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Is Tortellini Fashioned After A Famous Belly-Button?

Tortellini Day

Pasta lovers will enjoy a traditional stuffed pasta during National Tortellini Day on February 13!

Tortellini is a signature dish from the Italian region of Bologna, where they claim to have created this stuffed pasta packed with flavor.  Ravioli, tortellini, and tortellacci are all part of the same family of stuffed pasta. The most common fillings for tortellini are ham, white meat, and Parmesan cheese.

(Image: Flickr/scott feldstein. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode)

An organization called The Learned Order of the Tortellini in the city of Bologna has its members wear to the meetings red and gold hats that are shaped like tortellini.  They also wear a ribbon, around their neck that has a gold shaped tortellini hanging on it.  The Learned Order of the Tortellini has a large membership that is dedicated to the preservation of the traditional tortellini.

  • Legend has it that a tavern-keeper in Bologna glimpsed the infamous femme fatale Lucrezia Borgia’s navel while spying on her through a keyhole, prompting him to immediately reproduce vision in pasta, thus inventing tortellini. This legend is also why their alternative name is “belly button” (ombelico).
  • Another similar legend originating in medieval Italy tells us about how the Roman gods Venus and Jupiter decided to spend the night in a tavern in Bologna after spending the whole day helping the surrounding regions to fight a war amongst themselves. After eating, they went to their room, but the tavern keeper was so captivated by Venus’ beauty that he attempted to look at her through the door’s keyhole, much like in the aforementioned legend. As the room was dark but for a few candles, all he could see was her navel, and the sight inspired him to recreate the heavenly vision in pasta as well.
  • Now a 180-degree turn and instead of belly buttons, the third story says that tortellini were made to look like turtles, a common motif in 17th century buildings.
  • Tortellini is not to be confused with tortelloni. The two types of pasta essentially look the same, but tortelloni tend to be larger, less-likely to contain a meat filling, and less likely to be in a broth.
  • Up until the 19th century tortellini were confined to the tables of the more affluent members of society, or were served up only on holidays.


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