The final traditional Christmas dish from Northern Italy I made this year was Tortelli di Zucca: tortelli filled with squash or pumpkin. This dish is not from Emilia-Romagna but from Lombardia, and especially from the cities of Mantova and Cremona.
The special local ingredient that gives the tortelli a unique taste is mostarda (Mostarda di Cremona or Mostarda di Mantova): fruit candied in a mustard flavored syrup. You can make mostarda yourself, but all the recipes I’ve seen require mustard oil that is as hard to get in these parts as the mostarda itself. You can still make pumpkin tortelli without the mostarda, but the bland flavor of pumpkin or squash needs something extra so I would recommend to use either candied orange peel or grated orange zest as a substitute. Another important ingredient is crumbled amaretti cookies, which I have already used in many other pumpkin/squash recipes since it really helps to bring out the flavor.
Good friends of mine brought a jar of pear mostarda from Italy, and that is what I used in this recipe. As explained in my recent post about tortellini, tortelli are larger than tortellini and are the typical pasta shape of that area. It is less work to make regular ravioli that taste the same, so feel free to make that shape instead.
The tortelli are sweetened by the mostarda and the amaretti. Use less of those ingredients and more parmigiano if you prefer your tortelli more savory.
1 butternut squash (about 900 grams or 2 pounds) or pumpkin
2 Tbsp mostarda (substitute with candied orange peel or grated orange zest)
4 small or 2 large amaretti cookies
freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
300 grams (2 cups) 00 flour
Cut the ends off the squash, cut in half and scoop out the seeds. (Reserve them for another use if you like.)
Meanwhile, make fresh pasta dough and roll it out as thin as possible.
Cut the dough into squares of about 7.5 cm (3″) and put a teaspoon of filling on the center each square.
If the dough has become too dry, you can moisten the edges with a bit of water.
Repeat until you have used up all of the filling. Turn the tortellini after 10-15 minutes to let them dry on both sides. Since the filling is quite wet, it’s best to cook these tortelli as soon as possible. Otherwise you run the risk that the dough will become too sticky and they will get stuck. Turning them once in a while helps to prevent this.