When I went to the pasta shop this weekend to buy tortellini, I noticed that they had two types – meat and cheese. This seemed odd to me because I had always know those little rings of pasta as being stuffed with meat. Back when I was working at my Father’s restaurant, some nights he would have tortelloni as a special, which were larger and stuffed with cheese. I remember the presence of both on the menu was enough to thoroughly confuse this one waiter we had at the time. On those evenings it was guaranteed that he would approach me and ask, “Phil, are tortellini stuffed with MEAT or CHEESE (emphasis totally his)?” I would, as patiently as I could, reply, “Tortellini are stuffed with meat and tortell-oh-ni are stuffed with cheese, Ron.” A little while later we would have the whole exchange again, and again… and again. It was like an Abbott and Costello routine (really dating myself with that reference).
This is my Dad’s recipe for Tortellini alla Panna. Tortellini (meat) tossed gently in a cream sauce with butter and Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese. I have seen people add prosciutto and/or peas, and there is nothing wrong with that, I guess, but I prefer it this way. The cream sauce compliments this type of pasta really well, and nothing else is needed. Simplicity is a good thing sometimes. If you are feeling ambitious you can make the tortellini yourself.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup heavy cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound tortellini
- ⅔ cup freshly grated Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for the table
- Add the butter and cream to a large sauté pan, and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat on to medium and melt the butter into the cream. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Take off the heat.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the tortellini. Cook until the tortellini are slightly underdone, 8-10 minutes. Drain well.
- Place pan with butter and cream back over medium heat. Add the tortellini and stir, mixing the tortellini in with the cream sauce.
- Add the Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese and stir gently until cheese is melted and tortellini are well coated with the sauce. Transfer to warm pasta bowls and serve.