Once upon a time there was a girl who loved tortellini more than most. ‘Little cowboy hats of happiness’ she called them. And so with high hopes she went to visit their natural home; Bologna.
The girl and her husband arrived fresh off the train from Venice. The walled town greets them with an open air cinema cued in the main courtyard and scores of piazza’s decorated with trattorias. Some shade, open air and a good feeling were the only elements they were looking for. The balcony of Trattoria la Corte Gallozzi beckoned with the shade of the salmon pink courtyard and the shadow of the bell tower.
They order a rough carafe of house white and a plate of tortellini stuffed with pumpkin and a thigh gilding sauce made of cream, butter and scattering of crisp sage leaves.
It’s six euro and everything she ever dreamed of. For her escort; The Hungry One; it’s a mixed plate of pasta. Designed specifically for ditherers it is divided into thirds; a mess of itty bitty veal tortellini in a simple cream sauce, a pile of larger ricotta tortellinis with a shmear of tomato and a tangle of tagliatelle with ragu.
Her tortellini is exactly what she was looking for. Meanwhile The Hungry One is mildly disappointed in this iteration of ragu- which of course is the other thing Bologna is known for. Here the ragu is a pebbly pile of minced meat, scattered over pasta- bereft of either the grounding of soffrito or even the faintest echo of tomato. Meanwhile she’s trying hard not to gloat over her superior choice. She’s reminded that a true test of a good wife is if she’s willing to share the things that make her happy. She does.
Their second foray into the land of happiness takes them to Ill Moro. Just off the main drag of Via Nazionale it’s a haven of Sunkist orange and dark wood. Blasting right along with cheesy Italian radio is some air conditioning. Here pasta heaven shows itself as a slippery morass of wild mushrooms wrapped around slightly chalky ricotta bundles.
The sauce has a texture that reminds her of Indiana Jones slithering around in a vat of snakes, but it has a murky and sweet taste which makes her go back with bread when all the pasta is gone. The Hungry One has found a better specimen of ragu, this time it’s toppled over tiny veal tortellinis. It’s a slightly chaotic combination of carbohydrates that would suit the most carnivores. He has his way with her bowl and she with his. All it takes is an espresso and a shot of Fernet Branca over ice to clear the way, and then they are sent on their merry way.
I’m not sure quite what elevates tortellini above all other pastas, but the moral of this story may related to four things.
The first is the range of fillings; veal, ricotta, ricotta and spinach, pumpkin, pumpkin and amaretto- none of them are bad on their own, so how could being lovingly wrapped in pasta reduce their appeal?
The second is how these little bellybutton folds of noodle create twists and turns of texture- the outsides of the pasta can be limpid, but where they fold over remains just a little resistant to your bite.
The third is the size of these nuggets of happiness. Their shape lend themself to a continual fork-propelled stream of popping one straight after another in your gullet, in an orgy of consumption.
And the last is that tortellini are the perfect shape of pasta to split with a loved one. No mess, no fuss, there’s just a little joust at the bottom of the bowl over who gets the last one. And everyone knows that food tastes better when you share.
Once again; The Hungry One was right. And he always lets me have the last one.
Here’s to living happily ever after.
Trattoria la Corte Gallozzi
Corte Galluzzi,7/B, Bologna,
Via della Resistenza, 13
40033 Casalecchio di Reno, Bologna