Classic Tortelloni of Emilia Romagna with a Simple Tomato Sauce

Tortelloni di Biete al Pomodoro


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


    as a main course

Appears in

How to Cook Italian

How to Cook Italian

By Giuliano Hazan

Published 2005

  • About

If I were hard pressed to choose a favorite dish, something I usually avoid, this would have to be the one. My first encounter with these tortelloni was at age three when my grandmother prepared them for me in my mother’s hometown of Cesenatico. I apparently put away quite a hefty portion, then closed my eyes and plopped my head down on the table. Terrified, my grandmother called the doctor who pronounced me “very happily sleeping.” They are good simply tossed with butter, sage, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, but the ultimate complement for me is the simple tomato sauce with just a splash of cream.


  • Simple Butter and Tomato Sauce
  • 2 pounds Swiss chard
  • ½ cup water
  • Salt
  • Egg Pasta of Emilia Romagna, made with 2 eggs and cups flour
  • ½ medium yellow onion
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup heavy cream


  1. Make the tomato sauce. It can cook on its own while you work on the rest of the recipe; just remember to stir it once in a while.
  2. Remove the stalks from the Swiss chard. Rinse the leaves in several changes of cold water and put them in a pot with ½ cup water and 1 teaspoon salt. Place the pot over medium-high heat, cover, and cook until the leaves are tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain in a colander and squeeze out as much water as possible by pressing on the leaves with a spoon. Transfer the chard to a cutting board and finely chop it.
  3. Make the pasta dough.
  4. Peel and finely chop the onion and put it in a 10-inch skillet with the butter. Place over medium-high heat and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion turns a rich golden color, about 5 minutes.
  5. Finely chop the prosciutto. When the onion is ready, add the prosciutto and sauté until it loses its raw pink color and begins to brown. Add the Swiss chard, lower the heat to medium, and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring periodically. Transfer the chard to a medium bowl and set aside to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the ricotta, ½ cup of the Parmigiano, the egg yolk, and nutmeg to the chard. Season with salt and pepper and stir very thoroughly. Taste the filling and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  7. Fill a pot for the pasta with at least 6 quarts water, place over high heat, and bring to a boil.
  8. Roll and fill the pasta dough as described.
  9. Add 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling water. Collect all the filled pasta on one towel and slide them into the boiling water. Cook until the edges are tender but al dente, about 3 minutes, then drain or lift them out with a skimmer. Transfer to a shallow serving bowl and gently toss with the sauce and cream. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano over each serving.