Emilia Romagna: always new types of fresh filled pasta to discover

Filled pasta is our specialty. It changes name, shape and stuffing but we can’t get enough of it! Discover with us the most characteristic formats from the cities that we cross along the Via Emilia.

We start our voyage from the city of Piacenza, the first we encounter travelling from West to East. Here we find the anolini, small half-moons of fresh filled egg pasta which were historically prepared for Christmas holidays. They were already used by the Rinascimento cook Bartolomeo Scappi during the 16th century.

The anolini are very popular in Piacenza and also in the nearby Parma, and they are prepared with a stuffing of beef (or donkey) stew or with roast pork, grated browned bread, egg, nutmeg, Parmigiano-Reggiano and served traditionally with broth.

Continuing towards East we reach Reggio Emilia, original city of the tri-colored Italian flag and of the typical cappelletti. These small treasures of filled pasta are so called because of their shape which recalls a medieval hat. This is because of the way they are closed once the stuffing is placed inside. The cappelletti of Reggio Emilia are very small and are cooked in a chicken or capon broth.

Proceeding along the via Emilia, which goes from Piacenza to Rimini, after Reggio Emilia we get to Modena. Modena and the nearby Bologna compete for the origin of the very famous tortellini, the ambassador in the world of the Emilian fresh filled pasta. It is said that their shape was inspired by the beauty of Venus’ belly-button. Besides the myth and its origin, the Bolognese recipe expects a stuffing of pork loin, raw ham, mortadella, parmigiano reggiano, egg and nutmeg, while the Modenese recipe substitutes the pork loin with beef. According to the festivity tradition they’re prepared with broth, but they are also very appreciated with cream.

In Bologna, besides tortellini, we find the balanzoni, a type of filled pasta typical of the “erudite” city. Their shape is similar to the one of the tortellini, but they are bigger and the dough is green, because of the spinach added in the pastry. The balanzoni are born as a “recycled product”, not to throw away the ingredients left over from the tortellini preparation, therefore the stuffing can be the same as the tortellini bolognesi or with ricotta, basil and spinach. Because of their more rounded shape and their colour, the balanzoni are also called tortellacci verdi.

Moving on from Bologna towards the sea we travel across the Romagna. Here the main characters of the fresh filled pasta are the cappelletti romagnoli. These particular cappelletti differ from the Emilian ones for the stuffing: ricotta and capon, as Pellegrino Artusi writes in his famous book La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene. The cappelletti from Romagna can also be stuffed only with cheese and served with broth or ragù.

If we decide to abandon the via Emilia and travel North towards Ferrara, we will find the cappellacci di zucca, also known as cappellacci estensi, filled pasta typical of this area, together with the cappelletti in brodo. The peculiarity of this variety of pasta is the pumpkin, grated parmesan and sage stuffing. The first written proof of this delicious dish goes back to 1584 in Lo Scalco, a work by Giovanni Battista Rossetti, a courtier at the Este court: a royal dish!

With all these varieties of filled pasta we can’t help but start travelling in our Emilia Romagna and try them all!

(Giacomo Schirò)

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