The heretical Tortelli cremaschi

Originally from Venice, in an eternal duel with Mantua, they’re sweet and without eggs. But at Il RIdottini they have eggs.

A long talk with Matteo Bassi on the Italian and world restaurant business, starting from the book “XXL, 50 piatti che hanno allargato la mia vita” published by Mondadori Electa, allowed me to spend a pleasant evening a few days ago, in one of the cloisters of the former Saint Augustine convent of the city. After speaking quite, a bit, a well due stop to eat at the best restaurant in town, Il Ridottino of Carlo Alberto Vailati in via Alemanio Fino 1, telephone +39.0373.256891. Crema has 3 top products: tortelli, salva cheese e la spongarda. The first are sweet, the second certainly isn’t spicy and the third is a dessert. So you choose. Vailati served an excellent Salva Cremasco and so the first course had to be the typical stuffed pasta.  Which often divides and rarely unites.  In Crema, they identify themselves with the tortelli even if many have told me that they don’t like to eat them every day because it’s hard to find really good tortelli.  The strong sweet taste doesn’t help, stronger in fact than the typical pumpkin tortelli from Mantua.  What’s more, the pasta, according to tradition, is made with only flour and water.  In fact, I like the ones served in Il Ridottino because they are heretical.  Vailati adds eggs to the pasta dough and this improves the taste.  In November 2002, Beppe Severgnini, who is from Crema like Roberta Schira, organized at Aquila Nigra in Mantua, the Tortellomachia, the Tortello duel, between the one from Crema and the one from Mantua.  Of course, the duel ended in a tie after a very pleasant evening.  Severgnini wrote this for the Corriere della Sera newspaper:  “The tortello from Mantua tries hard, but is bland.  Pleasant, but predictable.  Likable at the start and then monotonous.  The tortello from Crema, on the other hand, is really good.  Yours is, at the most, just like “a nice guy”. The pumpkin tortello is like a yawn:  every once in a while, you have to, but remember not to exaggerate.  It’s a rich man’s food disguised as a type of food for everyone.  I know perfectly well that in Mantua you eat better than we do in Crema:  my palate is not parochial.  But in Crema we have a specialty, an area of excellence:  the sweet tortello.  An interesting, intriguing, symphonic dish:  dark amaretto, candied cedar, parmesan, mostaccino, egg, a hint of mint.  The tortello from Crema is a stroke of genius:  it has personality, creativity, determination». I guess because it has more ingredients.

Crema has three top products:   tortelli, salva cheese and spongarda. The first are sweet, the second certainly isn’t spicy and third is a dessert.  So, you choose.  Vailati served and excellent Salve Cremasco and the first course had to be the typical local filled pasta dish.  Which often divides and rarely unites. 

Vailati said: «Since there is nothing written that proves its origin, the origin of this dish might refer to the historical presence in the Crema territory of the Republic of Venice and the consequent use of spices and sweet and sour resulting from the contamination of different types of food coming from the territories connected to Venice ». Whatever the historical truth is, and which will remain unknown forever, the fact remains that in Crema everyone is still loyal to their tortelli. Three centuries and a half under Venice, from 1449 to 1797, are not a blink of the eye two hundred years later.
This is the recipe used at Il Ridottino of Carlo Alberto Vailati: “My” Tortelli Cremaschi.
For the pasta: white flour 700 gr.; common wheat flour 100 gr.; 3 egg yolks and 6 whole eggs; a touch of extra virgin oil and a pinch of salt. For the filling: 500 gr. of “Gallini” amarettos (amarettos with cocoa); 1 “mostaccino” (dry spiced cookie (star anise, cinnamon, cloves….) to be grated; 200 gr. Raisins soaked in a little amount of water and 1 spoon of Marsala or anise; 50 gr. Ground candied cedar; 1 egg as a binder; 1 piece of mint; 2 or 3 fistfuls of grated Padano parmesan with 1 used in the filling and the other two to sprinkle on top.
Preparation: prepare the typical “fountain” with the flour and gradually blend in the eggs, the salt and oil and mix until you have obtained a soft and smooth mixture. Let it rest in a wet kitchen cloth or in tissue for about an hour. Grind the amarettos, mix all the other ingredients together until you have a rather compact mixture and let it sit in the refrigerator. Some tips: you should prepare everything one day ahead of time. Roll out the pasta in not too thin layers, cut squares in which to place the small balls of filling, close the pasta in 5 different points in order to close perfectly. Place the tortelli on a slightly floured table. Boil water with a little salt. Place the tortelli delicately into the boiling water and remove them just as delicately. Sautee the sage in plenty of butter, carefully drain the tortelli, mix them in with the butter and place them in layers in a casserole dish, alternating layers of tortelli, butter and parmesan. Serve.

Paolo Marchi

East Lombardy is the European region
of gastronomy 2017