Pumpkin Tortelli; recipe from Mantova.
Seasoned with butter and sage and made with amaretti bicuits in the filling, these traditional pumpkin tortelli are a divine historical stuffed pasta from Mantova in Northern Italy.
Tortelli di Zucca.
Pumpkin tortelli actually date back to the Renaissance, when pumpkins first arrived in Italy from Central America. Rich stuffed pastas were very popular among the ruling classes and nobility at the time. In fact, the first written mention of pumpkin tortelli was in 1544 by Cristoforo Messisbugo, a Ferrarese cook who worked for the ruling Gonzaga family in Mantova. He refers to them in his recipe book as ‘turtell’ or ‘riturtell’.
A traditional Christmas dish.
However, pumpkin tortelli also became popular with the peasant population because pumpkins were actually considered humble food and these stuffed pasta dishes were a nutritious way to use up leftover pasta. Eventually pumpkin tortelli became a traditional Christmas Eve dish in the towns and areas where it is most eaten.
This is probably because these tortelli are made without meat and, as I have mentioned in other recipe posts, Christmas Eve is a religious day of fasting and abstinence in many Italian homes. Italians call these days giorni di magro (meaning lean days) and the dishes themselves ‘piatti di magro’ (meaning lean plates).
Different versions of pumpkin tortelli
Slightly different versions of pumpkin tortelli are made in many towns and provinces in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. In some places, they also serve them with tomato sauce. However, this recipe is based on what many feel is the most famous type of pumpkin tortelli, that from Mantova.
This version of Pumpkin tortelli
Having said that I should mention that one traditional ingredient is missing from my recipe. I mean I didn’t use it. Instead I added a little lemon zest. This is because I didn’t have any and it’s not so easy to come by outside of Northern Italy. I’m talking about Mantovana Mostarda, a local condiment made with quince and mustard essence that is often eaten with cheese or boiled meats.
Even if made without the mostarda, this dish is absolutely divine. The pasta is quite simple to make and the filling contains roasted pumpkin, eggs, crushed amaretti, grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano. a little lemon zest and nutmeg. However, for best results, it’s traditional to make the filling the day before and leave it in the fridge for 24 hours or at least overnight.
Can be frozen
Once made, pumpkin tortelli can be frozen uncooked. Spread them on a try in the freezer first and once they are frozen, you can transfer them to a freezer bag. You can cook them from frozen. But, better a few at a time, otherwise the water temperature will drop.
This is a great recipe for a festive menu during the upcoming holidays. In Italy, it would be served as a primo (first course) before the main course. Why not add an Italian touch to your holiday menu and include this divine dish.
If you make this pumpkin tortelli recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.
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These divine tortelli from Mantova in Northern Italy are filled with roasted pumpkin, crushed amaretti biscuits, eggs, cheese and nutmeg. They are traditionally served on Christmas Eve dressed in a sage butter but would make a delicious addition to any festive menu.
- 400 g Italian '00' flour (14oz) You can also use all purpose flour to make pasta)
- 4 eggs
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 kg pumpkin
- 2 eggs
- 100 g Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano (3.5 oz) grated
- 100 g Amaretti biscuits (3.5 oz) crushed
- 1 lemon for zest
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg freshly grated
- salt to taste
- 3 tbsp Mostarda Mantovana optional but leave out lemon zest if you use mostarda
- 100 g butter
- 6-8 sage leaves
- grana or parmigiano as required
Grind the amaretti biscuits in a food processor or crumble them finely using your hands. If using, chop the mostarda as finely as possible.
Cut the pumpkin into large pieces, remove the seeds and cook it in the oven at 200° for about 20 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of your pumpkin pieces and your oven. You need it to be soft and slightly browned on the outside.
You can also steam the pumpkin but the original method is ‘baked’and the taste will be slightly less sweet. Remove the peel from the baked pumpkin pieces and place the pulp in a bowl, puree it with a fork or hand held blender. It needs to be a little rough, not too smooth.
Add the grated cheese, the crumbled amaretti, the chopped mostarda (if you have it), the eggs, a little grated nutmeg, the zest of one lemon and a little salt. Mix the ingredients well until you have a homogeneous mixture. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 24 hours or overnight in the fridge or a cool place.
Sift the flour into a little mound on a pastry board, make a well in the middle, then add in the eggs. (you can do this first part in a bowl or stand mixer. Then turn the dough out onto a pastry board and finish kneading by hand)
Mix and knead the ingredients by hand until you obtain a soft and non-sticky mixture. If it is too sticky (it may depend on the degree of absorption of the flour) add a little more flour. If, on the other hand, the dough is dry, you can moisten it by adding a little water at room temperature.
However, it’s advisable to respect the egg to flour ratio to obtain a perfect egg pasta.
Roll the dough into a ball and wrap it in transparent film. Let it rest at room temperature in a cool place for at least 30 minutes. Then take the dough and divide it into about 4 parts (as you work it, leave the rest covered with cling film so it won’t dry out). Use a rolling pin or pasta machine to make rectangles that are about 1 mm thick.
Place the ready rolled out dough rectangle on a lightly floured work surface, cut it with a pastry cutter to make a strip about 9-10 cm wide. Place some teaspoons of filling along the upper part of the strip (leaving at least 1 cm from the edge) and 2-3 centimeters from each other. Fold the strip of fresh pasta over to cover the filling. If the dough is a bit 'dry, you can brush it slightly with a little water.
Press between the spaces of the small pieces of filling to remove any air and prevent the dough from separating. Then cut out the tortelli with a serrated pastry wheel. The shape and size of the tortelli can vary according to taste and traditions. I made them rectangular and I also made some semi-circular by using a round pastry cutter!
Repeat with the other pieces of dough. As you make the tortelli, place them on a tray lined with lightly floured dry paper or kitchen cloth. Continue until you finish the fresh pasta and the stuffing.
Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring to the boil again.
While the water is boiling, melt the butter in a small frying pan or skillet. Add the sage leaves and cook until they start to crisp. Remove from the heat.
Cook the tortelli in the boiling water until they rise to the surface. Should be about 4-5 minutes depending on the size and amount of filling. (remove and try one if they don't seem to rise.
Remove the tortelli from the water with a slotted spoon and add to the pan with the sage butter. Mix a little so the tortelli are coated in the butter and then plate with a sprinkling of grated cheese. Serve immediately.
If you use the Mostarda Mantovana, you can leave out the lemon zest. Recipe times don't include leaving the filling in the fridge overnight.
Pumpkin tortelli can be frozen uncooked. Spread them on a tray in the freezer first and once they are frozen, you can transfer them to a freezer bag. You can cook them from frozen. But, better a few at a time, otherwise the water temperature will drop.