Ricotta and spinach tortelli

Ricotta and spinach tortelli

Tortelli maremmani

Emiko Davies; Lauren Bamford

Along with acquacotta and wild boar in any which way, this is the southern Maremma’s most famed dish. Tortelli are square ravioli and not to be confused with tortellini, Emilia-Romagna’s little belly-button-shaped filled pasta. Maremma’s tortelli tend to be larger than anyone else’s and have a thick border around the filling, charmingly called il marciapiede (the footpath) or la frangia (the fringe), usually cut out with a ruffled-edge pastry cutter that make the edges of every square of pasta good for trapping sauce. Because of their size, the pasta for these tortelli is a little thicker than normal. This also makes them sturdy enough for a robust sauce.

The filling is local sheep’s milk ricotta – which is firm and creamy, and has a sweet milky taste with a slight tang – speckled with blanched and finely chopped English spinach. The spinach sometimes changes seasonally with other greens such as silverbeet (Swiss chard), or even the leaves of stinging nettles or beetroot (beets). They’re usually topped with a heaping serve of rich Sugo Maremmano, as Maremman-style ragu is called, or simply with just-melted unsalted butter and sage.

The question of how many portions this makes all comes down to how you’re serving these. Fresh pasta is often used on special occasions, which also means you’re serving antipasto before and a main after this dish (if the host is anything like my mother-in-law, then it’s quite possible there will even be two different pasta dishes). It’s highly probable there’ll be dessert too, and coffee and biscuits and digestivi to finish. If this were the case, then this recipe would be plenty for eight people. If this is the only dish being served and those eating it are ravenous teenagers, then it would feed four. For anything in between, I would say you could serve six with this.


Quantity Ingredient


Quantity Ingredient
400g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
2 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons water


Quantity Ingredient
300g cooked english spinach, well-drained and cooled, about 1 kg fresh
500g fresh, firm ricotta, drained if needed, (sheep’s milk is preferable)
1 egg, beaten
50g finely grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Put the flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the eggs, yolks and water in the well and use a fork to whisk the eggs, incorporating the flour little by little until you can no longer whisk with the fork. Use floured hands to combine the rest of the flour until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
  2. If you’re starting with fresh spinach, trim the stalks and cook in a large pot of rapidly boiling water for about 2 minutes. Once cooked, drain the spinach extremely well (squeezed of all its liquid) and chop very finely.
  3. Prepare the filling by combining the spinach with the ricotta, beaten egg, grated cheese, nutmeg and salt in a bowl.
  4. Cut the dough into four pieces and roll out one piece of dough at a time (keep the rest covered while you work), dusted with plenty of flour. Using a pasta machine or rolling pin, roll it thin enough that you can begin to see your hand through it (on a pasta machine, this is usually the third or second last setting). You may want to cut the long pieces of dough in half when they get too long to handle. With a rolling pin, you have your work cut out for you as this is a very elastic dough, but try rolling from the centre outwards for best results.
  5. Working on strips of pasta about 14 cm wide and as long as you like, place balls of 2 teaspoons of filling onto the pasta sheet along one long edge, roughly 2 cm from the edge and 4 cm apart. Fold the sheet of pasta lengthways to cover the filling and line up the edges. Press the pasta sheet down carefully around each spoonful of filling, being careful not to trap too much air (work from one side to the other, one tortello at a time). With a frilled-edge pastry cutter, trim the tortelli so that you have ravioli roughly 7 x 7 cm with a 2 cm border around the filling. If you don’t have a pastry cutter, you can use a sharp knife to cut the tortelli out and a fork to press down along the edges. This has a dual purpose: to seal the edges and to create that texture that helps hold sauce. If you find folding over the pasta tricky, you can also simply layer one sheet on top of the other and trim – the remnants can be rolled back together into a ball and rolled out into a new sheet.
  6. Continue until you finish the pasta and filling. Line a baking tray with baking paper and dust with flour. Keep the finished tortelli in a single layer on the tray.
  7. Put the tortelli in a large pot of steadily simmering, well-salted water. Cook until al dente, about 5 minutes. The tortelli will begin to float and puff up slightly. If you taste to check whether they are cooked, look especially at the edges where two sheets of pasta are overlapping.
  8. When done, take the pot off the heat, remove the tortelli with a slotted spoon and place onto a clean, slightly damp tea towel to drain off any excess water for a moment. Then place the tortelli on a large oval serving plate or distribute directly into bowls. Top with your preferred sauce, a good sprinkling of grated pecorino cheese and serve immediately.
  9. Tortelli are best made fresh and cooked right away, but if you do want to prepare them in advance, the best way to keep them is frozen. To freeze, blanch the tortelli in boiling, salted water with a drop of olive oil for 10 seconds. Remove, place on a damp tea towel to drain and arrange the tortelli flat on a sheet of foil. Fold them up well, place in a freezer bag or zip-lock plastic bag and freeze. When you are ready to serve them, boil them as you would normally.
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