Tortellini are pasta originally from the Italian region of Emilia (in particular Bologna and Modena). Traditionally they are stuffed with a mix of meat (pork loin, raw prosciutto, mortadella), Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, egg and nutmeg and served in capon broth (in brodo di cappone).[1]

The distinctive shape of tortellini
Alternative namesBelly button
TypePasta, dumplings
Place of originItaly
Region or stateEmilia-Romagna

In the area of origin they are usually sold fresh or home-made. Industrially packaged, dried, refrigerated, or frozen tortellini appear in many locations around the world, especially where there are large Italian communities.


Tortellini in broth

The origin of tortellini is disputed; both Bologna and Modena, cities in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, claim to be its birthplace.[2] traces the etymology of tortellini to the diminutive form of tortello, itself a diminutive of torta ("cake" or "pie" in Italian).[3]

The recipe for a dish called "torteletti" appears in 1570 from Bartolomeo Scappi. Vincenzo Tanara's writings in the mid-17th century may be responsible for the pasta's renaming to tortellini. In the 1800s, legends sprang up to explain the recipe's origins, offering a compromise. Castelfranco Emilia, located between Bologna and Modena,[2] is featured in one legend, in which Venus stays at an inn. Overcome by her beauty, the innkeeper spies on her through a keyhole, through which he can only see her navel. He is inspired to create a pasta in this shape. This legend would be at the origin of the term "ombelico di Venere" (Venus' navel), occasionally used to describe tortellini.[4] In honor of this legend, an annual festival is held in Castelfranco Emilia.[5] Another legend posits that the shape comes from Modena's architecture, which resembles a turtle.[6]

Comparison with tortelloni

Tortelloni is pasta in a similar shape, but larger, typically 5 g, vs. 2 g for tortellini,[7] and with the extremities closed differently. While tortellini have a meat-based filling, tortelloni are filled with ricotta and sometimes with parsley or spinach. Moreover, while tortellini are traditionally cooked in and served with broth, tortelloni are cooked in water, stir-fried (traditionally with butter and sage) and served dry.

Production process

Tortellini being prepared by hand

Production steps

  1. Knead the ground pork, along with the other ingredients, to make the stuffing
  2. Knead the flour and eggs to make the dough
  3. Flatten the dough
  4. Cut the flattened dough into squares
  5. Deposit a portion of stuffing on each square of dough
  6. Shape the tortellino


  • chopping board
  • knife
  • rolling pin
  • Dough Rolling Board


  • mincer
  • kneading machine
  • sheeter
  • Forming machine (tortellini machine)

See also

Industrially-made tortellini, easily recognizable for the extremely regular cut of the dough and the symmetrical closing of the extremities


  1. "Official recipe of the tortellino, as it was registered at the Chamber of Commerce of Bologna in 1974" (PDF). (in Italian). Retrieved 2018-12-31.
  2. Zanini De Vita, Oretta (2009). Encyclopedia of Pasta. University of California Press. pp. 297–299. ISBN 9780520944718.
  3. "The meaning of pasta names". Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  4. The Oxford Companion to Italian Food by Gillian Riley
  5. Poggioli, Sylvia (27 August 2013). "Tortellini, The Dumpling Inspired By Venus' Navel". NPR. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  6. Marsden, Shelley (4 December 2015). "The secret to tortellini, Modena's special pasta". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 13 May 2018. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  7. Barilla US (manufacturer) FAQ
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