Pumpkin “tortelli,” a type of raviolo, is one of the most traditional of dishes of the Italian city of Mantua (Mantova in Italian), and one of the most well-known throughout all of Italy, in part because of its association with the Christmas season: “tortelli alla mantovana” have long been part of Christmas Eve dinner. It is also an intriguing dish from a flavor standpoint: a mix of the sweetness of the gourd with the spiciness of the Mantovan “mostarda,” a type of mustardy fruit preserve that has little resemblance to anything we would call mustard. The result? A delicious mix of sweet and tangy, traditionally topped with a simple butter and cheese sauce.
Tortelli alla Mantovana, or Pumpkin Ravioli
Prep time: 120 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Cook method: Boil
For the filling:
600 gr (1 1/3 lb) pumpkin puree (preferably fresh, not canned)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
100 gr grated grana padano cheese (3.5 oz), or parmesan
100 gr amaretti cookies (3.5 oz)
100 gr mostarda mantovana (3.5 oz)*
*Don’t know how to make “mostarda mantovana”? See below!
For the pasta:
400 gr (14 oz) flour
large pinch of salt
To dress the pasta:
200 gr (7 oz) butter
grana padano to taste
fresh sage leaves (optional)
1. Prepare the pumpkin. Bake in an oven until soft, open and remove the seeds and skin, and pass through a food mill to puree it.
2. Finely chop the “mostarda di mantova” and add it to the puree.
3. Pulverize the amaretti cookies in a food processor (or by hand), add with the grana padano to the filling with the nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.
4. Mix thoroughly and let rest for at least 30 minutes, but preferably for several hours (or overnight).
5. Make the dough by putting the flour on a table or board. Make a well, and add the egg. Beat the egg in the well with a pinch of salt, and slowly start incorporating the flour. When fully incorporated, knead by hand to the desired consistency (smooth and supple).
6. Roll a long rectangular sheet, about 10 cm wide, and place small spoonfuls (about 2 cm in diameter) of the filling at even intervals along one side of the rectangle.
7. Lightly wet the pasta around each bit of filling with a pastry brush, then fold the pasta over, sealing between the filling and on the edges, and cut with a knife or pasta cutter into even squares. (Or, if you prefer, you can fold the squares over to make a triangle and then pinch the edges together – both are authentic shapes for tortelli alla mantovana!) Let rest on a lightly floured surface until ready to cook.
9. In the meantime, melt the butter in a large skillet, add a bit of the pasta water and a few fresh sage leaves (optional) to make a classic “Alfredo” sauce, and add the ravioli. Sprinkle with grana padano and serve!
You can learn to make this and other delicious recipes on a cooking vacation in Italy. Peruse all our offerings on our website, and call us with questions!
A note on Mostarda:
Mostarda is a quintessentially Italian condiment nothing like its French cousin! Mostarda di mantova is a key ingredient in the recipe for Tortelli alla Mantovana, or pumpkin ravioli. This sweet-spicy fruit sauce dates back almost 2000 years and was used to preserve the fruit for the winter. You can use apples or pears, although here we call for apples, of any variety as long as they have a firm flesh and tend to the sour.
- Peel, core, and pare the apples, and chop finely to make 1 KG.
- Mix with 1/2 KG sugar, let sit for 24 hours.
- Drain the juice, and reduce it on high heat until thickened (up to an hour), then add to the fruit.
- Let rest for 24 hours again, and then repeat the same process.
- Let rest one more day, then boil the fruit and juice together for 10 minutes.
- Let cool, then add mustard essence (14-20 drops per kg of fruit). If you can’t find mustard essence (not readily available in the US), mix 50 grams (3 1/2 T) of mustard powder with a bit of heated white wine and cook to reduce by 1/3 (this is enough for 1 kg of fruit).
By Peg Kern
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