This is a traditional recipe from the small towns that surround the city of Parma. Tortelli d'erbetta features delicate bites of fresh pasta, filled with ricotta and whatever greens you happen to have on hand. The joke about tortelli d'erbetta is that every town has a slightly different filling, and locals will order this dish at a restaurant just so that they can decry "my version is better!"
All versions will have a ricotta filling, and then some combination of cooked greens and fresh herbs. My version of this recipe included chard, fresh marjoram, finely grated parmigiano cheese and fresh lemon juice. The ricotta is creamy, the lemon is bright and acidic, the marjoram is sharply herbal, and the parmigiano gives everything a savory depth.
Feel free to experiment with other ingredients - you can try fresh oregano or basil instead of the marjoram, and beet greens or turnip tops or kale instead of the chard. —Josh Cohen
Test Kitchen Notes
Our test kitchen chef, Josh, speaks fondly of his time in Italy’s Northern region where he learned how to cook. These tortelli are a secret he transported back with him.
Everyone claims theirs are better—they’ll sub in a different herb, fiddle with the proportions of stuffing. Among the towns surrounding Parma, each offers a slightly altered interpretation.
Josh stresses the beauty and importance of making one’s own pasta dough. I watch as he threads a sheet of it through a machine, and then again, then another time. The dough, colored like a pale egg yolk, emerges thinner and smoother, with softer edges. When he’s ready, he squeezes out puffs of moussey, green flecked ricotta from a pastry bag. They form a horizontal line, like small organized bushels, across the freshly rolled pasta. With a careful hand he folds the dough in half, coaxes out any air pockets, and cuts the pasta into individual pillows. Now, they resemble ravioli.
In a move comparable only to origami, he folds each ravioli into a "U" shape and clinches both ends together. They look like small, sculptural flowers. Then Josh drops them into gently boiling water before laying them to rest in a butter and pasta water emulsion and plating them with heaps of finely grated cheese and a dusting of bright and flowery black pepper. —Valerio Farris
- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cook time 5 minutes
- Serves 2 to 4 people
- Fresh Pasta Dough
3 1/2 cups
- Tortelli D'erbetta and Assembly
unsalted butter, divided
chard, leaves washed and stems discarded (or set aside stems for another use)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
finely grated Parmigiano, plus more for serving
finely chopped marjoram leaves
Fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
ball fresh pasta dough
- Fresh Pasta Dough
- To learn about making fresh pasta, read this article... https://food52.com/blog/15912-how-to-make-fresh-pasta-dough-like-a-chef
- Tortelli D'erbetta and Assembly
- Set a large skillet over medium heat and melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. When it begins to sizzle, cook the chard, stirring occasionally, until it just begins to wilt down. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat. Transfer the cooked chard to a plate and let cool slightly.
- Squeeze any excess liquid out of the chard. Discard the excess liquid. Transfer the chard to a cutting board and finely chop.
- Transfer the finely chopped chard to a large bowl. Add the ricotta, Parmigiano, marjoram, and lemon juice. Add a pinch of salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Mix with a rubber spatula and taste. Adjust with more salt, pepper, Parmigiano, or lemon juice as necessary. Everybody is different, so adjust the quantities until you are happy with the taste. Transfer the filling to a pastry bag.
- Roll out your pasta dough. You will likely need to work in batches. Every pasta machine is different, so here is my advice: Do not roll it out to the absolute thinnest setting, but the "almost thinnest" setting. Make sure the surface you're working on is lightly coated in bench flour. You don't want to make perfect tortelli and then have them stick to the table and rip.
- When you have a sheet of thin, rolled out dough in front of you, use the pastry bag to dollop the filling. The dollops should be equivalent to about 1 tablespoon of filling. The dollops should be spread about 1 inch apart. And most importantly of all, do not put the dollop in the exact center of the dough. Looking at the dough, it will be a rectangle that is very long and about 6 inches in width; your dollop should be near the bottom of the dough, when considering the dough width-wise. The top half of the dough should be empty.
- Fold the top half of the dough over the dollops, covering the bottom half of the dough. Cup your hands around the filling to press the dough together and squeeze out any pockets of air. Use a pasta cutter to cut a rectangular shape around each dollop of filling (there will be some dough scraps; discard them). You should now have something that looks like a ravioli. To form the tortelli, you will keep three sides of the "ravioli" untouched. The fourth side, you will create a U shape by pressing inward with your index finger. Next, take the two corners at the top of the U shape, and bring them together, pinching them together so that the dough fuses tight. You should have something that looks like a tortelli. You can place the tortelli on a parchment-lined sheet tray and freeze them (after one day in the freezer, you can transfer them from the sheet try to a plastic bag). Or, you can cook them immediately.
- Set a large pot of water on high heat. When the water is boiling, add enough salt so that the pasta water tastes like the ocean. Set a large skillet over low heat. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Boil the tortelli for 2 or 3 minutes. If they have been previously frozen, add another couple of minutes. You should consider cooking the tortelli in batches; they are delicate, and overcrowding the pot might result in a lot of burst tortelli. When the tortelli are nearly cooked, add ¼ cup of the pasta water to the skillet with the butter. Increase the heat under the skillet to medium-high, and swirl the pasta water with the butter. Delicately transfer the tortelli from the pot of water to the skillet. Gently swirl the tortelli around in the butter sauce. The sauce should look creamy and emulsified. Serve the tortelli on a plate with a drizzle of sauce, and garnish with finely grated Parmigiano and black pepper. Enjoy.