There are many types of pasta ripiena [stuffed pasta] served in Italy. I ravioli are probably the most well-known variety, but they are no less magnificent than tortelloni, tortellini, tortelli, cappelletti, agnolini, agnolotti…
Tortelloni [tor-tel-LO-ni], tortellini [tor-tel-LI-ni], and tortelli [tor-TEL-li] might look like similar words, but they each refer to specific types of pasta ripiena. Building from the root word torta, which means cake or filled dough, and the diminutive suffix -elli, tortelli essentially means small cakes or small filled dough. Adding the augmentative suffix -oni gives us tortelloni, or big small cakes or big small dough. If you were to instead add a second diminutive suffix -ini, you get tortellini, or little small cakes. As you might have guessed, tortelloni are larger than tortellini.
Different varieties of pasta ripiena are associated with different fillings and sauces, and are usually associated with different regional traditions of la cucina italiana [Italian cuisine]. I tortelli are often rectangular-shaped or half-moon-shaped, which are the same shapes i ravioli can take on. I tortellini and i tortelloni are made in a distinct ring shape, of small and large dimensions, respectively. Legend has it that the tortellini shape was originally inspired by the beautiful bellybutton of the goddess Venus.
Today there are all sorts of molds and stamps you can use to make la pasta ripiena. The video below shows a master at work at her craft…shaping a total of 378 tortellini by hand. How many do you think you could do in an afternoon?
If this is the kind of learning you like to do, pick up a copy of Italian Through Food!