Pumpkin tortelli

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PRESENTATION

It wouldn’t be fall or winter without the aroma of cooked pumpkin wafting through Mantua, as it’s the main ingredient in the city’s standout dish, pumpkin tortelli. And it’s thanks to the cuisine of the Gonzaga – the noble family who ruled the city for over 400 years – that, like a pioneer of modern Slow Food movement, the humble products of the Lombard region have been taken to another level. Such as these pumpkin tortelli, for example, the recipe for which has been codified since the Renaissance age and strongly bears the mark of the tastes of the time: sweet and sour and rich, with sumptuous and charmingly old-fashioned ingredients such as amaretti cookies and Mantuan pear mustard, which give the typical sweet flavor to the filling encased in an egg pasta parcel. Today, pumpkin tortelli are a typical Christmas dish, traditionally eaten on December 24th. However, we’re sure that once you’ve tried them, you’ll want to repeat the experience throughout the entire cold-weather season by organizing delicious dinners with your loved ones, maybe for Halloween even, to go with the holiday’s jack o’lanterns, where you’ll savor an unforgettable first-course dish that will make you feel like you’re in a princely court.

INGREDIENTS

Ingredients for the fresh pasta (for 40 tortelli)
Flour 00 1 ¾ cup (200 g)
Eggs 3 ⅔ oz (104 g) - (at room temperature)
For the filling
Mantuan pumpkin 1 lb (500 g)
Amaretti cookies ⅓ lb (160 g)
Mantuan mustard 6 oz (170 g)
Grana Padano DOP cheese ½ cup (65 g)
Eggs 1 ¾ oz (52 g)
Nutmeg to taste - (grated)
Fine salt to taste
Preparation

How to prepare Pumpkin tortelli

To make the pumpkin tortelli, start with the filling, which must rest in the fridge at least overnight, although 24 hours is preferable, in order for the flavors to blend together. Take the pumpkin and cut it into segments 1 to remove the seeds and inner strands more easily 2. Then cut the segments into slices 3

and place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper 4: Bake in a conventional oven preheated to 425°F (220°C) for around 20 minutes (390°F (200°C) for around 10 minutes in a convection oven). Check on the pumpkin every now and then, pricking the flesh with the prongs of a fork: It should be soft but not burnt. While the pumpkin is cooking, place the amaretti cookies in a bowl and crumble them using your hands (5-6).

 

Chop up the Mantuan pear mustard (or quince) 7 using a knife. You can also use a meat grinder if you’d like, for a finer result. Once the pumpkin is cooked, leave it to cool in the oven, switched off, so that it dries out and loses as much liquid as possible. Next, remove the cooked flesh using a melon baller or spoon 8, and pass it through a potato ricer 9 into a bowl.

Then add the chopped pear mustard 10 and crumbled cookies 11 to the pumpkin, stirring with a spatula 12,

and pour in the grated cheese as well 13. Stir well to combine and add the egg 14. Once the egg has been completely absorbed into the filling, season with salt and nutmeg to taste 15. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to rest overnight or, even better, for 24 hours.

The next day, make the fresh pasta: Sift the flour into a very large bowl or onto a pastry board. Next, quickly beat the room-temperature eggs with a fork 16 and add them to the flour. Combine the ingredients with your hands until you get a soft, non-sticky dough 17. If it’s still sticky (this can depend on how well the flour used absorbs the eggs), add a little more flour without going overboard; if, on the other hand, the dough is too dry, you can moisten it by adding a little room-temperature water. It’s also good to be sure to use the quantity of eggs stated so that you get the perfect consistency for your egg pasta. Shape the dough into a ball 18 and wrap in plastic wrap.

Leave it to rest at room temperature in a cool place for at least 30 minutes. After this time, take the dough and divide it into at least two parts 19 (as you work, leave the rest of the dough still to be worked covered with plastic wrap). Using a pasta roller or rolling pin, roll out each piece of dough until you get rectangles about the thickness of a dime (1 mm) (20-21).

Lay the rolled-out pasta sheet onto a lightly floured work surface and cut it using a pasta cutter wheel to form a strip 3½ inches (9 cm) long. Place dollops of filling (approx. ½ oz (15 g) each) along the top half of the entire strip 22, leaving a little less than half an inch (1 cm) from the edge and spacing the dollops around ¾ inch (2 cm) away from each other. Fold the pasta strip up to cover the filling (23-24): If the pasta is a little dry, you can brush it lightly with a bit of water.

Press down in the spaces between the dollops of filling to make the two sides of the pasta sheet 25 stick together, and then create the tortelli using a fluted pasta cutter wheel 26: The shape and sizes of the tortelli may vary depending on taste and tradition. We made rectangles measuring 1¾ inches x 2? inches (4.5 x 6 cm). As you make the tortelli, place them on a tray covered with lightly floured paper towel or dry dishcloth 27. Repeat these steps until you’ve run out of pasta and filling: You’ll get around 40 tortelli, ready to be cooked and dressed with the condiment of your choice!

Storage

The pumpkin tortelli can be frozen, uncooked, on a tray and then, once hardened, transferred to a freezer bag. In this case, when you go to cook them, you can cook them from frozen, a few at a time to keep the water temperature from going too low.

Tips

If you prefer a slightly less sweet filling, you can use a more mature cheese to be grated for the filling, or else season with more salt. You can dress your pumpkin tortelli with butter and sage, a classic condiment that will bring out the flavor of the filling. If you prefer a stronger flavor, you can try your pumpkin tortelli with a salamella sausage ragù or tomato sauce (as long as they’re very light, otherwise you risk throwing off the flavor). If you’re a fan of single-course meals, pair your tortelli with cooked seasonal vegetables.

Interesting fact

It’s thought that the origins of pumpkin tortelli go back to the Renaissance and that they were created after the European conquest of America thanks to the arrival of large amounts of pumpkin, the main ingredient in these tortelli. Unlike what happened with the majority of the recipes from that period, pumpkin tortelli were not included in Pellegrino Artusi’s famous cookbook written in 1891, La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene (“Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well”), because the father of Italian cuisine didn’t consider pumpkin a food worthy of the tables of the emerging middle class. Today, pumpkin tortelli are an Italian delicacy, to be savored during the Christmas holidays in particular.