Food Porn – Renaissance Style


Either Lucrezia or her daugher-in-law.

Tortellini are intended to resemble a human belly button, more specifically the belly button of a beautiful woman (of course), and more specifically still (according to some) the belly button of Lucrezia Borgia, the daughter of Pope Alexander VI. Lucrezia was an interesting character. She was so successfully framed and demonized by enemies of the pope and Machiavellian politics that she is still remembered today as a mass murderer with a hollow ring that contained poison for dumping in the cup of an unfavoured guest. More than likely she lacked the spirit to cuff a puppy, but whatever else she was, Lucrezia was said to be extraordinarily beautiful. The story goes that an innkeeper was so struck by her when she passed through his establishment that he risked papal wrath by peeping through her keyhole at night. Lucrezia happened to be naked, but as she was standing near the door at the time all the peeping tom received was a glimpse of her navel, which was still so unbelievably gorgeous that he immediately went downstairs and invented tortellini to commemorate the show.

Anyhow. Making tortellini is a double discipline, because you have to master both the filling and the pasta. I’m going to cop out here and completely circumvent both requirements, refusing to describe my filling in detail and totally avoiding yet another description of pasta technique. This is not to say I can’t make pasta. I can. I just wouldn’t serve it to an Italian grandmother, and because I esteem you little less, I will not foist my recipe upon you.

The filling is up to you. I have no secrets. The filling I made today involved veal, pork, Parmesan, nutmeg, and one egg, which is fairly traditional for a meat-based tortellini. But go nuts. I’m keen to make butternut squash tortellini next.

torts 006

The pasta? Making tortellini is a snap when using wonton wrappers from the local supermarket. They’re a little too large, so chop them down to about 2-inch square size.

torts 013-1After that, the only serious rule is not to use too much filling. Err on the side of more pasta, and you will find it much easier. You can always add more as your skills improve.

Start with a 2-inch square of wonton wrapper. Wet down two adjacent edges with a little water.

Add a dab of filling in the centre.

Fold the un-wetted edges up to make a triangle. Squish them down firmly. Here, if you’ve added too much filling, you will immediately realise your error. Better luck on the next one.

Fold the top of the triangle away from you.

Wet the edges of the two remaining points, and fold them towards you to make a ring. If you turn it over, you will see what that innkeeper was so hot and bothered about.

Toss them in a pot of boiling water, and four minutes later – mangia!

I'd know that belly button anywhere...

I'd know that belly button anywhere...

9 comments to Food Porn – Renaissance Style

  • War Pig

    Intriguing. I like tortellini. I use a sausage, cheese, grated onion and bread crumb mix for the filling most times. Maybe add an egg. I will vary the sausage from regular to Italian to hot sausage and the cheese from mozzarella to Parmesan to Romano to muenster.Anything which melts well.

    The only problem with tortellini is that you have to make a bunch, and of course I can eat a bunch, too.

    What sauce do you favor with them? I like a garlic Alfredo or just garlic butter with a little salt and pepper. I will also mix tortellini with cornbread dressing and pour turkey or chicken gravy over all.

  • I know this peach double-jello-mold recipe, intended to resemble… um. Never mind.

    Dan, you make this dish look attainable. I may try to attain.

  • @ Chris – and there’s always that cake named after a certain Harry Potter…

    @ War Pig – actually I serve them on their own. I think it’s traditional to serve them in chicken broth but garlic butter sounds like a good idea.

  • War Pig

    Yeah, garlic goes well with most savory foods.

    I use chicken broth when I make cornbread dressing, then add the gravy as well.

    I always found tortellini by themselves tasty, but lacking in some way or another I can’t define.

    @Christopher: Heheh-hehe-hehehe (laughs like Beavis).

  • War Pig

    I finally got the Vietnamese mint from my friend’s wife. Enough for three small batches so I made the Vietnamese mint pesto. I made it three ways.

    1) I used an equal weight of canned chick peas instead of the raw peanuts because I have a problem with raw peanuts. Still came out great.

    2) Then I used boiled peanuts and it was even better. I thought boiled would be better than oil roasted.

    3) I also tried the pine nuts and you’re right, they made it taste Italian not Asian.

    I then added a quarter teaspoon of ground red pepper flakes to the first two batches and I think it improved them, but that could just be me.

    Since there wasn’t very much of each, I spread each batch on 2 pieces of homemade garlic toast and GF and I shared them, each tasting one, with Sangria, with pears and thin slices of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on the side. They made an absolutely marvelous light picnic lunch, which we ate at the lake.

    I thank you for the recipe.

  • Lovely image, tapas by the lake. I’m going to make more pesto today (damn stuff just won’t stop growing) and I’ll try adding a little chilli heat. I like to eat it with Chinese egg noodles, so that might work well. Maybe some Sichuan pepper… hmmm…

  • War Pig

    Or you could try banana peppers. They go good with Chinese noodles and aren’t as warm as grinding down red pepper flakes. Put some in a food processor and chop them fine. Or a little horseradish or ginger grated in.

    I like to add some heat to most dishes. I am a devoted capsaicin and horseradish devotee, although I avoid peppers much hotter than habaneros or birds eyes these days.

    A staple of Asian food I love is chili oil.

  • I made a huge batch yesterday (no food processor so all in the mortar and pestle) and I threw in two bird eye chillies. It really added to the flavour, so thanks for the tip. That’s how I’ll do it from now on.

    I’ve just started exploring Sichuan food so chilli oil will no doubt become a staple. Previously I haven’t found too many uses for it.

  • War Pig

    Glad you liked it. Chili oil has a different heat, an entirely different taste and different mouth-feel from Tabasco. That’s why I usually use Tabasco as a condiment and chili oil as an ingredient.

    General Tso’s chicken, when made correctly, is more than a little bit hotter than what they serve in most Chinese restaurants in the US or Canada.