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This is the Ultimate Italian Comfort Food Recipe

This is the Ultimate Italian Comfort Food Recipe

This 101-Layer Lasagna recipe is stacked with thin, delicate layers of pasta, tomato-based sauce, and creamy béchamel.

That crazy cat Garfield might have been on to something when it comes to lasagna. This classic Italian dish prepared in variations ranging from vegetarian to meaty bolognese fills the shoes of a classic comfort food perfectly.

Warm, hearty, and with tons of cheese, the taste of this layered pasta dish is a welcomed pleasure. We applaud all twists on this classic, mouth-watering traditional Lasagna Bolognese, including a fall-inspired, vegetarian Pumpkin Lasagna treat to the simplest Lazy Day Lasagna recipe you’ve ever made that will give you an excuse to pull out your slow-cooker, and finally, a smoky and hearty chicken, mozzarella, and spinach lasagna that hits all the right notes.

But there is no denying the power of the original, the ultimate, our one-and-only lasagna in times when desperate comfort is needed. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of this 101-Layer Lasagna made with a classic blend of ground beef, pork, and veal and topped with creamy béchamel sauce.


The accompanying slideshow is provided by special contributor, Jonathan Hirsch.

Angela Carlos is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Find her on Twitter and tweet @angelaccarlos.


Stuffed Pasta, The Ultimate Italian Comfort Food

The birth of ravioli appropriately enough is wrapped in legend.

Though &ldquoriavvolgere&rdquo means &ldquoto wrap,&rdquo most believe the dish was actually named after Ravioli, a renowned 13th-century chef in the Repubblica di Genova (now more or less the Italian region of Liguria) who is credited with its invention. But, as is often the case with the most enduring and beloved culinary creations, there are countless stories and conflicting tales about its origin. After all, who wouldn&rsquot want to take credit for this ingenious gastronomical gift? Though forms of this dish are known to date back to early Roman times, it wasn&rsquot until the 12th century that the first manuscripts can be found describing raviolus&mdashsquare or round shaped pasta probably filled with ricotta and other ingredients. Ravioli, however, is just one of many types of filled pasta&mdashor tortelli, as they were called in Italian&mdashall of which are the noble descendents of the torta, a medieval savory pie.

Torte (plural form), tortelli and ravioli can all be traced back to the Middle Ages in Italy. Contrary to popular belief, the so-called Dark Ages were a period of innovation in culinary methods and the real beginning of more elaborate preparations for the table. The earliest versions of torte were not so different than those we are familiar with today: vegetables cooked with herbs and spices, and often combined with ricotta or other cheese, wrapped in dough. Eclectic and appreciated by all social classes, torte quickly grew in popularity they were delicious, nutritious, and could last quite a long time&mdasheasily carried into the fields by farmers and soldiers. The creative chefs of the wealthy and noble families of the time expanded on the torte idea in order not to waste any of the abundant leftovers from the huge banquets and court meals, new forms of filled pasta began to develop. From torte, there came tortelli, tortellini, and tortelloni (demonstrating the endearing Italian linguistic device for expressing variations in size), ravioli and cappelletti. By the 14th century, all kinds of pasta ripiena (filled pasta) began to appear throughout many parts of northern and central Italy. Recipes spread from palaces to noble courts, eventually embraced by almost every social class in all the major regions of Italy&mdashfrom Bologna, Parma and Ferrara and later to Piemonte and Lombardy. As these recipes traveled, the names would change and often many of the ingredients, as well.

Basically, these delicious creations consisted of rolled-out layers of very thin dough made with wheat flour, water and sometimes eggs. (Though, in the central southern regions of Italy, eggs were rarely used.) The dough was then cut into small squares&mdashor round or triangular shapes. Each piece was dabbed with a tiny bit of ripieno (filling): vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, and salumi (cured pork meat) were used in various combinations, and not necessarily just from leftovers. Fresh game meat&mdashsuch as roasted or grilled deer, wild boar, and rabbit&mdashwere often used for the filling, or else fresh fish from the rivers, lakes, and seas. Some spices like nutmeg, saffron, poppy seeds and pepper became more widely used in later centuries. Until the 16th century, pasta of all kinds was customarily eaten with a sweet condiment such as marmalade, currants, or almonds these same ingredients could be used in filled-pasta preparations&mdashoften with the addition of ricotta or pecorino (sheep&rsquos milk cheese). The paste ripiene were often cooked in water or broth and served with spices, such as cinnamon or ginger or they were fried and sweetened with sugar or honey.

Remarkably little has changed in the way paste repiene is made today&mdashexcept perhaps that meat grinders and food processors have replaced mortars to mince and blend the ingredients for the fillings. As in earlier times, there is still a huge variety of regional variations. Sometimes the same pasta, with the same filling is called by a completely different name in towns just 20 miles apart. In other cases, the same name&mdashfor example, ravioli&mdashmeans something very different depending on which region you&rsquore in. Of course, there are also each cook&rsquos personal touches&mdashvarying and embellishing the traditional recipes, adjusting the proportions used, or changing or substituting ingredients according to what is available. Nonetheless, the traditional recipes remain intact. Below is a list of the most important and popular paste ripiene dishes in Italy today&mdashgoing from region to region, traveling from the northwest top of the boot and heading south&mdashto give you ideas for your own filled-pasta creations:

The specialty of this region is agnolotti&mdashwhich are usually in the form of squares a common variation is agnolotti gobbi (&ldquogobbi&rdquo means &ldquohunchbacked&rdquo) from the town of Asti, which are filled so abundantly they become curved. Usually, agnolotti are filled with a mixture of different cooked meats&mdashleftover stracotto (slowly cooked braised beef), roasted rabbit, chicken breast, or sausages&mdashcombined with vegetables such as spinach, chard or curly endives. Parmigiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper are added to the filling. For sauce, the juices from the roasted meats are often used alternatively, ragù alla Piemontese (a local version of meat sauce) is served. Another sauce commonly used all over Italy for paste ripiene is called burro fuso e salvia (melted butter and sage), which is simply made by warming butter until it foams slightly and the color changes to a light brown, then adding sage toward the end. The browned butter lends a wonderful nutty taste to this dish, which is always topped with parmigiano. Agnolotti can also be served simply in beef broth.

This is the region of ravioli and pansotti (which means &ldquolittle bellies&rdquo)&mdashboth pastas often are made with similar fillings. The raviolo (singular form) is a common type of pasta all over Italy&mdashthough its ingredients vary, its shape is always the same: squared or slightly rectangular. In Liguria, the classic filling is made with roasted sausages, beef and pork meat eggs parmigiano a generous amount of borage (a leafy green commonly found in Liguria) and marjoram. These ravioli are traditionally served in a bowl with a mixture of beef broth and Gavi wine&mdashthe same wine that you&rsquoll probably be drinking in your glass! Ravioli di Gavi can also be seasoned with a reduced gravy from roasted meat, topped with grated parmigiano. An alternative filling can be made with grilled fish leftovers, such as sea bass (branzino), baby shrimp (gamberetti), and other seafood&mdashall finely chopped, seasoned and sautéed, and served with a delicate fresh tomato sauce.

From the northern valleys bordering Switzerland comes an elaborate filled pasta called casoncelli&mdashthough the name has numerous dialectal variations. Typical fillings include salame, roasted meat, pears, currants, grana cheese, breadcrumbs, crumbled amaretti biscotti (almond cookies), garlic and parsley as you might imagine, there are countless variations. Appropriately enough, casoncelli are shaped like little wrapped bonbons they are served with butter and sage. Another famous dish from this region is the Tortelli di zucca mantovani, filled with pumpkin, crumbled amaretti biscotti, and mostarda&mdashthat is, a fruit mustard which is very common in Lombardy, particularly in the towns of Mantova and Cremona. The rectangular 2 ½-inch tortelli (which in other parts of Italy would be called ravioli) are boiled and served with burro fuso e salvia.

Emilia-Romagna

This region, which includes Bologna, is known to be the capital of filled pasta. Classic tortellini&mdashalso called cappelletti or tortelli&mdashcan be found in all the provinces of Emilia-Romagna. Tortellini are made in the shape of tiny knots one legend has it that Venus&rsquo navel was the inspiration! Contrary to agnolotti, the filling of tortellini is made with a blend of uncooked meats&mdashmortadella, prosciutto (Parma ham), and/or air-cured pork loin&mdashwith parmigiano, nutmeg, and pepper. The traditional way to serve tortellini is in beef or capon broth, or with the internationally renowned Bolognese meat sauce called Ragù alla Bolognese. An easy but delicious alternative is simply fresh cream and parmigiano. Another regional variation is anolini, which are half-moon shaped pasta with a filling similar to the Piemonte&rsquos agnolotti, or else a braised pork&ndashbased filling. But the vegetarian version&mdashthe classic ricotta and spinach filling&mdashis extremely popular, locally as well as worldwide. This filling, called ricotta e spinaci, is also commonly used with tortelloni (the bigger version of tortellini) or ravioli. Cappellacci (literally translated as &ldquougly hats&rdquo) are typically filled with pumpkin, or with pumpkin and potatoes. Other fillings are always being invented, such as ricotta and radicchio (found in the Veneto region) ricotta and asparagus and fava beans, artichokes and asparagus. This last recipe is delicious with a sauce of sun-dried tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil but most of the time, these vegetarian paste repiene are seasoned just with butter and parmigiano&mdashwith or without sage.

A very old recipe for filled pasta is called Tortelli alla lastra (&ldquoon sandstone&rdquo) it originated in the mountains between Tuscany and Emilia and was originally cooked on a sheet of sandstone over a fire. The dough is made of flour and water, and rolled out into thin large squares the filling consists mainly of mashed potatoes, sometimes with the addition of pancetta. These tortelli are usually served with a sauce made of braised onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, sage and garlic.

Considered the homeland of the best chefs of Italian cuisine, this gorgeous region, west of Rome, is the birthplace of a unique filled pasta called Tortelli abruzzesi di Carnevale. This dish is usually served on the last Sunday of Carnival, and on other occasions as well. The filling of the tortelli, which can be made in a variety of shapes, consists simply of sheep ricotta, eggs and cinnamon. These tortelli are cooked in a meat broth&mdasha tradition for centuries&mdashand served with grated pecorino.

This small, gorgeous region has its own traditional and beloved filled-pasta dish: ravioli scapolesi&mdashthe name comes from a little village called Scapoli. The filling is made of boiled and chopped chard (bietola) roasted ground meat sausage beaten eggs ricotta and young pecorino cheese. For this recipe, egg dough is used. The large raviolis are first boiled, then seasoned in a pork and sausage ragù, and finally baked.

The most popular filled pastas from the spectacular island of Sardinia are known as culurjonis in the local dialect in Italian, they&rsquore called culurgioni. The dough is made of fresh durum wheat and water, and molded (after it&rsquos filled) to resemble the tip of a wheat stalk. The filling is made with fresh goat or sheep ricotta, eggs and saffron. Sometimes young local pecorino cheese, chard or spinach are added. Culurgioni are boiled in water and served with a fresh tomato and basil sauce grated aged pecorino is always sprinkled on top. In the southeast and the interior of the island, there are numerous variations for the filling&mdashsuch as very fresh pecorino cheese (just one or two days old), boiled mashed potatoes and mint. Sometimes oregano or onions are substituted for the mint.


Stuffed Pasta, The Ultimate Italian Comfort Food

The birth of ravioli appropriately enough is wrapped in legend.

Though &ldquoriavvolgere&rdquo means &ldquoto wrap,&rdquo most believe the dish was actually named after Ravioli, a renowned 13th-century chef in the Repubblica di Genova (now more or less the Italian region of Liguria) who is credited with its invention. But, as is often the case with the most enduring and beloved culinary creations, there are countless stories and conflicting tales about its origin. After all, who wouldn&rsquot want to take credit for this ingenious gastronomical gift? Though forms of this dish are known to date back to early Roman times, it wasn&rsquot until the 12th century that the first manuscripts can be found describing raviolus&mdashsquare or round shaped pasta probably filled with ricotta and other ingredients. Ravioli, however, is just one of many types of filled pasta&mdashor tortelli, as they were called in Italian&mdashall of which are the noble descendents of the torta, a medieval savory pie.

Torte (plural form), tortelli and ravioli can all be traced back to the Middle Ages in Italy. Contrary to popular belief, the so-called Dark Ages were a period of innovation in culinary methods and the real beginning of more elaborate preparations for the table. The earliest versions of torte were not so different than those we are familiar with today: vegetables cooked with herbs and spices, and often combined with ricotta or other cheese, wrapped in dough. Eclectic and appreciated by all social classes, torte quickly grew in popularity they were delicious, nutritious, and could last quite a long time&mdasheasily carried into the fields by farmers and soldiers. The creative chefs of the wealthy and noble families of the time expanded on the torte idea in order not to waste any of the abundant leftovers from the huge banquets and court meals, new forms of filled pasta began to develop. From torte, there came tortelli, tortellini, and tortelloni (demonstrating the endearing Italian linguistic device for expressing variations in size), ravioli and cappelletti. By the 14th century, all kinds of pasta ripiena (filled pasta) began to appear throughout many parts of northern and central Italy. Recipes spread from palaces to noble courts, eventually embraced by almost every social class in all the major regions of Italy&mdashfrom Bologna, Parma and Ferrara and later to Piemonte and Lombardy. As these recipes traveled, the names would change and often many of the ingredients, as well.

Basically, these delicious creations consisted of rolled-out layers of very thin dough made with wheat flour, water and sometimes eggs. (Though, in the central southern regions of Italy, eggs were rarely used.) The dough was then cut into small squares&mdashor round or triangular shapes. Each piece was dabbed with a tiny bit of ripieno (filling): vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, and salumi (cured pork meat) were used in various combinations, and not necessarily just from leftovers. Fresh game meat&mdashsuch as roasted or grilled deer, wild boar, and rabbit&mdashwere often used for the filling, or else fresh fish from the rivers, lakes, and seas. Some spices like nutmeg, saffron, poppy seeds and pepper became more widely used in later centuries. Until the 16th century, pasta of all kinds was customarily eaten with a sweet condiment such as marmalade, currants, or almonds these same ingredients could be used in filled-pasta preparations&mdashoften with the addition of ricotta or pecorino (sheep&rsquos milk cheese). The paste ripiene were often cooked in water or broth and served with spices, such as cinnamon or ginger or they were fried and sweetened with sugar or honey.

Remarkably little has changed in the way paste repiene is made today&mdashexcept perhaps that meat grinders and food processors have replaced mortars to mince and blend the ingredients for the fillings. As in earlier times, there is still a huge variety of regional variations. Sometimes the same pasta, with the same filling is called by a completely different name in towns just 20 miles apart. In other cases, the same name&mdashfor example, ravioli&mdashmeans something very different depending on which region you&rsquore in. Of course, there are also each cook&rsquos personal touches&mdashvarying and embellishing the traditional recipes, adjusting the proportions used, or changing or substituting ingredients according to what is available. Nonetheless, the traditional recipes remain intact. Below is a list of the most important and popular paste ripiene dishes in Italy today&mdashgoing from region to region, traveling from the northwest top of the boot and heading south&mdashto give you ideas for your own filled-pasta creations:

The specialty of this region is agnolotti&mdashwhich are usually in the form of squares a common variation is agnolotti gobbi (&ldquogobbi&rdquo means &ldquohunchbacked&rdquo) from the town of Asti, which are filled so abundantly they become curved. Usually, agnolotti are filled with a mixture of different cooked meats&mdashleftover stracotto (slowly cooked braised beef), roasted rabbit, chicken breast, or sausages&mdashcombined with vegetables such as spinach, chard or curly endives. Parmigiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper are added to the filling. For sauce, the juices from the roasted meats are often used alternatively, ragù alla Piemontese (a local version of meat sauce) is served. Another sauce commonly used all over Italy for paste ripiene is called burro fuso e salvia (melted butter and sage), which is simply made by warming butter until it foams slightly and the color changes to a light brown, then adding sage toward the end. The browned butter lends a wonderful nutty taste to this dish, which is always topped with parmigiano. Agnolotti can also be served simply in beef broth.

This is the region of ravioli and pansotti (which means &ldquolittle bellies&rdquo)&mdashboth pastas often are made with similar fillings. The raviolo (singular form) is a common type of pasta all over Italy&mdashthough its ingredients vary, its shape is always the same: squared or slightly rectangular. In Liguria, the classic filling is made with roasted sausages, beef and pork meat eggs parmigiano a generous amount of borage (a leafy green commonly found in Liguria) and marjoram. These ravioli are traditionally served in a bowl with a mixture of beef broth and Gavi wine&mdashthe same wine that you&rsquoll probably be drinking in your glass! Ravioli di Gavi can also be seasoned with a reduced gravy from roasted meat, topped with grated parmigiano. An alternative filling can be made with grilled fish leftovers, such as sea bass (branzino), baby shrimp (gamberetti), and other seafood&mdashall finely chopped, seasoned and sautéed, and served with a delicate fresh tomato sauce.

From the northern valleys bordering Switzerland comes an elaborate filled pasta called casoncelli&mdashthough the name has numerous dialectal variations. Typical fillings include salame, roasted meat, pears, currants, grana cheese, breadcrumbs, crumbled amaretti biscotti (almond cookies), garlic and parsley as you might imagine, there are countless variations. Appropriately enough, casoncelli are shaped like little wrapped bonbons they are served with butter and sage. Another famous dish from this region is the Tortelli di zucca mantovani, filled with pumpkin, crumbled amaretti biscotti, and mostarda&mdashthat is, a fruit mustard which is very common in Lombardy, particularly in the towns of Mantova and Cremona. The rectangular 2 ½-inch tortelli (which in other parts of Italy would be called ravioli) are boiled and served with burro fuso e salvia.

Emilia-Romagna

This region, which includes Bologna, is known to be the capital of filled pasta. Classic tortellini&mdashalso called cappelletti or tortelli&mdashcan be found in all the provinces of Emilia-Romagna. Tortellini are made in the shape of tiny knots one legend has it that Venus&rsquo navel was the inspiration! Contrary to agnolotti, the filling of tortellini is made with a blend of uncooked meats&mdashmortadella, prosciutto (Parma ham), and/or air-cured pork loin&mdashwith parmigiano, nutmeg, and pepper. The traditional way to serve tortellini is in beef or capon broth, or with the internationally renowned Bolognese meat sauce called Ragù alla Bolognese. An easy but delicious alternative is simply fresh cream and parmigiano. Another regional variation is anolini, which are half-moon shaped pasta with a filling similar to the Piemonte&rsquos agnolotti, or else a braised pork&ndashbased filling. But the vegetarian version&mdashthe classic ricotta and spinach filling&mdashis extremely popular, locally as well as worldwide. This filling, called ricotta e spinaci, is also commonly used with tortelloni (the bigger version of tortellini) or ravioli. Cappellacci (literally translated as &ldquougly hats&rdquo) are typically filled with pumpkin, or with pumpkin and potatoes. Other fillings are always being invented, such as ricotta and radicchio (found in the Veneto region) ricotta and asparagus and fava beans, artichokes and asparagus. This last recipe is delicious with a sauce of sun-dried tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil but most of the time, these vegetarian paste repiene are seasoned just with butter and parmigiano&mdashwith or without sage.

A very old recipe for filled pasta is called Tortelli alla lastra (&ldquoon sandstone&rdquo) it originated in the mountains between Tuscany and Emilia and was originally cooked on a sheet of sandstone over a fire. The dough is made of flour and water, and rolled out into thin large squares the filling consists mainly of mashed potatoes, sometimes with the addition of pancetta. These tortelli are usually served with a sauce made of braised onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, sage and garlic.

Considered the homeland of the best chefs of Italian cuisine, this gorgeous region, west of Rome, is the birthplace of a unique filled pasta called Tortelli abruzzesi di Carnevale. This dish is usually served on the last Sunday of Carnival, and on other occasions as well. The filling of the tortelli, which can be made in a variety of shapes, consists simply of sheep ricotta, eggs and cinnamon. These tortelli are cooked in a meat broth&mdasha tradition for centuries&mdashand served with grated pecorino.

This small, gorgeous region has its own traditional and beloved filled-pasta dish: ravioli scapolesi&mdashthe name comes from a little village called Scapoli. The filling is made of boiled and chopped chard (bietola) roasted ground meat sausage beaten eggs ricotta and young pecorino cheese. For this recipe, egg dough is used. The large raviolis are first boiled, then seasoned in a pork and sausage ragù, and finally baked.

The most popular filled pastas from the spectacular island of Sardinia are known as culurjonis in the local dialect in Italian, they&rsquore called culurgioni. The dough is made of fresh durum wheat and water, and molded (after it&rsquos filled) to resemble the tip of a wheat stalk. The filling is made with fresh goat or sheep ricotta, eggs and saffron. Sometimes young local pecorino cheese, chard or spinach are added. Culurgioni are boiled in water and served with a fresh tomato and basil sauce grated aged pecorino is always sprinkled on top. In the southeast and the interior of the island, there are numerous variations for the filling&mdashsuch as very fresh pecorino cheese (just one or two days old), boiled mashed potatoes and mint. Sometimes oregano or onions are substituted for the mint.


Stuffed Pasta, The Ultimate Italian Comfort Food

The birth of ravioli appropriately enough is wrapped in legend.

Though &ldquoriavvolgere&rdquo means &ldquoto wrap,&rdquo most believe the dish was actually named after Ravioli, a renowned 13th-century chef in the Repubblica di Genova (now more or less the Italian region of Liguria) who is credited with its invention. But, as is often the case with the most enduring and beloved culinary creations, there are countless stories and conflicting tales about its origin. After all, who wouldn&rsquot want to take credit for this ingenious gastronomical gift? Though forms of this dish are known to date back to early Roman times, it wasn&rsquot until the 12th century that the first manuscripts can be found describing raviolus&mdashsquare or round shaped pasta probably filled with ricotta and other ingredients. Ravioli, however, is just one of many types of filled pasta&mdashor tortelli, as they were called in Italian&mdashall of which are the noble descendents of the torta, a medieval savory pie.

Torte (plural form), tortelli and ravioli can all be traced back to the Middle Ages in Italy. Contrary to popular belief, the so-called Dark Ages were a period of innovation in culinary methods and the real beginning of more elaborate preparations for the table. The earliest versions of torte were not so different than those we are familiar with today: vegetables cooked with herbs and spices, and often combined with ricotta or other cheese, wrapped in dough. Eclectic and appreciated by all social classes, torte quickly grew in popularity they were delicious, nutritious, and could last quite a long time&mdasheasily carried into the fields by farmers and soldiers. The creative chefs of the wealthy and noble families of the time expanded on the torte idea in order not to waste any of the abundant leftovers from the huge banquets and court meals, new forms of filled pasta began to develop. From torte, there came tortelli, tortellini, and tortelloni (demonstrating the endearing Italian linguistic device for expressing variations in size), ravioli and cappelletti. By the 14th century, all kinds of pasta ripiena (filled pasta) began to appear throughout many parts of northern and central Italy. Recipes spread from palaces to noble courts, eventually embraced by almost every social class in all the major regions of Italy&mdashfrom Bologna, Parma and Ferrara and later to Piemonte and Lombardy. As these recipes traveled, the names would change and often many of the ingredients, as well.

Basically, these delicious creations consisted of rolled-out layers of very thin dough made with wheat flour, water and sometimes eggs. (Though, in the central southern regions of Italy, eggs were rarely used.) The dough was then cut into small squares&mdashor round or triangular shapes. Each piece was dabbed with a tiny bit of ripieno (filling): vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, and salumi (cured pork meat) were used in various combinations, and not necessarily just from leftovers. Fresh game meat&mdashsuch as roasted or grilled deer, wild boar, and rabbit&mdashwere often used for the filling, or else fresh fish from the rivers, lakes, and seas. Some spices like nutmeg, saffron, poppy seeds and pepper became more widely used in later centuries. Until the 16th century, pasta of all kinds was customarily eaten with a sweet condiment such as marmalade, currants, or almonds these same ingredients could be used in filled-pasta preparations&mdashoften with the addition of ricotta or pecorino (sheep&rsquos milk cheese). The paste ripiene were often cooked in water or broth and served with spices, such as cinnamon or ginger or they were fried and sweetened with sugar or honey.

Remarkably little has changed in the way paste repiene is made today&mdashexcept perhaps that meat grinders and food processors have replaced mortars to mince and blend the ingredients for the fillings. As in earlier times, there is still a huge variety of regional variations. Sometimes the same pasta, with the same filling is called by a completely different name in towns just 20 miles apart. In other cases, the same name&mdashfor example, ravioli&mdashmeans something very different depending on which region you&rsquore in. Of course, there are also each cook&rsquos personal touches&mdashvarying and embellishing the traditional recipes, adjusting the proportions used, or changing or substituting ingredients according to what is available. Nonetheless, the traditional recipes remain intact. Below is a list of the most important and popular paste ripiene dishes in Italy today&mdashgoing from region to region, traveling from the northwest top of the boot and heading south&mdashto give you ideas for your own filled-pasta creations:

The specialty of this region is agnolotti&mdashwhich are usually in the form of squares a common variation is agnolotti gobbi (&ldquogobbi&rdquo means &ldquohunchbacked&rdquo) from the town of Asti, which are filled so abundantly they become curved. Usually, agnolotti are filled with a mixture of different cooked meats&mdashleftover stracotto (slowly cooked braised beef), roasted rabbit, chicken breast, or sausages&mdashcombined with vegetables such as spinach, chard or curly endives. Parmigiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper are added to the filling. For sauce, the juices from the roasted meats are often used alternatively, ragù alla Piemontese (a local version of meat sauce) is served. Another sauce commonly used all over Italy for paste ripiene is called burro fuso e salvia (melted butter and sage), which is simply made by warming butter until it foams slightly and the color changes to a light brown, then adding sage toward the end. The browned butter lends a wonderful nutty taste to this dish, which is always topped with parmigiano. Agnolotti can also be served simply in beef broth.

This is the region of ravioli and pansotti (which means &ldquolittle bellies&rdquo)&mdashboth pastas often are made with similar fillings. The raviolo (singular form) is a common type of pasta all over Italy&mdashthough its ingredients vary, its shape is always the same: squared or slightly rectangular. In Liguria, the classic filling is made with roasted sausages, beef and pork meat eggs parmigiano a generous amount of borage (a leafy green commonly found in Liguria) and marjoram. These ravioli are traditionally served in a bowl with a mixture of beef broth and Gavi wine&mdashthe same wine that you&rsquoll probably be drinking in your glass! Ravioli di Gavi can also be seasoned with a reduced gravy from roasted meat, topped with grated parmigiano. An alternative filling can be made with grilled fish leftovers, such as sea bass (branzino), baby shrimp (gamberetti), and other seafood&mdashall finely chopped, seasoned and sautéed, and served with a delicate fresh tomato sauce.

From the northern valleys bordering Switzerland comes an elaborate filled pasta called casoncelli&mdashthough the name has numerous dialectal variations. Typical fillings include salame, roasted meat, pears, currants, grana cheese, breadcrumbs, crumbled amaretti biscotti (almond cookies), garlic and parsley as you might imagine, there are countless variations. Appropriately enough, casoncelli are shaped like little wrapped bonbons they are served with butter and sage. Another famous dish from this region is the Tortelli di zucca mantovani, filled with pumpkin, crumbled amaretti biscotti, and mostarda&mdashthat is, a fruit mustard which is very common in Lombardy, particularly in the towns of Mantova and Cremona. The rectangular 2 ½-inch tortelli (which in other parts of Italy would be called ravioli) are boiled and served with burro fuso e salvia.

Emilia-Romagna

This region, which includes Bologna, is known to be the capital of filled pasta. Classic tortellini&mdashalso called cappelletti or tortelli&mdashcan be found in all the provinces of Emilia-Romagna. Tortellini are made in the shape of tiny knots one legend has it that Venus&rsquo navel was the inspiration! Contrary to agnolotti, the filling of tortellini is made with a blend of uncooked meats&mdashmortadella, prosciutto (Parma ham), and/or air-cured pork loin&mdashwith parmigiano, nutmeg, and pepper. The traditional way to serve tortellini is in beef or capon broth, or with the internationally renowned Bolognese meat sauce called Ragù alla Bolognese. An easy but delicious alternative is simply fresh cream and parmigiano. Another regional variation is anolini, which are half-moon shaped pasta with a filling similar to the Piemonte&rsquos agnolotti, or else a braised pork&ndashbased filling. But the vegetarian version&mdashthe classic ricotta and spinach filling&mdashis extremely popular, locally as well as worldwide. This filling, called ricotta e spinaci, is also commonly used with tortelloni (the bigger version of tortellini) or ravioli. Cappellacci (literally translated as &ldquougly hats&rdquo) are typically filled with pumpkin, or with pumpkin and potatoes. Other fillings are always being invented, such as ricotta and radicchio (found in the Veneto region) ricotta and asparagus and fava beans, artichokes and asparagus. This last recipe is delicious with a sauce of sun-dried tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil but most of the time, these vegetarian paste repiene are seasoned just with butter and parmigiano&mdashwith or without sage.

A very old recipe for filled pasta is called Tortelli alla lastra (&ldquoon sandstone&rdquo) it originated in the mountains between Tuscany and Emilia and was originally cooked on a sheet of sandstone over a fire. The dough is made of flour and water, and rolled out into thin large squares the filling consists mainly of mashed potatoes, sometimes with the addition of pancetta. These tortelli are usually served with a sauce made of braised onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, sage and garlic.

Considered the homeland of the best chefs of Italian cuisine, this gorgeous region, west of Rome, is the birthplace of a unique filled pasta called Tortelli abruzzesi di Carnevale. This dish is usually served on the last Sunday of Carnival, and on other occasions as well. The filling of the tortelli, which can be made in a variety of shapes, consists simply of sheep ricotta, eggs and cinnamon. These tortelli are cooked in a meat broth&mdasha tradition for centuries&mdashand served with grated pecorino.

This small, gorgeous region has its own traditional and beloved filled-pasta dish: ravioli scapolesi&mdashthe name comes from a little village called Scapoli. The filling is made of boiled and chopped chard (bietola) roasted ground meat sausage beaten eggs ricotta and young pecorino cheese. For this recipe, egg dough is used. The large raviolis are first boiled, then seasoned in a pork and sausage ragù, and finally baked.

The most popular filled pastas from the spectacular island of Sardinia are known as culurjonis in the local dialect in Italian, they&rsquore called culurgioni. The dough is made of fresh durum wheat and water, and molded (after it&rsquos filled) to resemble the tip of a wheat stalk. The filling is made with fresh goat or sheep ricotta, eggs and saffron. Sometimes young local pecorino cheese, chard or spinach are added. Culurgioni are boiled in water and served with a fresh tomato and basil sauce grated aged pecorino is always sprinkled on top. In the southeast and the interior of the island, there are numerous variations for the filling&mdashsuch as very fresh pecorino cheese (just one or two days old), boiled mashed potatoes and mint. Sometimes oregano or onions are substituted for the mint.


Stuffed Pasta, The Ultimate Italian Comfort Food

The birth of ravioli appropriately enough is wrapped in legend.

Though &ldquoriavvolgere&rdquo means &ldquoto wrap,&rdquo most believe the dish was actually named after Ravioli, a renowned 13th-century chef in the Repubblica di Genova (now more or less the Italian region of Liguria) who is credited with its invention. But, as is often the case with the most enduring and beloved culinary creations, there are countless stories and conflicting tales about its origin. After all, who wouldn&rsquot want to take credit for this ingenious gastronomical gift? Though forms of this dish are known to date back to early Roman times, it wasn&rsquot until the 12th century that the first manuscripts can be found describing raviolus&mdashsquare or round shaped pasta probably filled with ricotta and other ingredients. Ravioli, however, is just one of many types of filled pasta&mdashor tortelli, as they were called in Italian&mdashall of which are the noble descendents of the torta, a medieval savory pie.

Torte (plural form), tortelli and ravioli can all be traced back to the Middle Ages in Italy. Contrary to popular belief, the so-called Dark Ages were a period of innovation in culinary methods and the real beginning of more elaborate preparations for the table. The earliest versions of torte were not so different than those we are familiar with today: vegetables cooked with herbs and spices, and often combined with ricotta or other cheese, wrapped in dough. Eclectic and appreciated by all social classes, torte quickly grew in popularity they were delicious, nutritious, and could last quite a long time&mdasheasily carried into the fields by farmers and soldiers. The creative chefs of the wealthy and noble families of the time expanded on the torte idea in order not to waste any of the abundant leftovers from the huge banquets and court meals, new forms of filled pasta began to develop. From torte, there came tortelli, tortellini, and tortelloni (demonstrating the endearing Italian linguistic device for expressing variations in size), ravioli and cappelletti. By the 14th century, all kinds of pasta ripiena (filled pasta) began to appear throughout many parts of northern and central Italy. Recipes spread from palaces to noble courts, eventually embraced by almost every social class in all the major regions of Italy&mdashfrom Bologna, Parma and Ferrara and later to Piemonte and Lombardy. As these recipes traveled, the names would change and often many of the ingredients, as well.

Basically, these delicious creations consisted of rolled-out layers of very thin dough made with wheat flour, water and sometimes eggs. (Though, in the central southern regions of Italy, eggs were rarely used.) The dough was then cut into small squares&mdashor round or triangular shapes. Each piece was dabbed with a tiny bit of ripieno (filling): vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, and salumi (cured pork meat) were used in various combinations, and not necessarily just from leftovers. Fresh game meat&mdashsuch as roasted or grilled deer, wild boar, and rabbit&mdashwere often used for the filling, or else fresh fish from the rivers, lakes, and seas. Some spices like nutmeg, saffron, poppy seeds and pepper became more widely used in later centuries. Until the 16th century, pasta of all kinds was customarily eaten with a sweet condiment such as marmalade, currants, or almonds these same ingredients could be used in filled-pasta preparations&mdashoften with the addition of ricotta or pecorino (sheep&rsquos milk cheese). The paste ripiene were often cooked in water or broth and served with spices, such as cinnamon or ginger or they were fried and sweetened with sugar or honey.

Remarkably little has changed in the way paste repiene is made today&mdashexcept perhaps that meat grinders and food processors have replaced mortars to mince and blend the ingredients for the fillings. As in earlier times, there is still a huge variety of regional variations. Sometimes the same pasta, with the same filling is called by a completely different name in towns just 20 miles apart. In other cases, the same name&mdashfor example, ravioli&mdashmeans something very different depending on which region you&rsquore in. Of course, there are also each cook&rsquos personal touches&mdashvarying and embellishing the traditional recipes, adjusting the proportions used, or changing or substituting ingredients according to what is available. Nonetheless, the traditional recipes remain intact. Below is a list of the most important and popular paste ripiene dishes in Italy today&mdashgoing from region to region, traveling from the northwest top of the boot and heading south&mdashto give you ideas for your own filled-pasta creations:

The specialty of this region is agnolotti&mdashwhich are usually in the form of squares a common variation is agnolotti gobbi (&ldquogobbi&rdquo means &ldquohunchbacked&rdquo) from the town of Asti, which are filled so abundantly they become curved. Usually, agnolotti are filled with a mixture of different cooked meats&mdashleftover stracotto (slowly cooked braised beef), roasted rabbit, chicken breast, or sausages&mdashcombined with vegetables such as spinach, chard or curly endives. Parmigiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper are added to the filling. For sauce, the juices from the roasted meats are often used alternatively, ragù alla Piemontese (a local version of meat sauce) is served. Another sauce commonly used all over Italy for paste ripiene is called burro fuso e salvia (melted butter and sage), which is simply made by warming butter until it foams slightly and the color changes to a light brown, then adding sage toward the end. The browned butter lends a wonderful nutty taste to this dish, which is always topped with parmigiano. Agnolotti can also be served simply in beef broth.

This is the region of ravioli and pansotti (which means &ldquolittle bellies&rdquo)&mdashboth pastas often are made with similar fillings. The raviolo (singular form) is a common type of pasta all over Italy&mdashthough its ingredients vary, its shape is always the same: squared or slightly rectangular. In Liguria, the classic filling is made with roasted sausages, beef and pork meat eggs parmigiano a generous amount of borage (a leafy green commonly found in Liguria) and marjoram. These ravioli are traditionally served in a bowl with a mixture of beef broth and Gavi wine&mdashthe same wine that you&rsquoll probably be drinking in your glass! Ravioli di Gavi can also be seasoned with a reduced gravy from roasted meat, topped with grated parmigiano. An alternative filling can be made with grilled fish leftovers, such as sea bass (branzino), baby shrimp (gamberetti), and other seafood&mdashall finely chopped, seasoned and sautéed, and served with a delicate fresh tomato sauce.

From the northern valleys bordering Switzerland comes an elaborate filled pasta called casoncelli&mdashthough the name has numerous dialectal variations. Typical fillings include salame, roasted meat, pears, currants, grana cheese, breadcrumbs, crumbled amaretti biscotti (almond cookies), garlic and parsley as you might imagine, there are countless variations. Appropriately enough, casoncelli are shaped like little wrapped bonbons they are served with butter and sage. Another famous dish from this region is the Tortelli di zucca mantovani, filled with pumpkin, crumbled amaretti biscotti, and mostarda&mdashthat is, a fruit mustard which is very common in Lombardy, particularly in the towns of Mantova and Cremona. The rectangular 2 ½-inch tortelli (which in other parts of Italy would be called ravioli) are boiled and served with burro fuso e salvia.

Emilia-Romagna

This region, which includes Bologna, is known to be the capital of filled pasta. Classic tortellini&mdashalso called cappelletti or tortelli&mdashcan be found in all the provinces of Emilia-Romagna. Tortellini are made in the shape of tiny knots one legend has it that Venus&rsquo navel was the inspiration! Contrary to agnolotti, the filling of tortellini is made with a blend of uncooked meats&mdashmortadella, prosciutto (Parma ham), and/or air-cured pork loin&mdashwith parmigiano, nutmeg, and pepper. The traditional way to serve tortellini is in beef or capon broth, or with the internationally renowned Bolognese meat sauce called Ragù alla Bolognese. An easy but delicious alternative is simply fresh cream and parmigiano. Another regional variation is anolini, which are half-moon shaped pasta with a filling similar to the Piemonte&rsquos agnolotti, or else a braised pork&ndashbased filling. But the vegetarian version&mdashthe classic ricotta and spinach filling&mdashis extremely popular, locally as well as worldwide. This filling, called ricotta e spinaci, is also commonly used with tortelloni (the bigger version of tortellini) or ravioli. Cappellacci (literally translated as &ldquougly hats&rdquo) are typically filled with pumpkin, or with pumpkin and potatoes. Other fillings are always being invented, such as ricotta and radicchio (found in the Veneto region) ricotta and asparagus and fava beans, artichokes and asparagus. This last recipe is delicious with a sauce of sun-dried tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil but most of the time, these vegetarian paste repiene are seasoned just with butter and parmigiano&mdashwith or without sage.

A very old recipe for filled pasta is called Tortelli alla lastra (&ldquoon sandstone&rdquo) it originated in the mountains between Tuscany and Emilia and was originally cooked on a sheet of sandstone over a fire. The dough is made of flour and water, and rolled out into thin large squares the filling consists mainly of mashed potatoes, sometimes with the addition of pancetta. These tortelli are usually served with a sauce made of braised onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, sage and garlic.

Considered the homeland of the best chefs of Italian cuisine, this gorgeous region, west of Rome, is the birthplace of a unique filled pasta called Tortelli abruzzesi di Carnevale. This dish is usually served on the last Sunday of Carnival, and on other occasions as well. The filling of the tortelli, which can be made in a variety of shapes, consists simply of sheep ricotta, eggs and cinnamon. These tortelli are cooked in a meat broth&mdasha tradition for centuries&mdashand served with grated pecorino.

This small, gorgeous region has its own traditional and beloved filled-pasta dish: ravioli scapolesi&mdashthe name comes from a little village called Scapoli. The filling is made of boiled and chopped chard (bietola) roasted ground meat sausage beaten eggs ricotta and young pecorino cheese. For this recipe, egg dough is used. The large raviolis are first boiled, then seasoned in a pork and sausage ragù, and finally baked.

The most popular filled pastas from the spectacular island of Sardinia are known as culurjonis in the local dialect in Italian, they&rsquore called culurgioni. The dough is made of fresh durum wheat and water, and molded (after it&rsquos filled) to resemble the tip of a wheat stalk. The filling is made with fresh goat or sheep ricotta, eggs and saffron. Sometimes young local pecorino cheese, chard or spinach are added. Culurgioni are boiled in water and served with a fresh tomato and basil sauce grated aged pecorino is always sprinkled on top. In the southeast and the interior of the island, there are numerous variations for the filling&mdashsuch as very fresh pecorino cheese (just one or two days old), boiled mashed potatoes and mint. Sometimes oregano or onions are substituted for the mint.


Stuffed Pasta, The Ultimate Italian Comfort Food

The birth of ravioli appropriately enough is wrapped in legend.

Though &ldquoriavvolgere&rdquo means &ldquoto wrap,&rdquo most believe the dish was actually named after Ravioli, a renowned 13th-century chef in the Repubblica di Genova (now more or less the Italian region of Liguria) who is credited with its invention. But, as is often the case with the most enduring and beloved culinary creations, there are countless stories and conflicting tales about its origin. After all, who wouldn&rsquot want to take credit for this ingenious gastronomical gift? Though forms of this dish are known to date back to early Roman times, it wasn&rsquot until the 12th century that the first manuscripts can be found describing raviolus&mdashsquare or round shaped pasta probably filled with ricotta and other ingredients. Ravioli, however, is just one of many types of filled pasta&mdashor tortelli, as they were called in Italian&mdashall of which are the noble descendents of the torta, a medieval savory pie.

Torte (plural form), tortelli and ravioli can all be traced back to the Middle Ages in Italy. Contrary to popular belief, the so-called Dark Ages were a period of innovation in culinary methods and the real beginning of more elaborate preparations for the table. The earliest versions of torte were not so different than those we are familiar with today: vegetables cooked with herbs and spices, and often combined with ricotta or other cheese, wrapped in dough. Eclectic and appreciated by all social classes, torte quickly grew in popularity they were delicious, nutritious, and could last quite a long time&mdasheasily carried into the fields by farmers and soldiers. The creative chefs of the wealthy and noble families of the time expanded on the torte idea in order not to waste any of the abundant leftovers from the huge banquets and court meals, new forms of filled pasta began to develop. From torte, there came tortelli, tortellini, and tortelloni (demonstrating the endearing Italian linguistic device for expressing variations in size), ravioli and cappelletti. By the 14th century, all kinds of pasta ripiena (filled pasta) began to appear throughout many parts of northern and central Italy. Recipes spread from palaces to noble courts, eventually embraced by almost every social class in all the major regions of Italy&mdashfrom Bologna, Parma and Ferrara and later to Piemonte and Lombardy. As these recipes traveled, the names would change and often many of the ingredients, as well.

Basically, these delicious creations consisted of rolled-out layers of very thin dough made with wheat flour, water and sometimes eggs. (Though, in the central southern regions of Italy, eggs were rarely used.) The dough was then cut into small squares&mdashor round or triangular shapes. Each piece was dabbed with a tiny bit of ripieno (filling): vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, and salumi (cured pork meat) were used in various combinations, and not necessarily just from leftovers. Fresh game meat&mdashsuch as roasted or grilled deer, wild boar, and rabbit&mdashwere often used for the filling, or else fresh fish from the rivers, lakes, and seas. Some spices like nutmeg, saffron, poppy seeds and pepper became more widely used in later centuries. Until the 16th century, pasta of all kinds was customarily eaten with a sweet condiment such as marmalade, currants, or almonds these same ingredients could be used in filled-pasta preparations&mdashoften with the addition of ricotta or pecorino (sheep&rsquos milk cheese). The paste ripiene were often cooked in water or broth and served with spices, such as cinnamon or ginger or they were fried and sweetened with sugar or honey.

Remarkably little has changed in the way paste repiene is made today&mdashexcept perhaps that meat grinders and food processors have replaced mortars to mince and blend the ingredients for the fillings. As in earlier times, there is still a huge variety of regional variations. Sometimes the same pasta, with the same filling is called by a completely different name in towns just 20 miles apart. In other cases, the same name&mdashfor example, ravioli&mdashmeans something very different depending on which region you&rsquore in. Of course, there are also each cook&rsquos personal touches&mdashvarying and embellishing the traditional recipes, adjusting the proportions used, or changing or substituting ingredients according to what is available. Nonetheless, the traditional recipes remain intact. Below is a list of the most important and popular paste ripiene dishes in Italy today&mdashgoing from region to region, traveling from the northwest top of the boot and heading south&mdashto give you ideas for your own filled-pasta creations:

The specialty of this region is agnolotti&mdashwhich are usually in the form of squares a common variation is agnolotti gobbi (&ldquogobbi&rdquo means &ldquohunchbacked&rdquo) from the town of Asti, which are filled so abundantly they become curved. Usually, agnolotti are filled with a mixture of different cooked meats&mdashleftover stracotto (slowly cooked braised beef), roasted rabbit, chicken breast, or sausages&mdashcombined with vegetables such as spinach, chard or curly endives. Parmigiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper are added to the filling. For sauce, the juices from the roasted meats are often used alternatively, ragù alla Piemontese (a local version of meat sauce) is served. Another sauce commonly used all over Italy for paste ripiene is called burro fuso e salvia (melted butter and sage), which is simply made by warming butter until it foams slightly and the color changes to a light brown, then adding sage toward the end. The browned butter lends a wonderful nutty taste to this dish, which is always topped with parmigiano. Agnolotti can also be served simply in beef broth.

This is the region of ravioli and pansotti (which means &ldquolittle bellies&rdquo)&mdashboth pastas often are made with similar fillings. The raviolo (singular form) is a common type of pasta all over Italy&mdashthough its ingredients vary, its shape is always the same: squared or slightly rectangular. In Liguria, the classic filling is made with roasted sausages, beef and pork meat eggs parmigiano a generous amount of borage (a leafy green commonly found in Liguria) and marjoram. These ravioli are traditionally served in a bowl with a mixture of beef broth and Gavi wine&mdashthe same wine that you&rsquoll probably be drinking in your glass! Ravioli di Gavi can also be seasoned with a reduced gravy from roasted meat, topped with grated parmigiano. An alternative filling can be made with grilled fish leftovers, such as sea bass (branzino), baby shrimp (gamberetti), and other seafood&mdashall finely chopped, seasoned and sautéed, and served with a delicate fresh tomato sauce.

From the northern valleys bordering Switzerland comes an elaborate filled pasta called casoncelli&mdashthough the name has numerous dialectal variations. Typical fillings include salame, roasted meat, pears, currants, grana cheese, breadcrumbs, crumbled amaretti biscotti (almond cookies), garlic and parsley as you might imagine, there are countless variations. Appropriately enough, casoncelli are shaped like little wrapped bonbons they are served with butter and sage. Another famous dish from this region is the Tortelli di zucca mantovani, filled with pumpkin, crumbled amaretti biscotti, and mostarda&mdashthat is, a fruit mustard which is very common in Lombardy, particularly in the towns of Mantova and Cremona. The rectangular 2 ½-inch tortelli (which in other parts of Italy would be called ravioli) are boiled and served with burro fuso e salvia.

Emilia-Romagna

This region, which includes Bologna, is known to be the capital of filled pasta. Classic tortellini&mdashalso called cappelletti or tortelli&mdashcan be found in all the provinces of Emilia-Romagna. Tortellini are made in the shape of tiny knots one legend has it that Venus&rsquo navel was the inspiration! Contrary to agnolotti, the filling of tortellini is made with a blend of uncooked meats&mdashmortadella, prosciutto (Parma ham), and/or air-cured pork loin&mdashwith parmigiano, nutmeg, and pepper. The traditional way to serve tortellini is in beef or capon broth, or with the internationally renowned Bolognese meat sauce called Ragù alla Bolognese. An easy but delicious alternative is simply fresh cream and parmigiano. Another regional variation is anolini, which are half-moon shaped pasta with a filling similar to the Piemonte&rsquos agnolotti, or else a braised pork&ndashbased filling. But the vegetarian version&mdashthe classic ricotta and spinach filling&mdashis extremely popular, locally as well as worldwide. This filling, called ricotta e spinaci, is also commonly used with tortelloni (the bigger version of tortellini) or ravioli. Cappellacci (literally translated as &ldquougly hats&rdquo) are typically filled with pumpkin, or with pumpkin and potatoes. Other fillings are always being invented, such as ricotta and radicchio (found in the Veneto region) ricotta and asparagus and fava beans, artichokes and asparagus. This last recipe is delicious with a sauce of sun-dried tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil but most of the time, these vegetarian paste repiene are seasoned just with butter and parmigiano&mdashwith or without sage.

A very old recipe for filled pasta is called Tortelli alla lastra (&ldquoon sandstone&rdquo) it originated in the mountains between Tuscany and Emilia and was originally cooked on a sheet of sandstone over a fire. The dough is made of flour and water, and rolled out into thin large squares the filling consists mainly of mashed potatoes, sometimes with the addition of pancetta. These tortelli are usually served with a sauce made of braised onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, sage and garlic.

Considered the homeland of the best chefs of Italian cuisine, this gorgeous region, west of Rome, is the birthplace of a unique filled pasta called Tortelli abruzzesi di Carnevale. This dish is usually served on the last Sunday of Carnival, and on other occasions as well. The filling of the tortelli, which can be made in a variety of shapes, consists simply of sheep ricotta, eggs and cinnamon. These tortelli are cooked in a meat broth&mdasha tradition for centuries&mdashand served with grated pecorino.

This small, gorgeous region has its own traditional and beloved filled-pasta dish: ravioli scapolesi&mdashthe name comes from a little village called Scapoli. The filling is made of boiled and chopped chard (bietola) roasted ground meat sausage beaten eggs ricotta and young pecorino cheese. For this recipe, egg dough is used. The large raviolis are first boiled, then seasoned in a pork and sausage ragù, and finally baked.

The most popular filled pastas from the spectacular island of Sardinia are known as culurjonis in the local dialect in Italian, they&rsquore called culurgioni. The dough is made of fresh durum wheat and water, and molded (after it&rsquos filled) to resemble the tip of a wheat stalk. The filling is made with fresh goat or sheep ricotta, eggs and saffron. Sometimes young local pecorino cheese, chard or spinach are added. Culurgioni are boiled in water and served with a fresh tomato and basil sauce grated aged pecorino is always sprinkled on top. In the southeast and the interior of the island, there are numerous variations for the filling&mdashsuch as very fresh pecorino cheese (just one or two days old), boiled mashed potatoes and mint. Sometimes oregano or onions are substituted for the mint.


Stuffed Pasta, The Ultimate Italian Comfort Food

The birth of ravioli appropriately enough is wrapped in legend.

Though &ldquoriavvolgere&rdquo means &ldquoto wrap,&rdquo most believe the dish was actually named after Ravioli, a renowned 13th-century chef in the Repubblica di Genova (now more or less the Italian region of Liguria) who is credited with its invention. But, as is often the case with the most enduring and beloved culinary creations, there are countless stories and conflicting tales about its origin. After all, who wouldn&rsquot want to take credit for this ingenious gastronomical gift? Though forms of this dish are known to date back to early Roman times, it wasn&rsquot until the 12th century that the first manuscripts can be found describing raviolus&mdashsquare or round shaped pasta probably filled with ricotta and other ingredients. Ravioli, however, is just one of many types of filled pasta&mdashor tortelli, as they were called in Italian&mdashall of which are the noble descendents of the torta, a medieval savory pie.

Torte (plural form), tortelli and ravioli can all be traced back to the Middle Ages in Italy. Contrary to popular belief, the so-called Dark Ages were a period of innovation in culinary methods and the real beginning of more elaborate preparations for the table. The earliest versions of torte were not so different than those we are familiar with today: vegetables cooked with herbs and spices, and often combined with ricotta or other cheese, wrapped in dough. Eclectic and appreciated by all social classes, torte quickly grew in popularity they were delicious, nutritious, and could last quite a long time&mdasheasily carried into the fields by farmers and soldiers. The creative chefs of the wealthy and noble families of the time expanded on the torte idea in order not to waste any of the abundant leftovers from the huge banquets and court meals, new forms of filled pasta began to develop. From torte, there came tortelli, tortellini, and tortelloni (demonstrating the endearing Italian linguistic device for expressing variations in size), ravioli and cappelletti. By the 14th century, all kinds of pasta ripiena (filled pasta) began to appear throughout many parts of northern and central Italy. Recipes spread from palaces to noble courts, eventually embraced by almost every social class in all the major regions of Italy&mdashfrom Bologna, Parma and Ferrara and later to Piemonte and Lombardy. As these recipes traveled, the names would change and often many of the ingredients, as well.

Basically, these delicious creations consisted of rolled-out layers of very thin dough made with wheat flour, water and sometimes eggs. (Though, in the central southern regions of Italy, eggs were rarely used.) The dough was then cut into small squares&mdashor round or triangular shapes. Each piece was dabbed with a tiny bit of ripieno (filling): vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, and salumi (cured pork meat) were used in various combinations, and not necessarily just from leftovers. Fresh game meat&mdashsuch as roasted or grilled deer, wild boar, and rabbit&mdashwere often used for the filling, or else fresh fish from the rivers, lakes, and seas. Some spices like nutmeg, saffron, poppy seeds and pepper became more widely used in later centuries. Until the 16th century, pasta of all kinds was customarily eaten with a sweet condiment such as marmalade, currants, or almonds these same ingredients could be used in filled-pasta preparations&mdashoften with the addition of ricotta or pecorino (sheep&rsquos milk cheese). The paste ripiene were often cooked in water or broth and served with spices, such as cinnamon or ginger or they were fried and sweetened with sugar or honey.

Remarkably little has changed in the way paste repiene is made today&mdashexcept perhaps that meat grinders and food processors have replaced mortars to mince and blend the ingredients for the fillings. As in earlier times, there is still a huge variety of regional variations. Sometimes the same pasta, with the same filling is called by a completely different name in towns just 20 miles apart. In other cases, the same name&mdashfor example, ravioli&mdashmeans something very different depending on which region you&rsquore in. Of course, there are also each cook&rsquos personal touches&mdashvarying and embellishing the traditional recipes, adjusting the proportions used, or changing or substituting ingredients according to what is available. Nonetheless, the traditional recipes remain intact. Below is a list of the most important and popular paste ripiene dishes in Italy today&mdashgoing from region to region, traveling from the northwest top of the boot and heading south&mdashto give you ideas for your own filled-pasta creations:

The specialty of this region is agnolotti&mdashwhich are usually in the form of squares a common variation is agnolotti gobbi (&ldquogobbi&rdquo means &ldquohunchbacked&rdquo) from the town of Asti, which are filled so abundantly they become curved. Usually, agnolotti are filled with a mixture of different cooked meats&mdashleftover stracotto (slowly cooked braised beef), roasted rabbit, chicken breast, or sausages&mdashcombined with vegetables such as spinach, chard or curly endives. Parmigiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper are added to the filling. For sauce, the juices from the roasted meats are often used alternatively, ragù alla Piemontese (a local version of meat sauce) is served. Another sauce commonly used all over Italy for paste ripiene is called burro fuso e salvia (melted butter and sage), which is simply made by warming butter until it foams slightly and the color changes to a light brown, then adding sage toward the end. The browned butter lends a wonderful nutty taste to this dish, which is always topped with parmigiano. Agnolotti can also be served simply in beef broth.

This is the region of ravioli and pansotti (which means &ldquolittle bellies&rdquo)&mdashboth pastas often are made with similar fillings. The raviolo (singular form) is a common type of pasta all over Italy&mdashthough its ingredients vary, its shape is always the same: squared or slightly rectangular. In Liguria, the classic filling is made with roasted sausages, beef and pork meat eggs parmigiano a generous amount of borage (a leafy green commonly found in Liguria) and marjoram. These ravioli are traditionally served in a bowl with a mixture of beef broth and Gavi wine&mdashthe same wine that you&rsquoll probably be drinking in your glass! Ravioli di Gavi can also be seasoned with a reduced gravy from roasted meat, topped with grated parmigiano. An alternative filling can be made with grilled fish leftovers, such as sea bass (branzino), baby shrimp (gamberetti), and other seafood&mdashall finely chopped, seasoned and sautéed, and served with a delicate fresh tomato sauce.

From the northern valleys bordering Switzerland comes an elaborate filled pasta called casoncelli&mdashthough the name has numerous dialectal variations. Typical fillings include salame, roasted meat, pears, currants, grana cheese, breadcrumbs, crumbled amaretti biscotti (almond cookies), garlic and parsley as you might imagine, there are countless variations. Appropriately enough, casoncelli are shaped like little wrapped bonbons they are served with butter and sage. Another famous dish from this region is the Tortelli di zucca mantovani, filled with pumpkin, crumbled amaretti biscotti, and mostarda&mdashthat is, a fruit mustard which is very common in Lombardy, particularly in the towns of Mantova and Cremona. The rectangular 2 ½-inch tortelli (which in other parts of Italy would be called ravioli) are boiled and served with burro fuso e salvia.

Emilia-Romagna

This region, which includes Bologna, is known to be the capital of filled pasta. Classic tortellini&mdashalso called cappelletti or tortelli&mdashcan be found in all the provinces of Emilia-Romagna. Tortellini are made in the shape of tiny knots one legend has it that Venus&rsquo navel was the inspiration! Contrary to agnolotti, the filling of tortellini is made with a blend of uncooked meats&mdashmortadella, prosciutto (Parma ham), and/or air-cured pork loin&mdashwith parmigiano, nutmeg, and pepper. The traditional way to serve tortellini is in beef or capon broth, or with the internationally renowned Bolognese meat sauce called Ragù alla Bolognese. An easy but delicious alternative is simply fresh cream and parmigiano. Another regional variation is anolini, which are half-moon shaped pasta with a filling similar to the Piemonte&rsquos agnolotti, or else a braised pork&ndashbased filling. But the vegetarian version&mdashthe classic ricotta and spinach filling&mdashis extremely popular, locally as well as worldwide. This filling, called ricotta e spinaci, is also commonly used with tortelloni (the bigger version of tortellini) or ravioli. Cappellacci (literally translated as &ldquougly hats&rdquo) are typically filled with pumpkin, or with pumpkin and potatoes. Other fillings are always being invented, such as ricotta and radicchio (found in the Veneto region) ricotta and asparagus and fava beans, artichokes and asparagus. This last recipe is delicious with a sauce of sun-dried tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil but most of the time, these vegetarian paste repiene are seasoned just with butter and parmigiano&mdashwith or without sage.

A very old recipe for filled pasta is called Tortelli alla lastra (&ldquoon sandstone&rdquo) it originated in the mountains between Tuscany and Emilia and was originally cooked on a sheet of sandstone over a fire. The dough is made of flour and water, and rolled out into thin large squares the filling consists mainly of mashed potatoes, sometimes with the addition of pancetta. These tortelli are usually served with a sauce made of braised onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, sage and garlic.

Considered the homeland of the best chefs of Italian cuisine, this gorgeous region, west of Rome, is the birthplace of a unique filled pasta called Tortelli abruzzesi di Carnevale. This dish is usually served on the last Sunday of Carnival, and on other occasions as well. The filling of the tortelli, which can be made in a variety of shapes, consists simply of sheep ricotta, eggs and cinnamon. These tortelli are cooked in a meat broth&mdasha tradition for centuries&mdashand served with grated pecorino.

This small, gorgeous region has its own traditional and beloved filled-pasta dish: ravioli scapolesi&mdashthe name comes from a little village called Scapoli. The filling is made of boiled and chopped chard (bietola) roasted ground meat sausage beaten eggs ricotta and young pecorino cheese. For this recipe, egg dough is used. The large raviolis are first boiled, then seasoned in a pork and sausage ragù, and finally baked.

The most popular filled pastas from the spectacular island of Sardinia are known as culurjonis in the local dialect in Italian, they&rsquore called culurgioni. The dough is made of fresh durum wheat and water, and molded (after it&rsquos filled) to resemble the tip of a wheat stalk. The filling is made with fresh goat or sheep ricotta, eggs and saffron. Sometimes young local pecorino cheese, chard or spinach are added. Culurgioni are boiled in water and served with a fresh tomato and basil sauce grated aged pecorino is always sprinkled on top. In the southeast and the interior of the island, there are numerous variations for the filling&mdashsuch as very fresh pecorino cheese (just one or two days old), boiled mashed potatoes and mint. Sometimes oregano or onions are substituted for the mint.


Stuffed Pasta, The Ultimate Italian Comfort Food

The birth of ravioli appropriately enough is wrapped in legend.

Though &ldquoriavvolgere&rdquo means &ldquoto wrap,&rdquo most believe the dish was actually named after Ravioli, a renowned 13th-century chef in the Repubblica di Genova (now more or less the Italian region of Liguria) who is credited with its invention. But, as is often the case with the most enduring and beloved culinary creations, there are countless stories and conflicting tales about its origin. After all, who wouldn&rsquot want to take credit for this ingenious gastronomical gift? Though forms of this dish are known to date back to early Roman times, it wasn&rsquot until the 12th century that the first manuscripts can be found describing raviolus&mdashsquare or round shaped pasta probably filled with ricotta and other ingredients. Ravioli, however, is just one of many types of filled pasta&mdashor tortelli, as they were called in Italian&mdashall of which are the noble descendents of the torta, a medieval savory pie.

Torte (plural form), tortelli and ravioli can all be traced back to the Middle Ages in Italy. Contrary to popular belief, the so-called Dark Ages were a period of innovation in culinary methods and the real beginning of more elaborate preparations for the table. The earliest versions of torte were not so different than those we are familiar with today: vegetables cooked with herbs and spices, and often combined with ricotta or other cheese, wrapped in dough. Eclectic and appreciated by all social classes, torte quickly grew in popularity they were delicious, nutritious, and could last quite a long time&mdasheasily carried into the fields by farmers and soldiers. The creative chefs of the wealthy and noble families of the time expanded on the torte idea in order not to waste any of the abundant leftovers from the huge banquets and court meals, new forms of filled pasta began to develop. From torte, there came tortelli, tortellini, and tortelloni (demonstrating the endearing Italian linguistic device for expressing variations in size), ravioli and cappelletti. By the 14th century, all kinds of pasta ripiena (filled pasta) began to appear throughout many parts of northern and central Italy. Recipes spread from palaces to noble courts, eventually embraced by almost every social class in all the major regions of Italy&mdashfrom Bologna, Parma and Ferrara and later to Piemonte and Lombardy. As these recipes traveled, the names would change and often many of the ingredients, as well.

Basically, these delicious creations consisted of rolled-out layers of very thin dough made with wheat flour, water and sometimes eggs. (Though, in the central southern regions of Italy, eggs were rarely used.) The dough was then cut into small squares&mdashor round or triangular shapes. Each piece was dabbed with a tiny bit of ripieno (filling): vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, and salumi (cured pork meat) were used in various combinations, and not necessarily just from leftovers. Fresh game meat&mdashsuch as roasted or grilled deer, wild boar, and rabbit&mdashwere often used for the filling, or else fresh fish from the rivers, lakes, and seas. Some spices like nutmeg, saffron, poppy seeds and pepper became more widely used in later centuries. Until the 16th century, pasta of all kinds was customarily eaten with a sweet condiment such as marmalade, currants, or almonds these same ingredients could be used in filled-pasta preparations&mdashoften with the addition of ricotta or pecorino (sheep&rsquos milk cheese). The paste ripiene were often cooked in water or broth and served with spices, such as cinnamon or ginger or they were fried and sweetened with sugar or honey.

Remarkably little has changed in the way paste repiene is made today&mdashexcept perhaps that meat grinders and food processors have replaced mortars to mince and blend the ingredients for the fillings. As in earlier times, there is still a huge variety of regional variations. Sometimes the same pasta, with the same filling is called by a completely different name in towns just 20 miles apart. In other cases, the same name&mdashfor example, ravioli&mdashmeans something very different depending on which region you&rsquore in. Of course, there are also each cook&rsquos personal touches&mdashvarying and embellishing the traditional recipes, adjusting the proportions used, or changing or substituting ingredients according to what is available. Nonetheless, the traditional recipes remain intact. Below is a list of the most important and popular paste ripiene dishes in Italy today&mdashgoing from region to region, traveling from the northwest top of the boot and heading south&mdashto give you ideas for your own filled-pasta creations:

The specialty of this region is agnolotti&mdashwhich are usually in the form of squares a common variation is agnolotti gobbi (&ldquogobbi&rdquo means &ldquohunchbacked&rdquo) from the town of Asti, which are filled so abundantly they become curved. Usually, agnolotti are filled with a mixture of different cooked meats&mdashleftover stracotto (slowly cooked braised beef), roasted rabbit, chicken breast, or sausages&mdashcombined with vegetables such as spinach, chard or curly endives. Parmigiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper are added to the filling. For sauce, the juices from the roasted meats are often used alternatively, ragù alla Piemontese (a local version of meat sauce) is served. Another sauce commonly used all over Italy for paste ripiene is called burro fuso e salvia (melted butter and sage), which is simply made by warming butter until it foams slightly and the color changes to a light brown, then adding sage toward the end. The browned butter lends a wonderful nutty taste to this dish, which is always topped with parmigiano. Agnolotti can also be served simply in beef broth.

This is the region of ravioli and pansotti (which means &ldquolittle bellies&rdquo)&mdashboth pastas often are made with similar fillings. The raviolo (singular form) is a common type of pasta all over Italy&mdashthough its ingredients vary, its shape is always the same: squared or slightly rectangular. In Liguria, the classic filling is made with roasted sausages, beef and pork meat eggs parmigiano a generous amount of borage (a leafy green commonly found in Liguria) and marjoram. These ravioli are traditionally served in a bowl with a mixture of beef broth and Gavi wine&mdashthe same wine that you&rsquoll probably be drinking in your glass! Ravioli di Gavi can also be seasoned with a reduced gravy from roasted meat, topped with grated parmigiano. An alternative filling can be made with grilled fish leftovers, such as sea bass (branzino), baby shrimp (gamberetti), and other seafood&mdashall finely chopped, seasoned and sautéed, and served with a delicate fresh tomato sauce.

From the northern valleys bordering Switzerland comes an elaborate filled pasta called casoncelli&mdashthough the name has numerous dialectal variations. Typical fillings include salame, roasted meat, pears, currants, grana cheese, breadcrumbs, crumbled amaretti biscotti (almond cookies), garlic and parsley as you might imagine, there are countless variations. Appropriately enough, casoncelli are shaped like little wrapped bonbons they are served with butter and sage. Another famous dish from this region is the Tortelli di zucca mantovani, filled with pumpkin, crumbled amaretti biscotti, and mostarda&mdashthat is, a fruit mustard which is very common in Lombardy, particularly in the towns of Mantova and Cremona. The rectangular 2 ½-inch tortelli (which in other parts of Italy would be called ravioli) are boiled and served with burro fuso e salvia.

Emilia-Romagna

This region, which includes Bologna, is known to be the capital of filled pasta. Classic tortellini&mdashalso called cappelletti or tortelli&mdashcan be found in all the provinces of Emilia-Romagna. Tortellini are made in the shape of tiny knots one legend has it that Venus&rsquo navel was the inspiration! Contrary to agnolotti, the filling of tortellini is made with a blend of uncooked meats&mdashmortadella, prosciutto (Parma ham), and/or air-cured pork loin&mdashwith parmigiano, nutmeg, and pepper. The traditional way to serve tortellini is in beef or capon broth, or with the internationally renowned Bolognese meat sauce called Ragù alla Bolognese. An easy but delicious alternative is simply fresh cream and parmigiano. Another regional variation is anolini, which are half-moon shaped pasta with a filling similar to the Piemonte&rsquos agnolotti, or else a braised pork&ndashbased filling. But the vegetarian version&mdashthe classic ricotta and spinach filling&mdashis extremely popular, locally as well as worldwide. This filling, called ricotta e spinaci, is also commonly used with tortelloni (the bigger version of tortellini) or ravioli. Cappellacci (literally translated as &ldquougly hats&rdquo) are typically filled with pumpkin, or with pumpkin and potatoes. Other fillings are always being invented, such as ricotta and radicchio (found in the Veneto region) ricotta and asparagus and fava beans, artichokes and asparagus. This last recipe is delicious with a sauce of sun-dried tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil but most of the time, these vegetarian paste repiene are seasoned just with butter and parmigiano&mdashwith or without sage.

A very old recipe for filled pasta is called Tortelli alla lastra (&ldquoon sandstone&rdquo) it originated in the mountains between Tuscany and Emilia and was originally cooked on a sheet of sandstone over a fire. The dough is made of flour and water, and rolled out into thin large squares the filling consists mainly of mashed potatoes, sometimes with the addition of pancetta. These tortelli are usually served with a sauce made of braised onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, sage and garlic.

Considered the homeland of the best chefs of Italian cuisine, this gorgeous region, west of Rome, is the birthplace of a unique filled pasta called Tortelli abruzzesi di Carnevale. This dish is usually served on the last Sunday of Carnival, and on other occasions as well. The filling of the tortelli, which can be made in a variety of shapes, consists simply of sheep ricotta, eggs and cinnamon. These tortelli are cooked in a meat broth&mdasha tradition for centuries&mdashand served with grated pecorino.

This small, gorgeous region has its own traditional and beloved filled-pasta dish: ravioli scapolesi&mdashthe name comes from a little village called Scapoli. The filling is made of boiled and chopped chard (bietola) roasted ground meat sausage beaten eggs ricotta and young pecorino cheese. For this recipe, egg dough is used. The large raviolis are first boiled, then seasoned in a pork and sausage ragù, and finally baked.

The most popular filled pastas from the spectacular island of Sardinia are known as culurjonis in the local dialect in Italian, they&rsquore called culurgioni. The dough is made of fresh durum wheat and water, and molded (after it&rsquos filled) to resemble the tip of a wheat stalk. The filling is made with fresh goat or sheep ricotta, eggs and saffron. Sometimes young local pecorino cheese, chard or spinach are added. Culurgioni are boiled in water and served with a fresh tomato and basil sauce grated aged pecorino is always sprinkled on top. In the southeast and the interior of the island, there are numerous variations for the filling&mdashsuch as very fresh pecorino cheese (just one or two days old), boiled mashed potatoes and mint. Sometimes oregano or onions are substituted for the mint.


Stuffed Pasta, The Ultimate Italian Comfort Food

The birth of ravioli appropriately enough is wrapped in legend.

Though &ldquoriavvolgere&rdquo means &ldquoto wrap,&rdquo most believe the dish was actually named after Ravioli, a renowned 13th-century chef in the Repubblica di Genova (now more or less the Italian region of Liguria) who is credited with its invention. But, as is often the case with the most enduring and beloved culinary creations, there are countless stories and conflicting tales about its origin. After all, who wouldn&rsquot want to take credit for this ingenious gastronomical gift? Though forms of this dish are known to date back to early Roman times, it wasn&rsquot until the 12th century that the first manuscripts can be found describing raviolus&mdashsquare or round shaped pasta probably filled with ricotta and other ingredients. Ravioli, however, is just one of many types of filled pasta&mdashor tortelli, as they were called in Italian&mdashall of which are the noble descendents of the torta, a medieval savory pie.

Torte (plural form), tortelli and ravioli can all be traced back to the Middle Ages in Italy. Contrary to popular belief, the so-called Dark Ages were a period of innovation in culinary methods and the real beginning of more elaborate preparations for the table. The earliest versions of torte were not so different than those we are familiar with today: vegetables cooked with herbs and spices, and often combined with ricotta or other cheese, wrapped in dough. Eclectic and appreciated by all social classes, torte quickly grew in popularity they were delicious, nutritious, and could last quite a long time&mdasheasily carried into the fields by farmers and soldiers. The creative chefs of the wealthy and noble families of the time expanded on the torte idea in order not to waste any of the abundant leftovers from the huge banquets and court meals, new forms of filled pasta began to develop. From torte, there came tortelli, tortellini, and tortelloni (demonstrating the endearing Italian linguistic device for expressing variations in size), ravioli and cappelletti. By the 14th century, all kinds of pasta ripiena (filled pasta) began to appear throughout many parts of northern and central Italy. Recipes spread from palaces to noble courts, eventually embraced by almost every social class in all the major regions of Italy&mdashfrom Bologna, Parma and Ferrara and later to Piemonte and Lombardy. As these recipes traveled, the names would change and often many of the ingredients, as well.

Basically, these delicious creations consisted of rolled-out layers of very thin dough made with wheat flour, water and sometimes eggs. (Though, in the central southern regions of Italy, eggs were rarely used.) The dough was then cut into small squares&mdashor round or triangular shapes. Each piece was dabbed with a tiny bit of ripieno (filling): vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, and salumi (cured pork meat) were used in various combinations, and not necessarily just from leftovers. Fresh game meat&mdashsuch as roasted or grilled deer, wild boar, and rabbit&mdashwere often used for the filling, or else fresh fish from the rivers, lakes, and seas. Some spices like nutmeg, saffron, poppy seeds and pepper became more widely used in later centuries. Until the 16th century, pasta of all kinds was customarily eaten with a sweet condiment such as marmalade, currants, or almonds these same ingredients could be used in filled-pasta preparations&mdashoften with the addition of ricotta or pecorino (sheep&rsquos milk cheese). The paste ripiene were often cooked in water or broth and served with spices, such as cinnamon or ginger or they were fried and sweetened with sugar or honey.

Remarkably little has changed in the way paste repiene is made today&mdashexcept perhaps that meat grinders and food processors have replaced mortars to mince and blend the ingredients for the fillings. As in earlier times, there is still a huge variety of regional variations. Sometimes the same pasta, with the same filling is called by a completely different name in towns just 20 miles apart. In other cases, the same name&mdashfor example, ravioli&mdashmeans something very different depending on which region you&rsquore in. Of course, there are also each cook&rsquos personal touches&mdashvarying and embellishing the traditional recipes, adjusting the proportions used, or changing or substituting ingredients according to what is available. Nonetheless, the traditional recipes remain intact. Below is a list of the most important and popular paste ripiene dishes in Italy today&mdashgoing from region to region, traveling from the northwest top of the boot and heading south&mdashto give you ideas for your own filled-pasta creations:

The specialty of this region is agnolotti&mdashwhich are usually in the form of squares a common variation is agnolotti gobbi (&ldquogobbi&rdquo means &ldquohunchbacked&rdquo) from the town of Asti, which are filled so abundantly they become curved. Usually, agnolotti are filled with a mixture of different cooked meats&mdashleftover stracotto (slowly cooked braised beef), roasted rabbit, chicken breast, or sausages&mdashcombined with vegetables such as spinach, chard or curly endives. Parmigiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper are added to the filling. For sauce, the juices from the roasted meats are often used alternatively, ragù alla Piemontese (a local version of meat sauce) is served. Another sauce commonly used all over Italy for paste ripiene is called burro fuso e salvia (melted butter and sage), which is simply made by warming butter until it foams slightly and the color changes to a light brown, then adding sage toward the end. The browned butter lends a wonderful nutty taste to this dish, which is always topped with parmigiano. Agnolotti can also be served simply in beef broth.

This is the region of ravioli and pansotti (which means &ldquolittle bellies&rdquo)&mdashboth pastas often are made with similar fillings. The raviolo (singular form) is a common type of pasta all over Italy&mdashthough its ingredients vary, its shape is always the same: squared or slightly rectangular. In Liguria, the classic filling is made with roasted sausages, beef and pork meat eggs parmigiano a generous amount of borage (a leafy green commonly found in Liguria) and marjoram. These ravioli are traditionally served in a bowl with a mixture of beef broth and Gavi wine&mdashthe same wine that you&rsquoll probably be drinking in your glass! Ravioli di Gavi can also be seasoned with a reduced gravy from roasted meat, topped with grated parmigiano. An alternative filling can be made with grilled fish leftovers, such as sea bass (branzino), baby shrimp (gamberetti), and other seafood&mdashall finely chopped, seasoned and sautéed, and served with a delicate fresh tomato sauce.

From the northern valleys bordering Switzerland comes an elaborate filled pasta called casoncelli&mdashthough the name has numerous dialectal variations. Typical fillings include salame, roasted meat, pears, currants, grana cheese, breadcrumbs, crumbled amaretti biscotti (almond cookies), garlic and parsley as you might imagine, there are countless variations. Appropriately enough, casoncelli are shaped like little wrapped bonbons they are served with butter and sage. Another famous dish from this region is the Tortelli di zucca mantovani, filled with pumpkin, crumbled amaretti biscotti, and mostarda&mdashthat is, a fruit mustard which is very common in Lombardy, particularly in the towns of Mantova and Cremona. The rectangular 2 ½-inch tortelli (which in other parts of Italy would be called ravioli) are boiled and served with burro fuso e salvia.

Emilia-Romagna

This region, which includes Bologna, is known to be the capital of filled pasta. Classic tortellini&mdashalso called cappelletti or tortelli&mdashcan be found in all the provinces of Emilia-Romagna. Tortellini are made in the shape of tiny knots one legend has it that Venus&rsquo navel was the inspiration! Contrary to agnolotti, the filling of tortellini is made with a blend of uncooked meats&mdashmortadella, prosciutto (Parma ham), and/or air-cured pork loin&mdashwith parmigiano, nutmeg, and pepper. The traditional way to serve tortellini is in beef or capon broth, or with the internationally renowned Bolognese meat sauce called Ragù alla Bolognese. An easy but delicious alternative is simply fresh cream and parmigiano. Another regional variation is anolini, which are half-moon shaped pasta with a filling similar to the Piemonte&rsquos agnolotti, or else a braised pork&ndashbased filling. But the vegetarian version&mdashthe classic ricotta and spinach filling&mdashis extremely popular, locally as well as worldwide. This filling, called ricotta e spinaci, is also commonly used with tortelloni (the bigger version of tortellini) or ravioli. Cappellacci (literally translated as &ldquougly hats&rdquo) are typically filled with pumpkin, or with pumpkin and potatoes. Other fillings are always being invented, such as ricotta and radicchio (found in the Veneto region) ricotta and asparagus and fava beans, artichokes and asparagus. This last recipe is delicious with a sauce of sun-dried tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil but most of the time, these vegetarian paste repiene are seasoned just with butter and parmigiano&mdashwith or without sage.

A very old recipe for filled pasta is called Tortelli alla lastra (&ldquoon sandstone&rdquo) it originated in the mountains between Tuscany and Emilia and was originally cooked on a sheet of sandstone over a fire. The dough is made of flour and water, and rolled out into thin large squares the filling consists mainly of mashed potatoes, sometimes with the addition of pancetta. These tortelli are usually served with a sauce made of braised onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, sage and garlic.

Considered the homeland of the best chefs of Italian cuisine, this gorgeous region, west of Rome, is the birthplace of a unique filled pasta called Tortelli abruzzesi di Carnevale. This dish is usually served on the last Sunday of Carnival, and on other occasions as well. The filling of the tortelli, which can be made in a variety of shapes, consists simply of sheep ricotta, eggs and cinnamon. These tortelli are cooked in a meat broth&mdasha tradition for centuries&mdashand served with grated pecorino.

This small, gorgeous region has its own traditional and beloved filled-pasta dish: ravioli scapolesi&mdashthe name comes from a little village called Scapoli. The filling is made of boiled and chopped chard (bietola) roasted ground meat sausage beaten eggs ricotta and young pecorino cheese. For this recipe, egg dough is used. The large raviolis are first boiled, then seasoned in a pork and sausage ragù, and finally baked.

The most popular filled pastas from the spectacular island of Sardinia are known as culurjonis in the local dialect in Italian, they&rsquore called culurgioni. The dough is made of fresh durum wheat and water, and molded (after it&rsquos filled) to resemble the tip of a wheat stalk. The filling is made with fresh goat or sheep ricotta, eggs and saffron. Sometimes young local pecorino cheese, chard or spinach are added. Culurgioni are boiled in water and served with a fresh tomato and basil sauce grated aged pecorino is always sprinkled on top. In the southeast and the interior of the island, there are numerous variations for the filling&mdashsuch as very fresh pecorino cheese (just one or two days old), boiled mashed potatoes and mint. Sometimes oregano or onions are substituted for the mint.


Stuffed Pasta, The Ultimate Italian Comfort Food

The birth of ravioli appropriately enough is wrapped in legend.

Though &ldquoriavvolgere&rdquo means &ldquoto wrap,&rdquo most believe the dish was actually named after Ravioli, a renowned 13th-century chef in the Repubblica di Genova (now more or less the Italian region of Liguria) who is credited with its invention. But, as is often the case with the most enduring and beloved culinary creations, there are countless stories and conflicting tales about its origin. After all, who wouldn&rsquot want to take credit for this ingenious gastronomical gift? Though forms of this dish are known to date back to early Roman times, it wasn&rsquot until the 12th century that the first manuscripts can be found describing raviolus&mdashsquare or round shaped pasta probably filled with ricotta and other ingredients. Ravioli, however, is just one of many types of filled pasta&mdashor tortelli, as they were called in Italian&mdashall of which are the noble descendents of the torta, a medieval savory pie.

Torte (plural form), tortelli and ravioli can all be traced back to the Middle Ages in Italy. Contrary to popular belief, the so-called Dark Ages were a period of innovation in culinary methods and the real beginning of more elaborate preparations for the table. The earliest versions of torte were not so different than those we are familiar with today: vegetables cooked with herbs and spices, and often combined with ricotta or other cheese, wrapped in dough. Eclectic and appreciated by all social classes, torte quickly grew in popularity they were delicious, nutritious, and could last quite a long time&mdasheasily carried into the fields by farmers and soldiers. The creative chefs of the wealthy and noble families of the time expanded on the torte idea in order not to waste any of the abundant leftovers from the huge banquets and court meals, new forms of filled pasta began to develop. From torte, there came tortelli, tortellini, and tortelloni (demonstrating the endearing Italian linguistic device for expressing variations in size), ravioli and cappelletti. By the 14th century, all kinds of pasta ripiena (filled pasta) began to appear throughout many parts of northern and central Italy. Recipes spread from palaces to noble courts, eventually embraced by almost every social class in all the major regions of Italy&mdashfrom Bologna, Parma and Ferrara and later to Piemonte and Lombardy. As these recipes traveled, the names would change and often many of the ingredients, as well.

Basically, these delicious creations consisted of rolled-out layers of very thin dough made with wheat flour, water and sometimes eggs. (Though, in the central southern regions of Italy, eggs were rarely used.) The dough was then cut into small squares&mdashor round or triangular shapes. Each piece was dabbed with a tiny bit of ripieno (filling): vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, and salumi (cured pork meat) were used in various combinations, and not necessarily just from leftovers. Fresh game meat&mdashsuch as roasted or grilled deer, wild boar, and rabbit&mdashwere often used for the filling, or else fresh fish from the rivers, lakes, and seas. Some spices like nutmeg, saffron, poppy seeds and pepper became more widely used in later centuries. Until the 16th century, pasta of all kinds was customarily eaten with a sweet condiment such as marmalade, currants, or almonds these same ingredients could be used in filled-pasta preparations&mdashoften with the addition of ricotta or pecorino (sheep&rsquos milk cheese). The paste ripiene were often cooked in water or broth and served with spices, such as cinnamon or ginger or they were fried and sweetened with sugar or honey.

Remarkably little has changed in the way paste repiene is made today&mdashexcept perhaps that meat grinders and food processors have replaced mortars to mince and blend the ingredients for the fillings. As in earlier times, there is still a huge variety of regional variations. Sometimes the same pasta, with the same filling is called by a completely different name in towns just 20 miles apart. In other cases, the same name&mdashfor example, ravioli&mdashmeans something very different depending on which region you&rsquore in. Of course, there are also each cook&rsquos personal touches&mdashvarying and embellishing the traditional recipes, adjusting the proportions used, or changing or substituting ingredients according to what is available. Nonetheless, the traditional recipes remain intact. Below is a list of the most important and popular paste ripiene dishes in Italy today&mdashgoing from region to region, traveling from the northwest top of the boot and heading south&mdashto give you ideas for your own filled-pasta creations:

The specialty of this region is agnolotti&mdashwhich are usually in the form of squares a common variation is agnolotti gobbi (&ldquogobbi&rdquo means &ldquohunchbacked&rdquo) from the town of Asti, which are filled so abundantly they become curved. Usually, agnolotti are filled with a mixture of different cooked meats&mdashleftover stracotto (slowly cooked braised beef), roasted rabbit, chicken breast, or sausages&mdashcombined with vegetables such as spinach, chard or curly endives. Parmigiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper are added to the filling. For sauce, the juices from the roasted meats are often used alternatively, ragù alla Piemontese (a local version of meat sauce) is served. Another sauce commonly used all over Italy for paste ripiene is called burro fuso e salvia (melted butter and sage), which is simply made by warming butter until it foams slightly and the color changes to a light brown, then adding sage toward the end. The browned butter lends a wonderful nutty taste to this dish, which is always topped with parmigiano. Agnolotti can also be served simply in beef broth.

This is the region of ravioli and pansotti (which means &ldquolittle bellies&rdquo)&mdashboth pastas often are made with similar fillings. The raviolo (singular form) is a common type of pasta all over Italy&mdashthough its ingredients vary, its shape is always the same: squared or slightly rectangular. In Liguria, the classic filling is made with roasted sausages, beef and pork meat eggs parmigiano a generous amount of borage (a leafy green commonly found in Liguria) and marjoram. These ravioli are traditionally served in a bowl with a mixture of beef broth and Gavi wine&mdashthe same wine that you&rsquoll probably be drinking in your glass! Ravioli di Gavi can also be seasoned with a reduced gravy from roasted meat, topped with grated parmigiano. An alternative filling can be made with grilled fish leftovers, such as sea bass (branzino), baby shrimp (gamberetti), and other seafood&mdashall finely chopped, seasoned and sautéed, and served with a delicate fresh tomato sauce.

From the northern valleys bordering Switzerland comes an elaborate filled pasta called casoncelli&mdashthough the name has numerous dialectal variations. Typical fillings include salame, roasted meat, pears, currants, grana cheese, breadcrumbs, crumbled amaretti biscotti (almond cookies), garlic and parsley as you might imagine, there are countless variations. Appropriately enough, casoncelli are shaped like little wrapped bonbons they are served with butter and sage. Another famous dish from this region is the Tortelli di zucca mantovani, filled with pumpkin, crumbled amaretti biscotti, and mostarda&mdashthat is, a fruit mustard which is very common in Lombardy, particularly in the towns of Mantova and Cremona. The rectangular 2 ½-inch tortelli (which in other parts of Italy would be called ravioli) are boiled and served with burro fuso e salvia.

Emilia-Romagna

This region, which includes Bologna, is known to be the capital of filled pasta. Classic tortellini&mdashalso called cappelletti or tortelli&mdashcan be found in all the provinces of Emilia-Romagna. Tortellini are made in the shape of tiny knots one legend has it that Venus&rsquo navel was the inspiration! Contrary to agnolotti, the filling of tortellini is made with a blend of uncooked meats&mdashmortadella, prosciutto (Parma ham), and/or air-cured pork loin&mdashwith parmigiano, nutmeg, and pepper. The traditional way to serve tortellini is in beef or capon broth, or with the internationally renowned Bolognese meat sauce called Ragù alla Bolognese. An easy but delicious alternative is simply fresh cream and parmigiano. Another regional variation is anolini, which are half-moon shaped pasta with a filling similar to the Piemonte&rsquos agnolotti, or else a braised pork&ndashbased filling. But the vegetarian version&mdashthe classic ricotta and spinach filling&mdashis extremely popular, locally as well as worldwide. This filling, called ricotta e spinaci, is also commonly used with tortelloni (the bigger version of tortellini) or ravioli. Cappellacci (literally translated as &ldquougly hats&rdquo) are typically filled with pumpkin, or with pumpkin and potatoes. Other fillings are always being invented, such as ricotta and radicchio (found in the Veneto region) ricotta and asparagus and fava beans, artichokes and asparagus. This last recipe is delicious with a sauce of sun-dried tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil but most of the time, these vegetarian paste repiene are seasoned just with butter and parmigiano&mdashwith or without sage.

A very old recipe for filled pasta is called Tortelli alla lastra (&ldquoon sandstone&rdquo) it originated in the mountains between Tuscany and Emilia and was originally cooked on a sheet of sandstone over a fire. The dough is made of flour and water, and rolled out into thin large squares the filling consists mainly of mashed potatoes, sometimes with the addition of pancetta. These tortelli are usually served with a sauce made of braised onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, sage and garlic.

Considered the homeland of the best chefs of Italian cuisine, this gorgeous region, west of Rome, is the birthplace of a unique filled pasta called Tortelli abruzzesi di Carnevale. This dish is usually served on the last Sunday of Carnival, and on other occasions as well. The filling of the tortelli, which can be made in a variety of shapes, consists simply of sheep ricotta, eggs and cinnamon. These tortelli are cooked in a meat broth&mdasha tradition for centuries&mdashand served with grated pecorino.

This small, gorgeous region has its own traditional and beloved filled-pasta dish: ravioli scapolesi&mdashthe name comes from a little village called Scapoli. The filling is made of boiled and chopped chard (bietola) roasted ground meat sausage beaten eggs ricotta and young pecorino cheese. For this recipe, egg dough is used. The large raviolis are first boiled, then seasoned in a pork and sausage ragù, and finally baked.

The most popular filled pastas from the spectacular island of Sardinia are known as culurjonis in the local dialect in Italian, they&rsquore called culurgioni. The dough is made of fresh durum wheat and water, and molded (after it&rsquos filled) to resemble the tip of a wheat stalk. The filling is made with fresh goat or sheep ricotta, eggs and saffron. Sometimes young local pecorino cheese, chard or spinach are added. Culurgioni are boiled in water and served with a fresh tomato and basil sauce grated aged pecorino is always sprinkled on top. In the southeast and the interior of the island, there are numerous variations for the filling&mdashsuch as very fresh pecorino cheese (just one or two days old), boiled mashed potatoes and mint. Sometimes oregano or onions are substituted for the mint.


Stuffed Pasta, The Ultimate Italian Comfort Food

The birth of ravioli appropriately enough is wrapped in legend.

Though &ldquoriavvolgere&rdquo means &ldquoto wrap,&rdquo most believe the dish was actually named after Ravioli, a renowned 13th-century chef in the Repubblica di Genova (now more or less the Italian region of Liguria) who is credited with its invention. But, as is often the case with the most enduring and beloved culinary creations, there are countless stories and conflicting tales about its origin. After all, who wouldn&rsquot want to take credit for this ingenious gastronomical gift? Though forms of this dish are known to date back to early Roman times, it wasn&rsquot until the 12th century that the first manuscripts can be found describing raviolus&mdashsquare or round shaped pasta probably filled with ricotta and other ingredients. Ravioli, however, is just one of many types of filled pasta&mdashor tortelli, as they were called in Italian&mdashall of which are the noble descendents of the torta, a medieval savory pie.

Torte (plural form), tortelli and ravioli can all be traced back to the Middle Ages in Italy. Contrary to popular belief, the so-called Dark Ages were a period of innovation in culinary methods and the real beginning of more elaborate preparations for the table. The earliest versions of torte were not so different than those we are familiar with today: vegetables cooked with herbs and spices, and often combined with ricotta or other cheese, wrapped in dough. Eclectic and appreciated by all social classes, torte quickly grew in popularity they were delicious, nutritious, and could last quite a long time&mdasheasily carried into the fields by farmers and soldiers. The creative chefs of the wealthy and noble families of the time expanded on the torte idea in order not to waste any of the abundant leftovers from the huge banquets and court meals, new forms of filled pasta began to develop. From torte, there came tortelli, tortellini, and tortelloni (demonstrating the endearing Italian linguistic device for expressing variations in size), ravioli and cappelletti. By the 14th century, all kinds of pasta ripiena (filled pasta) began to appear throughout many parts of northern and central Italy. Recipes spread from palaces to noble courts, eventually embraced by almost every social class in all the major regions of Italy&mdashfrom Bologna, Parma and Ferrara and later to Piemonte and Lombardy. As these recipes traveled, the names would change and often many of the ingredients, as well.

Basically, these delicious creations consisted of rolled-out layers of very thin dough made with wheat flour, water and sometimes eggs. (Though, in the central southern regions of Italy, eggs were rarely used.) The dough was then cut into small squares&mdashor round or triangular shapes. Each piece was dabbed with a tiny bit of ripieno (filling): vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, and salumi (cured pork meat) were used in various combinations, and not necessarily just from leftovers. Fresh game meat&mdashsuch as roasted or grilled deer, wild boar, and rabbit&mdashwere often used for the filling, or else fresh fish from the rivers, lakes, and seas. Some spices like nutmeg, saffron, poppy seeds and pepper became more widely used in later centuries. Until the 16th century, pasta of all kinds was customarily eaten with a sweet condiment such as marmalade, currants, or almonds these same ingredients could be used in filled-pasta preparations&mdashoften with the addition of ricotta or pecorino (sheep&rsquos milk cheese). The paste ripiene were often cooked in water or broth and served with spices, such as cinnamon or ginger or they were fried and sweetened with sugar or honey.

Remarkably little has changed in the way paste repiene is made today&mdashexcept perhaps that meat grinders and food processors have replaced mortars to mince and blend the ingredients for the fillings. As in earlier times, there is still a huge variety of regional variations. Sometimes the same pasta, with the same filling is called by a completely different name in towns just 20 miles apart. In other cases, the same name&mdashfor example, ravioli&mdashmeans something very different depending on which region you&rsquore in. Of course, there are also each cook&rsquos personal touches&mdashvarying and embellishing the traditional recipes, adjusting the proportions used, or changing or substituting ingredients according to what is available. Nonetheless, the traditional recipes remain intact. Below is a list of the most important and popular paste ripiene dishes in Italy today&mdashgoing from region to region, traveling from the northwest top of the boot and heading south&mdashto give you ideas for your own filled-pasta creations:

The specialty of this region is agnolotti&mdashwhich are usually in the form of squares a common variation is agnolotti gobbi (&ldquogobbi&rdquo means &ldquohunchbacked&rdquo) from the town of Asti, which are filled so abundantly they become curved. Usually, agnolotti are filled with a mixture of different cooked meats&mdashleftover stracotto (slowly cooked braised beef), roasted rabbit, chicken breast, or sausages&mdashcombined with vegetables such as spinach, chard or curly endives. Parmigiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper are added to the filling. For sauce, the juices from the roasted meats are often used alternatively, ragù alla Piemontese (a local version of meat sauce) is served. Another sauce commonly used all over Italy for paste ripiene is called burro fuso e salvia (melted butter and sage), which is simply made by warming butter until it foams slightly and the color changes to a light brown, then adding sage toward the end. The browned butter lends a wonderful nutty taste to this dish, which is always topped with parmigiano. Agnolotti can also be served simply in beef broth.

This is the region of ravioli and pansotti (which means &ldquolittle bellies&rdquo)&mdashboth pastas often are made with similar fillings. The raviolo (singular form) is a common type of pasta all over Italy&mdashthough its ingredients vary, its shape is always the same: squared or slightly rectangular. In Liguria, the classic filling is made with roasted sausages, beef and pork meat eggs parmigiano a generous amount of borage (a leafy green commonly found in Liguria) and marjoram. These ravioli are traditionally served in a bowl with a mixture of beef broth and Gavi wine&mdashthe same wine that you&rsquoll probably be drinking in your glass! Ravioli di Gavi can also be seasoned with a reduced gravy from roasted meat, topped with grated parmigiano. An alternative filling can be made with grilled fish leftovers, such as sea bass (branzino), baby shrimp (gamberetti), and other seafood&mdashall finely chopped, seasoned and sautéed, and served with a delicate fresh tomato sauce.

From the northern valleys bordering Switzerland comes an elaborate filled pasta called casoncelli&mdashthough the name has numerous dialectal variations. Typical fillings include salame, roasted meat, pears, currants, grana cheese, breadcrumbs, crumbled amaretti biscotti (almond cookies), garlic and parsley as you might imagine, there are countless variations. Appropriately enough, casoncelli are shaped like little wrapped bonbons they are served with butter and sage. Another famous dish from this region is the Tortelli di zucca mantovani, filled with pumpkin, crumbled amaretti biscotti, and mostarda&mdashthat is, a fruit mustard which is very common in Lombardy, particularly in the towns of Mantova and Cremona. The rectangular 2 ½-inch tortelli (which in other parts of Italy would be called ravioli) are boiled and served with burro fuso e salvia.

Emilia-Romagna

This region, which includes Bologna, is known to be the capital of filled pasta. Classic tortellini&mdashalso called cappelletti or tortelli&mdashcan be found in all the provinces of Emilia-Romagna. Tortellini are made in the shape of tiny knots one legend has it that Venus&rsquo navel was the inspiration! Contrary to agnolotti, the filling of tortellini is made with a blend of uncooked meats&mdashmortadella, prosciutto (Parma ham), and/or air-cured pork loin&mdashwith parmigiano, nutmeg, and pepper. The traditional way to serve tortellini is in beef or capon broth, or with the internationally renowned Bolognese meat sauce called Ragù alla Bolognese. An easy but delicious alternative is simply fresh cream and parmigiano. Another regional variation is anolini, which are half-moon shaped pasta with a filling similar to the Piemonte&rsquos agnolotti, or else a braised pork&ndashbased filling. But the vegetarian version&mdashthe classic ricotta and spinach filling&mdashis extremely popular, locally as well as worldwide. This filling, called ricotta e spinaci, is also commonly used with tortelloni (the bigger version of tortellini) or ravioli. Cappellacci (literally translated as &ldquougly hats&rdquo) are typically filled with pumpkin, or with pumpkin and potatoes. Other fillings are always being invented, such as ricotta and radicchio (found in the Veneto region) ricotta and asparagus and fava beans, artichokes and asparagus. This last recipe is delicious with a sauce of sun-dried tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil but most of the time, these vegetarian paste repiene are seasoned just with butter and parmigiano&mdashwith or without sage.

A very old recipe for filled pasta is called Tortelli alla lastra (&ldquoon sandstone&rdquo) it originated in the mountains between Tuscany and Emilia and was originally cooked on a sheet of sandstone over a fire. The dough is made of flour and water, and rolled out into thin large squares the filling consists mainly of mashed potatoes, sometimes with the addition of pancetta. These tortelli are usually served with a sauce made of braised onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, sage and garlic.

Considered the homeland of the best chefs of Italian cuisine, this gorgeous region, west of Rome, is the birthplace of a unique filled pasta called Tortelli abruzzesi di Carnevale. This dish is usually served on the last Sunday of Carnival, and on other occasions as well. The filling of the tortelli, which can be made in a variety of shapes, consists simply of sheep ricotta, eggs and cinnamon. These tortelli are cooked in a meat broth&mdasha tradition for centuries&mdashand served with grated pecorino.

This small, gorgeous region has its own traditional and beloved filled-pasta dish: ravioli scapolesi&mdashthe name comes from a little village called Scapoli. The filling is made of boiled and chopped chard (bietola) roasted ground meat sausage beaten eggs ricotta and young pecorino cheese. For this recipe, egg dough is used. The large raviolis are first boiled, then seasoned in a pork and sausage ragù, and finally baked.

The most popular filled pastas from the spectacular island of Sardinia are known as culurjonis in the local dialect in Italian, they&rsquore called culurgioni. The dough is made of fresh durum wheat and water, and molded (after it&rsquos filled) to resemble the tip of a wheat stalk. The filling is made with fresh goat or sheep ricotta, eggs and saffron. Sometimes young local pecorino cheese, chard or spinach are added. Culurgioni are boiled in water and served with a fresh tomato and basil sauce grated aged pecorino is always sprinkled on top. In the southeast and the interior of the island, there are numerous variations for the filling&mdashsuch as very fresh pecorino cheese (just one or two days old), boiled mashed potatoes and mint. Sometimes oregano or onions are substituted for the mint.


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