The history of pumpkin tortelli, a typical Mantuan dish

I pumpkin tortelliin addition to being one of the typical dishes of the Mantuan tradition, it is also one of the best known dishes of the Italian culinary history. Related to Christmas tradition, are eaten – seasoned with melted butter, sage and Parmesan cheese – especially during Christmas Eve dinner. Not everyone knows, however, that the perfect union between pasta and pumpkin dates back to Renaissance. Let’s find out more about the history of pumpkin tortelli, a dish with a timeless taste!

The history of pumpkin tortelli

L’ancestor of the pumpkin, as we know it today, arrived in Italy thanks to the Spanish conquistadors. The first examples of pumpkin were few and expensive and this inevitably allowed them to spread only among the rich and noble classes. Initially the pumpkin was considered a exhibit object and it seems that it was right Isabella d’Este to open the dances of its culinary use. It was indeed the Duchess of Mantua to deliver the pumpkin to the cooks of the palace, with the order to waste as little of the precious fruit as possible. There pumpkin pulp it turned out really sweet, flavourful and tasty but something was missing. The cooks then decided to add the quince mustard to give a more decisive flavour: the filling of pumpkin tortelli was born.

The first traces of tortelli therefore date back to ‘500 and at the court of the Gonzaga. The lords of Mantua were undoubtedly for good food and had the best cooks of the time at their disposal. Most of them were from Jewish origin and, in fact, when several cooks were expelled from the Gonzaga territory in 1629, they fled towards Piadena, Cremona, Casalmaggiore and Crema. It is from this moment on that the tradition of the pumpkin tortelli it quickly expanded in these areas and in Emilia, to then arrive in other areas of Italy in different variations. In the end, pumpkin tortelli also became the peasants’ feast dish because it soon spread everywhere at affordable prices.

What seasoning?

To date, we find some pumpkin tortelli different variations accompanied by as many different condiments. According to history, the traditional sauce for pumpkin tortelli is made up of melted butter in a pan flavored with sage. In the Basso Mantua, for example, the butter sautéed with onion and tomato, perhaps also combined with pork sausage. It can therefore be said that in the area that goes from Mantua to Crema, passing through Ferrara, Reggio Emilia and Casalmaggiore, in the filling we find pumpkin pulp, apple mustard, amaretti biscuits and nutmeg with melted butter dressing. In the western area of ​​Mantua, tortelli, on the other hand, are seasoned with tomato. In reality, everyone can interpret the tradition as they prefer based on the raw material that it has at its disposal, ai cooking timesthe quality of the products or the combinations of foods that guests like.

Little curiosity: towards the beginning of ‘900 some written texts began to spread which testify how pumpkin tortelli with tomato sauce were now part of the family tradition especially on holidays. Even today, especially during the Christmas’ Eveit is said that the head of the family serves the tortelli.

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