Pasta is one of Italy’s gastronomic gems known the world over. Stuffed varieties make up a select group of truly tasty varieties
The huge family of stuffed pasta offers an exciting world of flavours and textures. It comes in many shapes and sizes, from little packages to large parcels which can take the form of squares, leaves, hats or knots. Their fillings are usually cheese, meat, fish or vegetables. Tortellini and ravioli may be the most familiar worldwide but they have an extended family of relatives ripe for the tasting.
Tortellino, the singular of tortellini, is fresh egg-filled pasta that dates back to the Middle Ages (12th century) and is typical in Bologna and Modena. Both cities dispute its origins, though, with each one claiming provenance. Tortelloni are large versions of tortellini most commonly filled with ricotta cheese and spinach. Good ol’ square-shaped Ravioli is originally from the Liguria region, whose capital is Genoa, and is normally filled with ham, fish, meat or cheese.
Special varieties of pasta stand out because of their shapes or the region they’re typically associated with. Panzerotti, for example, are half-moon shaped and preferably filled with cheese while Capelletti resemble little hats and are stuffed with delicious ricotta. Regional pasta dishes include Agnolotti, typical in Piedmont. They are also half-moon shaped but are folded into square-off parcels and filled with stewed or roasted meat.
Each variety has its own typical filling. Although some have made it into the mainstream, others are less common on menus worldwide yet typical in Italy. Combinations include ricotta and walnut, ham and cheese, spinach and white sauce, four-cheese, chicken and chard and brains and spinach.
An important accompaniment to stuffed pasta dishes is the sauce, of course. The most common being; Piamontesa, made with butter, sage and parmesan; Filetto, with tomato, garlic, onion and spices; Bolognese or ragù, with minced meat, tomato and spices; Putanesca, with olive oil, anchovies, capers, olives, tomato, garlic and parsley; Pesto Genovese, with basil, garlic, oil, pine nuts or walnuts and grated cheese; Salsa Blanca, a béchamel sauce with grated cheese; or Cuatro Quesos, a white sauce with a hint of nutmeg and the four cheeses of your choice.