature during the period of Ferragosto is pretty high. One would not think of a pasta dish during the dog days of summer.

If you have the opportunity to visit the hinterland Milanese during the month of August the local restaurants and agriturismo will offer a plate of Tortelli Cremaschi. The week of Ferragosto there are also Tortelli eating contests. The winner keeps bragging rights for the entire year. I have seen individuals knock down 2 to 3 hundred Tortelli in one sitting! Now that is an appetite. At one time Tortelli were prepared immediately before consuming. The trattoria would have “gossiping ladies” preparing Tortelli 24 hours a day. In Raffaella’s family the women would get together early in the morning and start preparing the Tortelli for the lunch meal. The younger females would assist for several years, carrying trays back and forth, before being allowed to fold the Tortelli.

Believe it or not there is a festival complete with association, historical information and website just about the Re Tortello.


Ingredients for 6 people:

For the pasta:
2.2 lbs (1 Kg) Flour
2 cups (½ l) Warm Water
1 tsp (15 g) Salt

For the filling:
250 g. Biscotti Dark Amaretti
80 g. White raisins
80 g. Grated Grana Padano Cheese or Parmesan Cheese
25 g. Candied Cedro
¼ Nutmeg finely grated
1 Egg
1 cups Dry Marsala (not included in Raffaella’s Family Recipe)
5 g. Salt
1 Mostaccino (you can find this in Italian food stores)
15 g. Mints
Peel of 1 lemon finely grated (not included in Raffaella’s Family Recipe)

For the final dish:
Pats of butter, grated Grana Padana or Parmesan cheese and sage.


Grind the Amaretti, cheese, mints and the Mostaccino.
Mince the Cedro and the raisins.
Grind the nutmeg.

Mix together with the lemon peel, salt, the egg and the cup of Marsala. Continue to stir, adding breadcrumbs slowly, until the mix remains together and uniform. Let the filling sit for 24 hours (this was usually 6-12 hours when I saw them being made).

For the pasta:
Mix together the flour, salt and add the water. Work the pasta by hand until the dough is uniform, slick, and slightly elastic.

Roll the dough into thin sheets. The filling should be vaguely visible through the dough when sealed.

Cut the dough into circles or rectangles. Add just enough filling to the center of the rectangle to cover about ½ the pasta. Fold over and pinch the edge. Traditional Tortelli Cremaschi have a special folding technique. Using the thumb on one hand the index finger on the other, the border of the pasta is pinched. The resulting Tortello looks like a little sailboat. Place the Tortelli on a floured baking pan and cover with a towel until ready to cook.

Cook the Tortelli for about 8-10 minutes. Remove the cooked from the water with a ladle with holes or slats to drain the excess water.

Melt ¼ stick of butter with sage and simmer for 3-5 minutes.


The Tortelli must be very hot.

In a pasta bowl, place a couple of pats of butter. Add a layer of Tortelli and sprinkle with cheese. Add another pat of butter, another layer of Tortelli. Drizzle the melted butter-sage and finish with grated cheese. Each plate will be between 15 and 20 Tortelli.

Serve hot!


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Anonymous rowena said...

Beautiful! I am definitely bookmarking in order to try this dish as I had so wanted to attend the Tortellata but as it coincided with our taking off to Le Marche, made a note to attend the one for next year. Hopefully. The thing with August being the month for out-and-out eating and celebrating makes it difficult to choose where to go! I agree with you on the harsh temps though...I swore next year we're heading north to the Dolomites or close to the Austrian border. There were so many things to try in Le Marche but I lose any appetite when the mercury soars over 85°F. Ouch.

7:42 AM


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