Who we are

The official act was signed on October 24th 1965 when the first “Brotherhood of the tortellino” was founded in front of the notary Dr. Gallerani in Bologna. The choice to create a new brotherhood of “gourmets” was stimulated by the diatribes which appeared in the local papers in the 60s in which appeared that some people doubted about the authenticity of the “glory of the Bolognese cooking” and insinuated also some doubts about the origin of the tortellino while Modena claimed the priority. Some of the best known gourmets in Bologna and particularly Giovanni Poggi (an industrialist who used to spend his spare time spreading around the Bolognese cooking tradition) didn't like this situation. Together with a group of friends he created the “brotherhood” and their motto was: “In studio – in mensa – Bononia docet”.

The purpose of the statute was a pure interest in Bologna and its cuisine in particular and in that of Emilia Romagna in general. They wanted to support and disclose the oldest recipes, above all the recipe of the tortellino that is the most authentic image of the Bolognese food and culture.

Among the first “brothers” we number also Giovanni Spadolini who was, at that time, the general manager of the most popular newspaper in Bologna: Il Resto del Carlino.

The “brotherhood” had been very active up until its founder's and its faithful “cantore”: Alessandro Cervellati's death. Cervellati described the tortellino as “a sensual intercourse between woman's attractiveness (it has the shape of a navel) and a gastronomic creation”.

The activity of the brotherhood was very busy but with the death of the two main supporters it started to slow down and as the years went by all the projects and intentions were covered by a layer of dust. That is why a group of friends, all from Bologna, while eating at the Diana's restaurant, decided to give birth again to the “Brotherhood of the tortellino” in order both to contest the rise of fast food, synonym of a big change towards food ,and to fulfill their desire to meet friends and eat together and remember what Giovanni Poggi and the first members had done to cherish the local food. They created, in this way a turning point in the history of the Italian food and tradition. The new foundation was signed on October 31st, 1987 and on June 14th, 1988 they signed the new “Learned Golden Concistory” (22 years after the first official act signed in 1965).

The “brothers” were: Franco Biso, Maurizio Campiverdi, Gianfranco Cavina, Michele Degli Oddi, Ivo Gassetti, Bruno Lamberti e Gaetano Piana.

They decided to have two gastronomic meetings which had to be: “prestigious, of high quality and very well refined”. During these convivial meetings, out of respect for the statute, the tortellino, according to the most genuine tradition, had to be the main course. The new brotherhood not only follows Poggi's and Cervellati's theme but also reacts to the rampant lack of a culinary culture, which proposes aberrant variations such as tortellini poached in cream, clams, sepia or meat sauce. That's why the work of the “learned brotherhood”, considering the decline of our traditions, is extremely necessary and even little changes of the tortellino filling can cause 'learned' discussions.

The proposals of the brotherhood aim at debating all the problems about our cookery tradition and we think that this is a clever and pleasant way to maintain a culture of food.

This is the philosophy of the “learned brotherhood” and of the “Learned Concistory” whose meetings make a thorough study of the traditional values of the Bolognese cuisine.

During these revolutionary years, among dishes overflowing with sauces and dipping, the tortellino is always floating in hot broth in spite of all the fights and succeeds in making modernists and traditionalists come to an understanding.
Do you think that is a small matter?

The “learned brotherhood” takes part both in round tables, meetings and debates about cookery and in special trips and shows. Furthermore, during the social year it organizes a minimum of two convivial dinners in which not only the associates, but also their relatives, friends and authorities can take part.

The Spring meeting has been held for some years at the Saint Martin Castle of Soverzano, which one of the “brothers”: Michelangelo Poletti kindly makes available.

The registered recipe

In order to cherish the typical traditions and to see that they are not lost in time, the “Learned Brotherhood of the Tortellino” together with the Italian Academy of cookery registered the authentic recipe of the filling of the tortellino from Bologna in a deed executed before a notary on December 7th 1974. It was also fixed the parameters of preparation of the broth which must be exclusively made from a farmyard cappone. The Prefect of Bologna and the Mayor Renato Zangheri signed the document. It guarantees the classic and traditional flavour of the true tortellino, that is given mostly by the filling that has been made and tasted in the Bolognese families and restaurants for ages.

Moreover, on April 15th, 2008 at the Chamber of Commerce of Bologna, the “Learned Brothers” registered the recipe of the typical characteristics of the true tortellino Bolognese and the different stages of its realisation. That is: in the notarial act all the characteristics that make it unique and unmistakable in the panorama of the big national and international cookery are specified. They are: the typical and original shape, the particularity of the filling, the natural genuineness of the dough and the result must weigh 5 grams. Here is how tortellini are prepared! This happened in the presence of the Parish priest Lord Gianfranco Cavina, the “chevalier” of industry Ivo Galletti and the lawyer Mario Stefanelli.

Tortellini must be eaten in broth...

But if you want to eat them with cream the main problem is that you should skim the cream straight out of the just milked milk. The industrial cream mortify the tortellini. Under the “white blanket” they lose the flavour of the filling that only the broth can give them.

There are a lot of questions to be answered about how tortellini must be: Must the filling be raw or cooked? Must the size be small or large? How thick must the dough be? How many eggs? Gran Prevosto Mioli answered these questions in such a way: “The original recipe which was filed at the Chamber of Commerce follows the second Hypothesis that is: cook the pork loin on a slow flame with a mixture of rosemary, garlic, pepper and salt than take it out of the pan and clean it from the mixture. But it is also true that the familiar variations are innumerable: a lot of people prefere the filling raw and say that a raw filling gives more flavour and it is also more digestible. Furthermore the filling, if row, is more homogeneous and, while cooking, melts er in the dough which is wrapping the filling”.

For about 1000 tortellini:

  • 300 gr. pork loin
  • 300 gr. prosciutto
  • 300 gr. genuine mortadella from Bologna
  • 450 gr. parmesan cheese
  • 3 chicken eggs
  • nutmeg flavour

For the broth:

  • 1 kg. of beef
  • ½ farmyard cappone [hen]
  • celery
  • carrot
  • onion
  • salt

It must be very thorough: you must put a mixture of salt, pepper, rosmary and garlic on the loin and leave it in a pan for two days, then cook it on a slow frame adding a little butter. Take it out of the fire and clean it from the mixture. Then mince the pork, the prosciutto and mortadella very finely and knead everything with parmesan cheese and the eggs. Add the flavour of the nutmeg. The dough must be mixed for a long time until it is well amalgamated and it must rest for at least 24 hours before filling the tortellini.

Of course the excellence of the filling depends on the quality of the raw materials. In order to taste a good tortellino you must prepare an excellent broth which you can make putting a farmyard capon into the water and adding those parts of the beef that are notoriously suitable for broth, such as the brisket etc.

The history

In the past there were a lot of controversies between Bologna and Modena about the paternity of tortellino. After a number of heated discussions they chose the village of Castelfranco Emilia, which was the place of the imaginary meeting between the innkeeper and the “mythical navel“.

The choice was not fortuitous. In fact Castelfranco is half way between Bologna and Modena. It was in the province of Bologna until 1927 when it was in the Estense dukedom but since 1927 it has been in the province of Modena. That is why the vexed question was born. Now, even if it is in the province of Modena, it is part of the diocese of Bologna. This is the diplomatic solution which succeeded in meeting everybody's wishes. Anyway everybody must know that the “Via Emilia” (Emilia street) is known as the street of the “twisted” pasta, that is a twisted pasta with a filling inside. In fact tortellino or tortello means “twisted”. So, leaving Piacenza and going through Parma, we meet the Anolini, in Reggio Emilia there are the Tortelli with vegetables (in the filling there are green vegetables, such as herbs, and ricotta) or Tortelli with squash and amaretto and Cappelletti with meat. Coming down through Modena, Castelfranco and Bologna we can taste Tortellini. Continuing along the via Emilia, we reach Forlì where we find Cappelletti with cheese and if we go to Ferrara we can eat the Cappellacci with squash but without amaretto.

Most of this news is taken from “His Majesty the tortellino” by G. Maioli and G. Roversi and from Gianni Stacconi's works (he was a gastronomic journalist).

The tortellino, like all the big symbols, boasts of numerous origins. The poet Alfredo Testoni wrote about this matter in a controversial tone: “Bologna is not famous because it is “mother of learning”. L'è pr I turtlei e pr'l so consum ch'la s'è fatt una strada!” [It is only thanks to the tortellini and their success everywhere that Bologna is so well known]

According to one of the theories it was the noblelady Dorotea Lepi who, after reading a XIV century treatise, decided to meet her greedy husband's needs at least when dinner was served! Another theory is that the inventor was Pietro Filargo who became Pope Alexander V. A number of legends refer to the feminine navel: Ostilio Lucarini, for exemple, in his comedy: “Quell ch'ha inventà i turtlei” [The person who invented tortellini] tells the story of the cook Pirulein who was inspired by his landlady's navel. Giuseppe Ceri, in his burlesque poem, tells that Venus, Mars and Volcano met one evening at the Dogana's Inn in Castelfranco Emilia (a village in the suburbs of Bologna) and they spent the night there sleeping together in the same bed. The following morning Volcano and Mars went down to the kitchen to take refreshment with 100 eggs. In the meantime the cook went to the room to serve Venus and he realized she was naked. He gazed at her and went mad! He went back into the kitchen and was very confused but he decided to immortalize that vision. As he was not able to draw he took a piece of dough and “l'oste che era guercio e Bolognese per imitar di Venire il bellico l'arte di fare I tortellini apprise” [The innkeeper, who was cross-eyed and Bolognese, in order to remember the navel of Venus, created the art of making tortellini].

In order to immortalize this last legend the “Learned Brotherhood”, together with the “Saint Nicholas' Brotherhood” in Castelfranco, unveiled a bronze statue in one of the Squares of the village.

In the year 1500 in the diary of the Senate in Bologna there is written that a “minestra de torteleti” [soup of tortellini] was served to 16 of the tribunes. A few years later, in 1570, a Bolognese cook, possibly Bartolomeo di Scappi, who was Pope Pio V's cook, published some recipes where tortellini were mentioned.

All the theories are amusing and intriguing but, as a matter of facts, a real inventor of the tortellino doesn't exist or at least we don't know for sure. The only certainty was given by Pellegrino Artusi who, at the end of the XIX Century, codified the classic filling which included mortadella. He contributed, with his work, to propagate its fame.



Write to:
Dotta Confraternita del Tortellino c/o
Studio Alberti
Via Ruggi 6
40137 Bologna
Tax Code: 91353600371