The diversity of Italian regional cuisine, continues to inspire me and in this post I am unraveling some of the intricacies of Italian egg pasta, from tagliatelle to tortelli.

I really like the texture and taste of pasta made with eggs; the number of eggs in the dough can significantly influence the texture, with a higher egg count often resulting in a firmer bite.

When we think of egg pasta, what may immediately come to mind are the classics: tagliatelle, pappardelle, fettucine, and lasagne. These are all variations on the theme of ribbons or squares or rectangular sheets of pasta, each with its own story and preferred accompaniments.


Pappardelle, slightly broader than tagliatelle, and are widely used in Tuscan kitchens. They’re frequently paired with strong meaty sauces – usually tomatoes and herbs slow cooked with beef, pork or lamb. Celebrated across the region of Tuscany is the classic dish of pappardelle with cinghiale (wild boar) and in season, pappardelle with porcini mushrooms.

Fettucine are more narrow than tagliatelle. Both tagliatelle and fettucine are usually sold as nidi (nests). These delicate ribbons are more fragile than their broader counterparts and the strands are coiled in the shape of small nests and nestled snugly in their packaging.

Tagliatelle are from the cuisines of somewhere from Bologna or Modena (Emilia Romagna), or in the Marche region. The dough is generally made with less eggs. Ragú alla Bolognese is the renowned dressing for tagliatelle but once again traditionally there were meat based sauces but this is now changing.

Small shapes or thin strips of egg pasta are also excellent in broth – take the very fine egg noodles called fillini (fili means threads) and tagliolini are fine strips of pasta (or tajerin in Piedmontese). Quadretti/quadrini are little squares and this shape is popular all over Italy. It is usually made with the bits of fresh pasta that are left over from making pasta ribbons and lasagna rectangles. Oddly cut pasta is also popular.

Cannelloni, like lasagne, are made with rectangular shaped cuts of pasta, with the pasta folded over the filling.

But egg pasta isn’t only cut into ribbons and sheets; it’s also about the crafting of the varieties of pasta ripiena (filled/stuffed pasta) usually filled with a combination of meat, cheese and/or vegetables. Each variety, with its distinct shape, character and sauce, tells a story of the region where it is made.

There are many shapes of filled pasta mainly from the regions of Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, Liguria and Piedmont. The most widely known type of filled pasta are the ravioli, mainly from Liguria. Ravioli come in various sizes and are made with various fillings and are common all over Italy.

Depending on how familiar you are with eating in various parts of Italy or eateries in your home country that have regional Italian, stuffed pasta specialties, you may be familiar with tortellini, tortelli, (larger version), cappelletti cappellacci (larger version) anolini/agnolini and agnolotti (larger version).

And as you would expect, there are regional variations in the shapes, size and fillings.  For example, the classic filling for tortelli in Parma and Piacenza (Emiglia Romagna) includes ricotta and herbs, but you can also find them filled with meat. In Mantua (Lombardy) it is pumpkin, with amaretti and mustard. Most of these tortelli are the usually formed by cutting a circle of pasta,  placing the stuffing on one side and folding the other half of pasta over the stuffing. I call this moon shaped. But in Maremma (Tuscany) the tortello is square shaped and larger than ravioli, and stuffed with ricotta, spinach, nutmeg and cheese. In Mugello and Casentino (Tuscany) the usual filling is potato, parmesan and nutmeg and is dressed with a strong meat sauce.

In the very norther region of Val D’Aosta the tortelli are square or rectangular and stuffed with spinach or minced veal, but in the Marche region the filling is a combination of mountain herbs.

The one tortello that sticks in my mind is the very unusual Cremasco tortello:(Republic of Venice) filled with amaretti (almond biscuits) and mostaccini (spiced biscuits) egg yolk, raisins, candied fruit and grated cheese. This makes so much sense to me because Venezia was the centre of the spice trade. These Venetian tortelli are dressed with brown butter and sage dressing.

In South Tyrol, schlutzkrapfen are traditionally made with a mix of barley or rye flour and stuffed with a mixture of spinach and ricotta or with turnips and potatoes, depending on availability. Sometimes smoked pork is added.  It is not a big surprise that the region has an Austrian culinary influence.

Although most of these stuffed pasta types I have mentioned are found in Northern Italy, I will include the ricotta ravioli as made in the southern east corner of Sicily. My zia Niluzza who lived in Ragusa made the best traditional, large ravioli filled with ricotta and served with a strong tomato and a pork based sugo. The ravioli are also exquisite dressed with black ink sauce.

Culurgiones are from Sardinia and their filling consists of boiled potatoes, onions and mint, some also add pecorino others ricotta.

Except for the small tortellini that are cooked in broth (capon, beef, chicken), all of the filled pasta shapes are cooked like pasta in boiling water and dressed with various sauces typical of the region where they originate.

The possibilities for sauces are many, for example there are various combinations that could be based on cheese, cream, butter, ham/prosciutto,  peas, mushroom, brown sage butter, walnut or simple tomato/ tomato and meat sugo, including pork sausages.

There are stuffings made with fish, fish and vegetables: crab is popular. And of course there are light fish sauces to dress the fish stuffed pasta, these are usually butter and fish fumet based. Black ink sauce is marvellous.

And what is still interesting that in Italy, a local would respect and mostly protect the tradition, even though in recent years, there’s been a shift towards lighter vegetable-based sauces that are so popular now in modern cuisine.

One very simple sauce that is  very common in dressing egg pasta of all shapes and packages is the brown butter and sage sauce.

Some of you may know brown butter sauce as the traditional beurre noisette (hazelnut butter), a French sauce made simply by heating unsalted butter (salted butter tends to foam more and has more sediment).

Brown butter has a rich, nutty flavour and with the addition of fresh sage, it is used to dress egg pasta in northern Italy. It is a popular autumnal dressing that complements ingredients such as mushroom, pumpkin and potato.

Brownt butter and sage dressing for egg pasta (4 people):

50 g of butter

15-20 sage leaves

Melt the butter over low heat in a pan. Add the sage leaves letting them sizzle gently for a few minutes. Ensure to constantly stir the butter being careful not to burn it.  When you have done this, take the pan off the heat and transfer the butter to a separate bowl. This will ensure that it doesn’t burn due to residual heat.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta, empty the pot and put the pasta back inside. Remove some of the leaves from the butter (optional) before dressing the pasta.

Stir gently to coat the pasta. At this stage I also like to add black pepper.

Grated Parmesan is a must.

One of my aunts was Piedmontese and was an excellent cook. Her daughter (my cousin Rosadele) and my Sicilian uncle lived in Genova (Liguria). The two women were champions for making Piemontese and Ligurian specialties especially stuffed pasta – agnolotti in soft fresh cheese sauces and pansoti in walnut and marjoram pesto were two favourites.

My parents and I visited the relatives in Genova every year on our habitual yearly summer trip from Trieste to Sicily. We ate very well.

Having lived in Trieste and with relatives spanning from Piedmont to Sicily (Ragusa and Augusta, quite different cooking), I count myself lucky to have this culinary heritage that I enjoy exploring  .

PESTO DI NOCI (Walnut pesto/ sauce for pasta)



TORTELLI DI ZUCCA (Large tortellini stuffed with pumpkin) Ristorante Cartoccia in Mantova

PAPPARDELLE (Pasta with Hare or game ragù)

PAPPARDELLE Continued…..

SQUID BLACK INK sauce: Montalbano’s pasta with black ink sauce

QUADRUCCI IN BRODO, Squares of home-made Pasta in Broth

TORTELLINI, how made in Bologna

EMIGLIA ROMAGNA and their love of stuffed pasta

A special Birthday menu for my friend, in the cloud

It is one of my friend’s birthday today and I am wishing him well, there in the cloud. I have cooked him some of his favourite food.

I hope that he will enjoy the homemade pappardelle dressed with a duck ragù.


I was not able to buy him boar (cinghiale) or hare (lepre) as you can in Greve from that butcher who has a stuffed boar in front of his Macelleria. But I know that he is quite fond of duck; he will be just as pleased.

I have kept some of the dough from the pasta to fry and make into crostoli.  I will sprinkle them with caster sugar. We can crunch on these later.

Now he’s no longer unwell, he can once again enjoy the Barolo and the Amarone I have selected for this occasion. I know that he is fond of Sicily and I have a bottle of Nero d’Avola. Perhaps we could have a little of this with our cheese?  We will try to drink in moderation. I can return the wines from the decanters to bottles and put stoppers in them…I will be happy to drink them tomorrow.

I was able to find some early spring produce and I have stuffed some zucchini flowers with some stracchino, rather than the ricotta I usually use,  a little egg with a few fresh breadcrumbs to bind the stuffing, and some fresh marjoram ... not chervil, I am afraid, as it is not in season, this being  his favourite herb.  He particularly liked it on scrambled eggs.

I almost forgot!  I was able to order a great bottle of Riesling from the Barossa. Peter Lehman’s son – David Franz – Makes it. I love his wine and I am very fond of David’s colourful labels. I think my friend shared a bottle of this wine when I last saw him. This will be a perfect accompaniment for the zucchini flowers.

I have a bottle of Cynar for when he arrives and a little Averna for those who wish, right at the very end. 

There will be no second course, the pasta will be enough. The ragù smells fabulous and will be quite rich. Perhaps a little Mâche , or matovilc as we called it in Trieste…. lamb’s lettuce for others.  I can add some thinly sliced fennel too – this could be the palate cleanser before the dessert.

My friend does like a good Zuppa Inglese. I think that it’s the savoiardi soaked with Alchermes that he likes, although the delicate egg custard is also a winner. He will understand that I was unable to get the gooseberries or the greengage plums that he is so fond of. They are out of season. My friend was able to buy these for a very limited time of they year from one stall in the Adelaide Market. Gosh, that was a few years ago! The stall holder was a gentle and kind Sicilian man who used to grow most of his produce. I will never forget when the stall holder found out who my father was, he almost hugged me. My dad was liked by so many people my friend was popular too, and liked a chat or two. 

Idid find some Josephine pears at the Queen Victoria Market today, so I have purchased some to present with some cheeses I selected ripe, juicy pears, just as he likes them. He always expressed his dissatisfaction about fruit that was picked too green.

I have not forgotten the cheese to go with the pears. He is fond of a little cheese. Walnuts too. He likes to crack his own. I know he quite likes a little aged Parmesan with pears and I was also able to buy a good selection of  Italian and French Cheeses, some are quite smelly and I had to put them out on my balcony overnight.

Bob has baked some bread, my friend prefers to eat cheese with bread. I do too,  perhaps I learnt this from him.

So my friend, up in the cloud, I hope you enjoy what I have prepared for you. Happy Birthday from all of us, here below. We all remember you fondly and miss you.

PAPPARDELLE (Pasta with Hare or game ragù)

ZUPPA INGLESE, a famous, Italian dessert


SALAD GREEN: matovilc, also called lamb’s lettuce and mâche

ALCHERMES/ALKERMES (The liqueur used to make Zuppa Inglese)



A duck ragù is nothing new, but it always seems to be special. Pappardelle is the pasta of choice for game and duck.


I bought a whole duck, dismembered it and trimmed away the obvious fat. I cooked the duck for the ragù over 2 days because ducks can be very fatty and I wanted to remove some of the fat.


I left the cooked duck overnight and the liquid jellied (in the meantime the flavours also intensified) and the fat rose to the top making it easier for me to remove most of I with a spoon. I used some of the duck fat to sauté the mushrooms.


1 duck
for the soffritto: 1 onion, 1 carrot,1 stalk of celery
fresh rosemary, bay leaves
½ cup of diced tomatoes or 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine
3 cups chicken stock
salt and black pepper
250g mushrooms…on this occasion I used brown mushrooms.
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
fresh thyme and parsley

Wipe the duck pieces to dry them as much as possible.

Heat a heavy based casserole and over medium heat add the duck skin-side down and fry until browned and fat renders (6-9 minutes).

IMG_8196 (1)

Drain most of the fat. Turn and fry until browned (2-3 minutes), then set aside.


To the same saucepan add onion and soften slightly before adding the carrot and celery and sauté until vegetables are tender (5-8 minutes).


Return the duck pieces to the pan, add the wine, stock, tomatoes, seasoning, bay leaves and rosemary.


Cover and cook slowly for about 1¾-2¼ hours, until the meat looks as it will be easy to separate from the bones.

Leave to cool. The fat will rise to the top making it easier to remove.

Reheat the duck braise very briefly, just sufficiently to melt the jelly.

Remove the duck pieces and set aside. When they are cool enough to handle remove the the skin and strip the meat from the bones in chunks. Discard herbs and the bones.


Drain the solids from the liquid and add these to the duck. Place the liquid from the braise (i.e. that is yet to be reduced) in a separate container.


Wipe the pan and use some of the fat to sauté the mushrooms and garlic. Add parsley and thyme and some seasoning.


Deglaze the pan using about a cup of liquid and evaporate most of it. Repeat with the left over liquid until it has reduced.


Add the duck, a couple of twists of nutmeg and the ragù is ready.


Combine the cooked pasta with the duck ragù and serve.


Pasta: I used egg Pappardelle.

Grated Parmigiano on top.

See Pappardelle with hare:

PAPPARDELLE (Pasta with Hare or game ragù)

PAPPARDELLE Continued…..

A Sicilian recipe for Duck:

Anatra a paparedda cu l’ulivi (Sicilian Duck with green olives and anchovies)

PAPPARDELLE Continued…..

On 26/2/09, Fred wrote:
Dear Marisa,

I read your bit about pappardelle. We had pappardelle sulla 
lepre alla cacciatora at La Pentola dell’Oro in Firenze. It includes cinque cucchiai di aceto rosso ( 5 spoons of red wine vinegar).

Dear Fred,
your recipe which includes five spoons of red vinegar does not surprise me. 

There are recipes where the hare, rabbit and boar are soaked in water and vinegar before it is cooked to remove the wild taste – my mother always did this with rabbit. It bleached the meat and left some of the taste. I think that Anglo-Australians soaked wild rabbit in salt water. 

I bought a rabbit at the butcher’s in Greve in December 2008 and was given three parcels, one with the rabbit, the other had the head and the third, the liver – these enrich the sauce. The other variation is the use of herbs – the addition of parsley, sage and rosemary.
There is of course the recipe for hare cooked with bitter chocolate. Now there’s a good taste!

Hare recipes:


HARE or RABBIT COOKED IN CHOCOLATE. Lepre o Coniglio al Cioccolato (‘Nciculattatu is the Sicilian term used)

PAPPARDELLE (Pasta with Hare or game ragù)

PAPPARDELLE (Pasta with Hare or game ragù)

Tuscany and Umbria specialise in sauces for pappardelle made with game meat and I hope that those of you who have visited these regions of Italy were able to eat some when there.

Pappardelle are usually the favourite shape of pasta for strong sauces made with strong tasting meat especially game: either cinghiale (wild boar) lepre (hare), capriolo (venison), coniglio (rabbit), anatra (duck). If not game, maybe salsicce di maiale (pork sausages) or funghi (mushrooms), and preferably the wild ones stronger in taste. Often the pappardelle may have a fluted edge to prevent the sauce dropping away off the sides. These are sometimes called reginette (regina- queen, crowns) but once again, there is local variation in the names.

Pasta shapes are synonymous with certain sauces. Generally, thin sauces which contain a lot of oil (for example made with seafood or with a few vegetables) are better suited to long thin pasta shapes (spaghetti, spaghettini).

Thicker sauces, made with meat or with larger vegetables are better suited to shapes with large, uneven surfaces (rigatoni, penne). Their shapes help to trap the ingredients in the thick sauce.

Pasta shapes are also regional. While the south of Italy may prefer small pasta shapes for thicker sauces (fusilli, casarecci, orecchiette) other parts of Italy enjoy long, flat ribbons of pasta (tagliatelle, fettucine). Fresh ribbon pasta made with a large number of eggs is enhanced by sauces made with delicate subtle flavours, often with cream.

Niluzza rolls pasta_0002 copy

When I was in Tuscany in December 2008, I enjoyed many primi of pappardelle, one in particular in Sansepolcro (very close to Umbria) and the accompanying sauce was made from wild boar and it included pieces of chestnut.

The photograph is of Alex, my small friend: it was taken in Greve. He is outside of the butcher shop (we were staying across the road) and he is patting the stuffed wild boar which decorates the front of the shop. Wild boar is very popular in the winter months in Tuscany but I have also eaten some very fine boar meat in Calabria.

I bought a hare in Greve and cooked it the same way.

Nluzza's ribbon pasta_0136


Sauces made with strong tasting meats (wild boar, hare,venison, rabbit, duck) are usually cooked slowly in a ragout (ragù in Italian) and made in the same way as a Bolognese sauce. Because of their rich taste and choice of ingredients they are autumn and winter dishes, most probably enjoyed with a glass or two of red wine.

Sometimes porcini mushrooms are also added to the ragù.

Ragù, using hare, rabbit or boar

Sauté in extra virgin olive oil: ½ onion, 1 carrot, ½ stalk of celery (all cut finely).
Add the hare, rabbit, boar chopped into sections complete with bones and brown (some add pancetta as well). If using sausages leave them whole but prick them, if using mushrooms slice into thick pieces.
Add 1 glass of red wine and evaporate briefly.
Dilute about 2 tablespoons of tomato puree in a little warm water and add to mixture. Stir carefully and add 1 cup of broth, salt, pepper, 3 bay leaves and a little grated nutmeg and simmer until liquid is almost evaporated and the meat is tender and falling off the bone (this could take 2-4 hours for the hare or boar). Continue to check on the liquid and add more as necessary.
Remove bones from the meat and return to the sauce. Some add a little cream and more nutmeg at this stage.
Dress the cooked pappardelle.
Present with grated parmigiano, as a choice for each person.