Traditional Meat Tortellini Recipe from Bologna

Total time: 1 h 30 min prep /Cook time: 20 min
Difficulty: Medium
Serves: 4 people
By Cookist

The people of Bologna enjoy tortellini, a pasta whose authentic shape is inspired by the goddess Venus’s perfect belly button. To date, the unique pasta is carefully prepared and enjoyed by people of all ages in Bologna. Below, we explore the special recipe as well as the work that goes on behind the scenes preparing tortellini.

Legend says the tortellini is shaped like the belly button because it was inspired by the goddess Venus’s beautiful belly button. Fold the pasta into a triangle and press, then roll the two strips on the tip of your index finger, and voila, you get the tortellini.

Tortellini is ideally filled with meat, cheese, and sometimes vegetables. It is believed to have been born in Castelfranco Emilia, halfway between Bologna and Modena, but the true origin of the dish is still disputed.

Hidden among the hustling and bustling of Bologna’s market is a family-owned shop best known for their delicious tortellini. We spoke to Daniela and Monica who have been making the unique pasta everyday for nearly three decades, earning themselves the nickname, “Le Sfogline” which translates to “little pasta sheets” in Italian.

They advise that care must be taken when preparing tortellini. According to Daniela, the secret is in the eggs as they must be of high quality and used in the right amount (1 egg per cup of flour) at the right time for best results.

The key to making great tortellini starts with the dough. First, make a fontanella, this is essentially making a nest with the flour. Then add approximately 1 egg per cup of white flour. Here, you’ll have to be cautious as too few eggs will make too hard pasta sheets and adding egg after will turn it into a disaster. It is important for the sheet to be soft first so you can add flour later.

Then comes the filling. The filling is made from a specific mix of pork sirloin and loin, two different parts of pork meat. Other important constituents include Mortadella, prosciutto crudo, Parmigiano, eggs, salt, and a pinch of nutmeg. The sirloin should be ground twice, the mortadella once, and prosciutto crudo twice. When the filling is done, the next thing to do is to fold the tortellini into their distinctive belly button shape, ensuring the tortellini is sealed.

Finally, the Le Sfogline advise eating tortellini ‘in brodo’ that is, in a rich broth of your choice as this helps to soften the filling of the pasta making an all-round authentic and filling meal. The children's version of the  dish can be served with cream.

Read ahead for a step-by-step guide on how to make the best tortellini for the upcoming Christmas holiday!

All purpose flour
2 ⅓ cups (300 g)
Medium eggs
3 (195 g)
Pork loin
3.5 oz (100 g)
3.5 oz (100 g)
Italian mortadella
3.5 oz (100 g)
parmiggiano cheese
1 ⅓ cup (150 g)
fine salt to taste
nutmeg to taste


To prepare the tortellini, first take care of the filling, which will need to rest in the refrigerator for 12 hours.
Take the prosciutto and the mortadella, remove the toughest parts, and remove the rind from the prosciutto.

Next, roughly chop everything, including the loin, into chunks of around the same size.

Pass the mixture through the meat grinder on a medium setting and collect the ground meat in a bowl.
Don't put the meat grinder away just yet as you'll need it again later on.

Add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano, a pinch of salt (not too much, as the filling is already very flavorful, and you can always add more later on), and a pinch of pepper to the ground meat.

Start mixing with your hands and add the egg along with the grated nutmeg. Feel free to add plenty of nutmeg, as Bolognese tradition dictates.

Mix until the mixture is smooth.

Pass the mixture back through the meat grinder, this time on a finer setting.

Knead again by hand, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the refrigerator for 12 hours. This allows the flavors and aromas to develop and blend more thoroughly. Once this time has passed, start preparing your egg pasta.

Pour the flour onto a pastry board and create the classic well shape.

Pour in the lightly beaten eggs and start mixing the ingredients with a fork, gradually incorporating the flour from around the edges. Then, knead your dough by hand, working from the outside in.

Continue to knead like this, rotating the dough, until the mixture is consistent

Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Once rested, remove the plastic wrap and place the dough on the pastry board Flatten it with your hands and give it a round shape then roll it out using a long rolling pin until you are left with a very thin sheet, so thin that when you lift it up you can see what’s behind it.

Using a pasta cutter, slice the pasta first into vertical strips and then horizontally to make small squares. The sides of your squares should measure 1 to 1¼ inches (2.5-3 cm) at most.

Place a dollop of filling in the center of each square. Take one, fold it over to form a triangle, and press the edges together lightly.

Now lower the two side edges, bring together with a sort of pinch and turn the tortellino around your finger.

Seal by pinching the two edges of the dough and your first tortellini is ready. Do the same with all the others, arranging them on a tray with a dish towel as they’re ready.


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