Spinach, chard and ricotta filled tortelli

Spinach, chard and ricotta filled tortelli (tortelli being the name given to ravioli in the Food Valley) are perhaps the most typical dish of Emilia-Romagna and never fail to be on everybody’s table on the occasion of the most important festivities. They are made of fresh pasta in rectangular or square shape ( about 2 x 1.5 inches), filled with spinach, Swiss chard, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and grated nutmeg. They are usually served topped with melted butter, sage leaves and grated Parmesan cheese.

It seems that tortelli owe their name to the fact of being made of folded dough (“folded” translates into “torto” in Italian, hence tortelli, small folded dough squares) to contain the filling. Already known and appreciated in the Po Valley around the twelfth century, when they were eaten mainly by the well-off, they have become, throughout the centuries, an affordable dish for everyone, for its easily available and cheap ingredients. Rich in flavour and nutrients, tortelli d’erbetta (that is the way they are called in Parma and the surrounding area) combine proteins, vitamins and carbohydrates and are therefore perfect even as a main dish!

Ingredients (serves 6 people):
For the dough:
1.1 lbs. of super-fine flour
5 eggs
salt q.v.

For the filling:
28 oz of spinach
28 oz of Swiss chard
10.5 oz of ricotta cheese
10.5 oz of grated Parmesan cheese
½ onion
3.5 oz of butter
a dash of extra virgin olive oil
grated nutmeg

For the condiment:
7 oz of butter
3.5 oz of Parmesan cheese
10 sage leaves

To begin with, prepare the dough for the tortelli: pour the flour onto a board, leaving a well in the center. Add 5 whole eggs and a pinch of salt. Beat the eggs with a fork, gradually incorporating the surrounding flour. Knead the dough for about ten minutes, adding a few tablespoons of warm water if the dough is too dry, or some flour if it is too soft. Form a ball of dough and let it rest for about 15 minutes , covered with a damp cloth.
Flour a rolling pin and the board and roll the dough out till it becomes a thin sheet (0.04-0.08 in). Cut it into strips about 2 inch wide with a pastry wheel cutter and flour lightly. Now prepare the filling: remove the hard mid ribs from the spinach and Swiss chard and rinse them several times, in order to eliminate any residue of soil. Put the spinach and Swiss chard into a deep pan and add a little salted water.
Bring to a boil and cook on for about fifteen minutes and then drain the vegetables and place them into a dish. Press them with a fork, let the liquid drain and place them on a chopping board, where you will mince them with a crescent-shaped knife. Now slice half an onion and pour it into a large pan with the butter and a little oil. Add in the minced vegetables and let them flavour on the fire for about ten minutes. Season with salt. Turn off the flame and cool. Combine the ricotta, Parmesan cheese and the grated nutmeg. When the filling is ready, arrange it in small well-spaced lumps on the strips of pasta. Overlap another strip and then cut horizontally, separating the tortelli. Each tortello must be about 1.5 inch long. Press the edges with your fingers, so your tortelli are not going to open while cooking. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and dip the tortelli, letting them cook for a short time and that is till they come up to the surface. Drain and season with melted butter - that you will have melted without letting it fry - flavoured with sage leaves. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately. Buon appetito! Enjoy your meal!