Tortellini in brodoAn Italian recipe from the sixteenth century
This is a real classic from the Italian kitchen: stuffed pasta in broth. The sixteenth century recipe prescribes the use of meat broth. If you replace this by a good vegetable broth, the result is a very tasty vegetarian dish.
It is best not to serve the pasta in the broth in which it was cooked, but in seperately warmed broth of good quality.
Bartolomeo Scappi, il cuoco segreto
The recipe is taken from the magnificent book of Bartolomeo Scappi, with the concise title: Opera (' Work', first printed in 1570, reprinted untill well into the seventeenth century).
Scappi was the personal cook (il cuoco segreto) of pope Pius V (1566-1572). The years of his birth and death are unknown. The first known fact in Scappi's life is April 1536, when he organizes a banquet in honour of Charles V whilst in the service of cardinal Lorenzo Campeggi. He served several other cardinals after this, then moved on to popes: first pope Pius IV, later pope Pius V. In 1567 Scappi was responsible for the festive banquet to celebrate the first "birthday" of the pontificate of Pius V.
How to cook for a pope
Opera consists of six books. The first book is a dialogue between the master cook and his apprentice, in which the cook, his tasks, the organization of meals, all kinds of kitchenware, and the inspection and conservation of foodstuff are the subjects. The other five books contain information on and recipes for successively meat (cattle and game, and birds), fish-vegetables-eggs, a list of necessities a for cook travelling in the company of a prince and foodstuff according to season, recipes for sweet and savoury pies, and recipes for the sick.
The book is famous for its many excellent illustrations, one of which you can see here. Whatever object related to cooking in the sixteenth century you can think of, Opera has an illustration of it: skimmers, knives, sugar graters, pots and pans, strainers, sieves, ladles, equipment for the hearth, anything and everything. Even a crannellated pasta cutter (on the near side of the table on the left in the back of the illustration above)!
Henry Notaker discovered quite recently that part of Opera has been translated in Dutch in the seventeenth century in the Koockboec oft Familieren Keukenboec of M. Antonius Magirus (1612). (V. paper by Schildermans and Sels).
The original recipe
The original recipe, taken from La gastronomie à la Renaissance. 100 recettes de France et d'Italie, edited by F. Sabban and S. Serventi, pp.102/104. An English translation was published in 2008 by T. Scully (see the recipe for Broccoli in the Opera). However, I kept my own translation from 2004.
I have translated tortelli with tortellini. My father's Italian neighbour told me that in modern Italian, tortelli are a kind of dough-nut balls that are eaten at Christmas and carnival. However, my Italian/Dutch dictionary defines tortelli as a ring of dough stuffed with vegetables and meat.
|Per far minestra di tortelli d'herba alla Lombarda|
Piglinosi biete, & spinaci, taglinosi minute, & lavinosi in piu acque, & strucchi fuori l'acqua, faccianosi soffriggere con butiro fresco, & con esse ponasi a bollire una brancata d'herbe odorifere, & cavinosi, & ponganosi in un vaso di terra oo di rame stagnato, & giungavisi cascio Parmeggiano grattato, & cascio grasso, tanto dell'uno quanto dell'altro, & pepe, cannella, garofani, zafferano, uva passa, & uove crude abastanza; & se la compositione fosse troppo liquida pongavisi pan grattato, ma se sarà troppo soda, metavisi un poco piu di butiro, & habbiasi un sfoglio di pasta fatta nel modo che se dice nel capitolo 177. E faccianosi i tortelli piccoli, & grandi, facendoli cuocere in buon brodo di carne, & servanosi con cascio,. zuccaro, & cannella sopra.
|To make soup with tortellini with herbs alla Lombarda|
Take greens of beets and spinach, chop very finely. Rinse it several times in water, and press the water out. Then braise [the greens] in fresh butter, and let them cook with a handful of aromatic herbs. Take them off the fire and put them in an earthenware pot or a pot of tinned copper. Add grated Parmesan cheese, and fresh cheese, in equal measure, and pepper, cinnamon, cloves, saffron, raisins and enough raw eggs. If the mixture is too runny, add some bread crumbs. But if it is too dry, add some more butter.
Take a sheet of dough made in the manner as told in chapter 177. Make small or large tortellini and let them cook in good meat broth. Serve with cheese, sugar and cinnamon on top of it.
Modern adaptation of the recipe
For the picture of this recipe I made square pasta, ravioli. To be perfectly honest with you: when I prepared this dish Ii was in a hurry (the semi finals of the 2004 EC football was to start in half an hour!). For tortellini you use exactly the same stuffing and pasta dough. The only difference is the amount of time needed to make them.
For 2 to 6 persons, depending on the ratio pasta/broth. You can serve this dish as a clear soup with a few tortellini floating in it, but also as a dish with stuffed pasta over which a little broth is poured.
modern pasta dough with eggs made with 1 cup flour
dough for stuffed pasta from Scappi made with 1 cup + 2 Tbsp durum wheat or flour
300 gram (2/3 pound) greens of beets and 300 gram (2/3 pound) coarse spinach, or 600 gram (1 1/3 pound) coarse spinach
60 gram (1 cup) chopped green herbs. Parsley the most, furthermore basil, mint, chives
100 gram (1/2 cup) ricotta cheese
100 gram (1 cup) Parmezan cheese, freshly grated
1 Tbsp. raisins, steeped in warm water, then drained
1 tsp. spices: pepper, cinnamon, cloves (ratio 4:4:1)
1/4 tsp. saffron, bruised in 1/2 Tbsp. hot milk
Stock for cooking the pasta
an ample amount of water
1 tsp. salt
2 stock cubes
Stock for serving the pasta
It would be a shame to use stock cubes or canned stock. Chose one of the stocks below, or use your own recipe
1/2 to 2 liters (1 to 4 pints) medieval beef stock, 17th-century meat stock, chicken stock, vegetable stock
Preparation in advance
First prepare the stuffing - Rinse the vegetables well. Chop them small and braise them in butter until they have lost their excess water. Add the herbs shortle before removing the pan from the fire. Drain the vegetables well, squeeze them gently to get them as dry as possible. Add the other ingredients for the stuffing to the greens (saffron with milk and all).
Then prepare the pasta dough - While the greens are cooling off, you can prepare the dough. See the basic recipe or the recipe for pasta dough from the sixteenth century. Do not forget to add milk to the dough, because you are making stuffed pasta. The milk will ensure a good sealing of the dough. Also: mind that you have to make the ravioli or tortellini at once after rolling out a sheet, also to ensure that the stuffed pasta is sealed. If you let the sheets dry (as you have to do when you are making tagliatelle and the likes), the pasta will not seal properly.
Make tortellini - Sprinkle the worktop with flour, spread the freshly rolled sheet of pastra dough on it. Cut rounds out of a pasta sheet with a glass. Heap a teaspoon of stuffing on each round, and fold them in half. Take the edges and press these together. You can also turn the edges downward before pressing together. You can also cut squares and fold the4se diagonally, that way there's less waste. Arrange the tortellini next to each other on a towel. Let dry at least half an hour before cooking. Here is a picture of folding tortellini.
Or make ravioli - This is much quicker. Heap little spoonfulls stuffing on one half of the sheet. Moisten the edges and the spaces between the heaps with a finger dipped in water. Fold the sheet double, and press gently between the stuffing.
Cut the ravioli with a pasta cutter or a knife, and lay the stuffed pasta on a clean, dry kitchen towel. Take care that the ravioli do not touch each other. Let dry at least half an hour before cooking.
Heat the stock - The stock in which you want to serve the pasta is heated at the same time as the stock for cooking the pasta, because fresh tortellini only take a few minutes to cook, and need to be served as soon as possible.
Cook the pasta - Bring water to the boil in a pasta pan, add stock cubes (chicken, meat, vegetable, mushroom). As soon as the water boils, add pasta. It takes only a few minutes, and it is very easy to see when the pasta is ready, it will float to the surface. As soon as all tortellini or ravioli have surfaced, the pasta is done. Lift the perforated insert out, drain the pasta, and divide over preheated deep soup plates or bowls. Spoon stock over the pasta, and serve. How much stock depends on whether you want to serve soup with pasta, or pasta with a little soup.
Serve the pasta at once. Place a bowl with freshly grated Parmesan cheese on the table, as well as a small bowl with sugar mixed with ground cinnamon.
All descriptions of ingredients
Ricotta - Literally this means re-cooked, or twice cooked. Sometimes it is compared to cottage cheese, but the production is very different. To separate the curd (from which cheese is made) from the whey, milk is heated. Whey, normally a leftover product (that is loved by pigs, by the way, see picture on my cheese page), is reheated to make ricotta. Rennet is added to the whey, or another coagulant. The result is a moist, crumbly cheese.
The editions below are in my possession. Links refer to available editions.
All books mentioned on this site (with short reviews)
- F. Sabban and S. Serventi, La gastronomie à la Renaissance. 100 recettes de France et d'Italie, Éd. Stock, 1997
- Bartolomeo Scappi, Opera dell'arte del cucinare. Edition Arnaldo Forni, 2002 (facsimile edition in two volumes)
- J. Schildermans and H. Sels, "A Dutch translation of Bartolomeo Scappi's Opera" In: Petits Propos Culinaires 74 (December 2003) pp.59/70
- T. Scully , The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570): L'arte et prudenza d'un maestro cuoco English translation, without the Italian original text. University of Toronto press, 2008. Link to original Italian text (facsimile)