An entrée of handmade pasta filled with pumpkin that’s traditionally served on Christmas Eve in Italy, brought to you straight from the Embassy Chef’s hometown.
“With the arrival of fall and winter, the aroma of cooked pumpkin, the principle ingredient in this recipe, can be found everywhere in my hometown, Mantua. Tortelli di Zucca dates back to the Renaissance, when pumpkins first arrived in Italy: their first mention is from a recipe book of a Ferrase cook in 1544. Today, Tortelli di Zucca are traditionally served as an entrée on Christmas Eve.”
– ROBERTO GRAZIOLI, CHEF OF THE EMBASSY OF ITALY
🇮🇹 Italy: Tortelli di Zucca alla Mantovana
- 2 Cups Roasted Kabocha squash or pumpkin puree
- 1 ½ Cups Amaretti cookies crumbled
- 1 Large egg
- Nutmeg To Taste
- Salt To Taste
- Quince preserves (Optional)
- 1 ¾ Cups All-purpose flour
- 2 Large eggs Beaten at room temperature
- Preheat oven at 425° F
- Divide the squash in slices to make it easier to remove the seeds and strings inside. Place the cleaned slices on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, and bake for 20 minutes. Check the squash with a fork—it should be soft. Once it is soft, turn off the oven and let it cool in the oven to dry up as much as possible.
- While the squash cools, crush the Amaretti cookies with your hands into a large bowl.
- When the squash has cooled down, peel the skin and use a potato ricer to puree it into the bowl (or mash with a fork) with the previously crushed cookies. Add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano, egg, nutmeg, and salt to the pumpkin and cookie mixture (and the optional quince preserves),and mix well with a spatula. Once you have a homogeneous mixture, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it in the refrigerator to rest overnight, or even 24 hours.
- Sift the all-purpose flour onto a little mound onto your working area or bowl.
- Make a well in the middle of the mound and place your beaten eggs. (Eggs should be at room temperature).
- Mix the ingredients by hand until you have a dough that is soft and not sticky. If the dough is sticky, you may have to add a little flour.
- Roll the dough into a ball, wrap it with plastic wrap and let it rest in a cool place for about 30 minutes.
- Once the dough is rested, divide it in four pieces. Take one piece at a time (keeping the rest of the dough wrapped) and use a rolling pin or a pasta machine to make large thin rectangles about 1 mm thick, 4 inches wide, and as long as the machine will allow you to make, keeping the desired thickness.
- Place the rolled-out dough on a lightly floured surface and square off the edges with a pastry cutter. The rectangle should now be about 3 ½ inches wide.
- Using a teaspoon, place the filling on the upper part of the pasta strip, leaving about a half an inch from the edge of the pasta and about 1 inch from each other.
- Brush the edge of the pasta with a little bit of water and then fold the strip of pasta to cover the filling. Press the spaces between the filling to remove any air and to prevent the dough from separating. Then cut with a pastry cutter. These can be made rectangular, circular, or semi-circular with the help of a cookie cutter. As you make them, place them on a lightly floured surface or a piece of parchment paper.
- Repeat with the other pieces of dough until you finish the pasta and filling.
Cooking The Pasta
- Fill a pot of water and place to boil.
- While waiting for it to boil, place some butter in a frying pan and add some fresh sage leaves. Once the leaves start to crisp, remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
- When the water is boiling, salt it, then place a few tortelli in the water at a time, they will rise to the top once they are cooked, this should take 4-5 minutes depending on the size and amount of filling. If they do not rise, take one out and taste it to make sure it’s cooked.
- With a slotted spoon, remove the tortelli from the water and place them in the butter and sage mixture. Stir them lightly to make sure they are fully coated in butter then plate them and dust them with grated Parmigiano Reggiano.