30 types of pasta and when you should use them

Tortellini hail from Emilia-Romagna, the northern Italian region famous for its stuffed pasta (via NPR). Legend has it that Venus, the goddess of love, stayed at a local inn in a town called Castelfranco Emilia near Bologna. In an attempt to catch a glimpse of her, the innkeeper entered her room through the keyhole and was struck by the navel of the goddess, the only thing he could actually see. And so the innkeeper rushed into the kitchen and got busy trying to recreate what he had seen and invented the navy-shaped pasta tortellini. Today, the town celebrates an annual tortellini festival called Sagra del Tortellino, where the legend of the invention of tortellini is re-enacted on stage.

It used to be that tortellini was reserved for special occasions during tough times because the seemingly simple pasta was filled with expensive ingredients inside. Although traditional tortellini are filled with a mixture of ground chicken and pork, prosciutto, Parmigiano Reggiano and a little nutmeg, fillings across Italy vary widely, with prosciutto often replaced by bologna (via Italian food). The type of cheese used also varies and sometimes the meaty filling is replaced with spinach and ricotta. Whatever the filling, tortellini is a pasta where the key is the filling and not the sauce in which it is tossed. For anyone who doesn’t like sauces, tortellini is one of the few types of pasta to eat in a simple broth that allows the gourmet ingredients inside the tortellini to really shine. That’s why navel-shaped pasta is often called re delle minestre in Italy, or “king of soups.”