Tortelli mugellani are a type of filled pasta typical of Mugello, a mountainous area near Florence, bordering Emilia Romagna. They are one of the most representative recipes of the cuisine, which is Tuscan, based on poor ingredients, but influenced by the nearby region, Emilia Romagna. Women in Mugello know how to roll out the dough as they do in Romagna, but the filling changes, adapting to the poverty of the region: potatoes instead of meat, seasoned in a myriad of different ways depending on the area, the family, the tradition.
It’s pointless to ask a local for the “authentic” recipe, as it is always a well-kept family secret.
We know what the basic ingredient is—boiled potatoes—but then there are those who add garlic or leeks, others who use parsley, and still others who swear they need a teaspoon of tomato paste or a spoonful of meat sauce. Then, you must not forget the cheese, some grated Parmigiano Reggiano—or is it pecorino? In Palazzuolo sul Senio, a town situated right on the border, there are those who even add ricotta to the filling, reflecting an even stronger influence of Romagna.
The following is the recipe I’ve been making for years, tweaking the ingredients from time to time but keeping it as simple as possible, respecting the true nature of a recipe that belongs to the local cucina povera.
Serve them with your sauce of choice. Tortelli are traditionally dressed with a robust meat sauce—a classic ragù, but sometimes also stewed wild boar or duck—but at the sagre, the local food festivals usually held in parking lots or sports centers, you will also find brown butter and sage, basil pesto, or tomato sauce as options.
These tortelli freeze well. Arrange them on a tray in one layer to freeze, and then, once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag. Cook just out of the freezer in boiling water.
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 batch fresh pasta dough
- Semolina flour, for dusting
- 1 pound yellow potatoes
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pasta sauce of choice, for serving
Make your fresh pasta dough and let it rest for 30 minutes. Dust a large platter with semolina flour.
Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and steam them until you can effortlessly pierce through to their centers with a knife. Let the potatoes cool until you can comfortably handle them, then mash them and transfer to a bowl. Add the garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper and mix well. Set aside.
After the resting time, roll out the dough into long, thin sheets, working in batches as needed. You can use a classic rolling pin on a flat working surface or a pasta machine. Either way, the most important thing is to keep rolling and flipping and rolling and flipping until the dough is paper-thin.
Cut each sheet of pasta in half. On one half, drop teaspoonfuls of the potato filling at regular distances from one another, about 1 inch apart. Cover with the other half-sheet, and use your fingers to press the edges around all the fillings firmly so they are well sealed. Repeat with the remaining sheets of pasta and filling.
Use a square cutter with grooved edges, or a sharp knife, to cut the filled pasta sheets into squares, forming your tortelli. Arrange them on the semolina-dusted platter, making sure they do not touch and do not stick to the plate.
Bring a large, shallow pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and cook the tortelli in batches, depending on the size of the pot. They cook in just a few minutes; they’re ready when they float to the surface. Gently scoop them out and drain, then arrange in a large, high-sided platter.
Serve with the sauce of your choice. They are lovely with meat ragù or a dense game meat sauce.