“The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things. ”
I love summer in the UK, it is my favourite week of the year: the sun shines fiercely, the temperatures soar, life seems a little bit easier.
The thing is, it is unbelievably hot. And I really mean unbelievably: during those days you can’t believe how hot it is, and once it is over, you don’t believe it was really that hot, you were just being dramatic.
As a result of that, you spend the summer days cursing yourself for not having installed an A/C unit, and the rest of the year thinking that surely summer wasn’t really that hot, and air con is not needed for just a couple of days of comfy heat, for a change. This happens every single year.
So here I am, in the middle of an heatwave, questioning my life choices. They say that the feeling of warmth is just a mental state, so the best thing to do is to think about cold things. Cold things… cold things… let me think… a politician’s heart? Not really. Ok I have got it: the snow, Olaf, Christmas Day, cardigans, hot chocolate, Christmas Day – and my brain got stuck. The Christmas tree, the gifts, the lights, the meal… I can smell the charcuterie board, the red wine on the table, and obviously tortellini. The light pasta dough, the tasty filling, the warm broth – I started craving them.
“Why are you making tortellini in the middle of an heatwave?” “Because the heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things” – And I feel it in tortellini in August.
Today we are in Emilia, one of my favourite Italian regions. Tortellini is a ring-shaped filled pasta, created either in Bologna or Modena – it has never been clarified.
The origin of this type of pasta is surrounded by myths and legends, and some historical events that make the history behind tortellini absolutely fascinating, to say the least.
Everything started with a bucket, like all great stories (not sure about that): in 1325, the two rival city-states of Modena and Bologna fought in the War of the Bucket.
At those times, Bologna was the most influent Guelph city of the Romagna region, so it was supporting the Pope, while Modena was with the Ghibellin faction, supporting the Holy Roman Emperor. The two cities fought for years, and in 1325, after winning one battle, the Modenese army forced the Bolognese one to hide within the city walls, and to humiliate them, they stole a bucket from a water well.
Bear in mind that this bucket had no monetary value whatsoever, it wasn’t an important symbol for the city and didn’t have any sentimental value. It was just a simple, oak bucket. At this point, what happens is beyond human comprehension: Bologna demands the bucket to be returned, Modena replies “over my dead body”, and Bologna took it literally, declaring war to the rival city.
The battle started, and the Modenese army humiliated again Bologna, forcing the opponents to hide within the walls and destroying a couple of castles within the city.
They also set up a “mock” palio, to commemorate those that were sent to be killed and humiliated, and if this wasn’t enough, they stole a second bucket. Game, set, match.
After the war, Modena returned a couple of castles and properties, but not the bucket. A copy is in the basement of Torre della Ghirlandina, the original is in the Palazzo Comunale of Modena.
But what has this war to do with tortellini? I am getting there, I promise.
A genius from that era, named Alessandro Tassoni, wrote a heroicomic poem about the War of the Bucket, called La Secchia Rapita (The Stolen Bucket, I wonder how long it took to find the perfect title for it). In this poem, the gods from the Olympus come to Earth to help the humans in this battle, like they did in the Iliad, the Poem by Homer.
In the 19th century, Giuseppe Ceri wrote a poem inspired from La Secchia Rapita: after one of the battles, Mars, Bacchus and Venus arrived in a hostel in Castelfranco. They spent the night there, and in the morning Mars and Bacchus got up early, while Venus stayed in bed. When she woke up she couldn’t see her fellow gods and started calling for them. The owner of the hostel heard Venus voice and went to see her, but what he found when he entered the room was the goddess completely naked. Struck by such beauty, he decided to go in the kitchen and created a pasta shape that resembled Venus’ belly button. No Facebook requests, no Instagram stalking, no Tik-Tok videos – he just made pasta. Times have changed, eh?
I can see this post is getting super long and I don’t want you guys to fall asleep, so I will continue the story behind tortellini and share their proper recipe in another post!
Here is a photo of the tortellini I made: