Tortellini: Comfort food in any language

Tortellini: Comfort food in any language
Tortellini: Comfort food in any language 03:29

Tortellini in brodo, or "broth" in Italian, is traditionally a comfort food for the holidays. In 2020, it's welcome in any season.

"If I have to take one dish to a desert island for the rest of my life, this would be it," said Rolando Beramendi, a chef and cookbook author.

Correspondent Seth Doane asked, "Did you put tortellini in brodo in your book?"

"No. I didn't," he replied. "Because it's so complicated that I think it would be very difficult to translate."

Tortellini in brodo.  CBS News

Even he leaves it to the experts. That means, for a good 30 years he's come to Cammillo Trattoria, a fourth-generation family restaurant in Florence, where they make it look simple.

"As Leonardo da Vinci said, 'Simplicity is the ultimate art of sophistication,'" said Beramendi.

First, Cammillo owner Chiara Masiero gets the pasta (or sfoglia) as thin as possible. Then, there's the filling, and the flourish, pressing and folding the pasta.

Filling and folding tortellini. CBS News

She's made a few tortellini in her time. Just how many? "Maybe about a million?" Masiero replied.

Her recipe for the filling – ground pork and turkey, mortadella, prosciutto and parmesan cheese – was her father's. He was from Bologna, which lays claim to this pasta, and where it fills stomachs, storefronts, and has taken on almost mythical status.

One of the tall tales of tortellini is that an innkeeper spied on Venus, the goddess of love, through a keyhole, and then created a pasta in the shape of her navel.

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Today, the pasta itself is lust-worthy, and aficionados say there's only one way to truly appreciate it.

"You worked so hard to develop this sfoglia, with the eggs, and that filling. The only way that you exalt all those flavors [is] by putting it in brodo," said Beramendi.

At Bologna's Atti & Sons, the skilled hands of Edda Grandi can turn out 350 tortellini an hour. She told Doane that you must not taste the pasta; you're to taste the filling. 

The Bolognese are religious about their tortellini. Owner Francesco Bonaga had some hand-delivered to Pope Francis. He showed Doane a picture of the bishop explaining to the pontiff that tortellini must be cooked in broth.

"Did the pope listen?" asked Doane.

"Yes," Bonaga replied, "with great attention."

The tortellini is going to absorb all of the beautiful succulence of the broth.

Beramendi explained the broth – vegetables and hearty cuts of beef, all strained before serving – is essential to the balance of this specialty, so simple yet complex.

Doane asked, "What's more important in this equation, the tortellini or the broth?"

"That's a tough question," said Beramendi. "It's almost like, 'To be or not to be,' right?"


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Story produced by Anna Matranga and Aria Shavelson. Editor: Emanuele Secci.