Christmas dinner in Italy is, as it is here, a gluttonous feast. There is always way to much food, there is eating and drinking that takes place throughout the day. In Italy, there are multiple courses, even multiple pasta courses as well as enough sweets to put you into a diabetic coma just from the thought of them. But it all starts with something light and innocent. It's like a trap, making you think that this is how the entire meal will be. A bowl of light broth with five little tiny and exquisite tortellini. For me, it's the best part of the whole meal. Probably because I am not yet so stuffed that I can't even enjoy it. Yes, tortellini in brodo is a must at every Italian Christmas dinner. Even if a bowl of soup before the cannollini and lasagna is a bit superfluous, God help the family that tries to leave it out. It's like leaving the turkey off the Thanksgiving menu here in the United States.
Now, any self respecting Italian woman (or Italian woman wannabe) makes the ravioli from scratch. The good women of Bologna can crank out up to 6000 of these beauties in an hour. Those fingers are flying. If you are so bold and pasta making is your thing, I have included the recipe for the homemade variety. Otherwise, I suggest ordering them from Venda Ravioli on Federal Hill in Providence. They make a meat filled variety that combines all of the necessary ingredients: beef, pork, prosciutto, mortadella, Parmesan and nutmeg (this is what puts them over the top). Once you have the tortellini (homemade or otherwise - your secret is safe with me), the broth is simple and quick.
TORTELLINI IN BRODO
Pasta Sheets (you can get these from a pasta place and it will save you a lot of time)
2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
3 ounces (85g) ground pork
3 ounces (85g) ground chicken
1 strip (25g) bacon, diced
2 ounces (50g) salami
¼ cup (45g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Generous pinch of nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
Broth 1 quart beef or chicken stock, Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Tortellini alla Bolognese - Filling
Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat.
Add the pork, turkey and bacon, and saute until cooked through, breaking up the meat with a fork or a potato masher. Transfer the meat to a food processor, and add the salami. Pulse until finely ground, but not pureed. Transfer to a bowl and add the cheese, nutmeg and egg. Season with salt and pepper.
Making the tortellini
Taking a 1¾ inch cutter, or a small glass, cut the sheet into circles.
Place approximately ½ teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle, and brush a little of the beaten egg around the outer edge of half of the circle.
Fold the circle in half, and pinch the edges closed. Then take the corners on the bottom of the semi-circle, and pinch them together. Place the tortellini on a floured sheet pan when completed.
Heat the meat stock in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.
Drop in the tortellini and cook a minute or two. Check one for doneness by tasting. They should be tender, but still have some ‘bite’, al dente. When done, ladle into small bowls and serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on the side.
So maybe you can't imagine adding this to your already burdened holiday feast. But it sure would make a perfect Boxing Day lunch with leftover rolls and a salad. So light that you can finish it off with that leftover apple pie you were too full to eat on Christmas.
I'll be back next week with more holiday entertaining tips - until then.... keep shopping, keep baking, keep reveling - 'tis the season my friends.