This tortellini recipe is from “The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi 1570” and was part of the “Pasta Project”. It was written by Bartolomeo Scappi for his apprentice. Scappi was head chef for two popes; Pius IV (1559 – 1565) and Pius V (1566 – 1572) and the funeral for Pope Paul III (1534-1549) and the conclave that elected his successor.
At first glance, this recipe seems unusual to the modern palette. It pairs chicken with cinnamon and other sweet spices. My personal opinion is that Scappi was a culinary genius. He pairs sweet with sour, or agrodulce, with savory creating some of the most delicious historical bites. Let me know what you think of this dish.
The Original Text (1)
“Per fare tortelletti con la polpa di cappone
Pestinosi nel mortaio due polpa di due petti capponi, che prima erano flatialessati una libre di midolle di bova senza ossa, tre onice di grasso di pollo, e tre di zinna di vitella lessata, e quando ogni cosa sarà pesta, ginnganisi una libre di calcio grasso, otto onice di zuccaro, una onice di cannella, mezza oncia di pepe, zafferano a bastanza, mezza oncia tra garofani e noci moscate, quattro onice d’una pasta di Corinto ben netta, una brancata tra menta, maiorana, & altre herbette odorifere, quattro rossi d’uove fresche, e due con il chiaro, fatta che sarà la detta compositione di modo che non sia troppo salata, sabbiasi una sfoglio di pasta alquanto sottile, fatto di fior di farina, acqua di rosi, sale, butiro, zuccaro, & acqua sepida e con esso sfoglio faccianosi i tortelletti piccioli, e grandi tagliati con lo sperone, o buffolo, e faccianosi cuocere in buon brado di pollo, o d’altra carne grasso, e cervanosi con cascio, zuccaro, e cannella sopra. In questo modosimo modo si potribbe fare di polpe di galline d’India, e pavoni arrostitinello spedo, e di faggiani, e starni, e di altri volatili & sati, e anche di loin boletti di vitella arrostiti nello spedo con grasso di rognone.”
“To Make Tortelletti with Chicken Breast
In a mortar grind the flesh of two capon breasts that have first been boiled with a pound of boneless beef marrow, three ounces of chicken fat, and three ounces of boiled veal udder; when everything is ground up, add in a pound of creamy cheese, eight ounces of sugar, one ounce of cinnamon, half an ounce of pepper, enough saffron, half an ounce of cloves and nutmeg together, four ounces of very clean currant raisins, a handful of mint, sweet marjoram and other common aromatic herbs together, four fresh egg yolks and two with their whites. When the mixture is so made up that it is not too salty, get a rather thin sheet of dough made of flour, rosewater, salt, butter, sugar, and warm water and out of that dough, with a cutting wheel or dough cutter, cut out large or small tortellini. Cook them in a good fat broth of chicken or some other meat. Serve them with cheese, sugar and cinnamon on top. In the same way you can do it with the flesh of spit-roasted turkey hens and peacocks, and of pheasants and partridges and other commonly eaten fowl, and also of veal loin roasted on a spit with kidney-fat. (Scappi 230)
Dough for Tortellini, Anolini and Other Formed Pasta
So again, to make this dish we must first make the dough. Scappi uses this dough for a couple of recipes, specifically tortellini and anolini. I find it intriguing that he has so many different doughs for pasta. The dough we used for the Lobster Ravioli was softer, more pliable and contained white wine and olive oil. Most importantly, it was delicious when fried as Scappi directed.
- 100 grams of Semolina Flour
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. rosewater
- 1/4 cup warm water
Combine the flour, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into cubes and work it into the flour mix, rubbing it between your fingers. Add the rosewater and half of the warm water. Mix this until it comes together into a shaggy dough. Knead the dough adjusting the amount of liquid until it forms a smooth supple dough, approximately the consistency of play-dough.
Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes and then roll it thin and cut whatever shapes you will need. In this recipe we cut two inch squares and used these to make tortellini.
Note: This recipe makes enough for hundreds of tortellini. I would recommend halving the below amounts.
- 2 Chicken Breasts
- 12 oz. Ricotta Cheese
- 1 oz. cinnamon
- 1/2 oz. Pepper
- 1/2 oz. Nutmeg and Cloves together
- 1 tbsp. Minced Fresh Mint
- 1 tbsp. minced fresh Marjoram
- 8 oz. Sugar
- 1 or 2 threads saffron
- 4 oz. dried Currants
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 batch of pasta dough
Boil the chicken breasts in water. While the chicken cools pound the currants in a mortar and set aside. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, minced it very fine and place it in the mortar to grind to a fine paste.
When the chicken is a paste like consistency add the ricotta, spices, herbs, currants and eggs. It is important that the filling be ground as finely as possible. Each tortellini contains only one teaspoon, AT THE MOST, probably more like one half to three quarters of a teaspoon.
To form the tortellini, take the two inch squares of dough and place a scant 1/2 teaspoon of filling in the center. Barely wet the edges of half the square and fold it in half from point to point so you have a triangle shape. Now for the tricky part: Take the triangle and wrap it around your finger so that the points on the longest side go around your finger and meet. The final tortellini should look like the one below.
Cook the tortellini in a fatted broth. If I do not have homemade stock I have used a store bought stock and added butter or oil for the “fat”. When the tortellini rise to the surface of the water cook them an additional 1-2 minutes. Serve them with a little of the broth and parmesan cheese. Garnish them with a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon on top.
This recipe is delicious even though the modern palette finds the combination of chicken and cinnamon odd. During the pasta project these tortellini were the second favorite behind the Lobster Ravioli. Please let me know what you think!
Note: since there is a lot of cinnamon in the filling you can skip this if you would like. I recommend trying it in it’s original form before making alterations. The added cinnamon on top was basically showing off your wealth. Spices were extremely expensive and to sprinkle it on top was a way to let others know your wealth.
Note: This recipe was redacted to enter into a competition so I did exactly what the original text described. You can substitute the spices you prefer. You can also throw everything into a food processor, you do not have to grind it by hand. I will say that you get a smoother final product if you use a mortar and do everything manually.
- Scappi, Bartolomeo. 1570 Digital copies of the original text, Italian https://archive.org/details/operavenetiascap00scap/page/n4 retrieved 7/30/2019
- Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570). Trans. Terrence Scully. Toronto, Canada. University of Toronto Press. 2008. Print.