Tortelli di Zucca
One of the most popular starters at restaurants in Parma is Tortelli di Zucca, also called pumpkin ravioli. I have attempted to recreate its unique taste using sweet potato and butternut squash because it’s almost impossible to find the sweet, nutty, firm-fleshed Italian pumpkin (green on the outside and orangey-red on the inside) outside of Italy. To be as authentic as possible, you’ll also need to source some mostarda di frutta, sweet candied fruits with a hint of spicy mustard, from an Italian deli. If that’s not possible, try making it yourself!
300g butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
300g sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
80g amaretti biscuits, ground
100g mostarda di frutta (pear is best), finely chopped
100g parmigiano reggiano, finely grated
½ tbsp brandy
Zest of 1 lemon, finely chopped
1 tbsp brown sugar
½ nutmeg, grated
Fine white breadcrumbs (optional)
Sheets of fresh pasta
Start by boiling the butternut squash and sweet potato for 10-15 minutes until soft. Drain and mash in a large bowl. Add all the rest of the ingredients except the breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly, or blend using a hand blender. If the texture is too wet, add breadcrumbs – you should be able to form small round balls with your fingers. Let the mixture rest in a cool place for at least an hour.
Roll out the pasta and cut into strips 12 cm wide. Then cut each strip into 6cm x 12 cm rectangles. Next form cherry-sized balls of pumpkin filling with your hands and place them off-centre on the rectangle. Fold over one side of the rectangle to form a perfect square and seal down the edges with water and a fork. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to boil and cook the tortelli in batches for 3-5 minutes.
Serve with melted butter and lots of parmigiano, or try frying some fresh sage leaves in some butter til crispy and pour over.