Italian Regional Recipes Primi Piatti: Pasta, Rice, Soups

Traditional Meat Broth for Tortellini

The basic ingredients of traditional meat broth are, in addition to water, chicken/ hen or beef or capon, carrot, celery (possibily with leaves), bones, coarse salt, a whole onion and a couple of carrots, few aromatic herbs and if you like a pinch of nutmeg as used in Bologna. Why do we mention Bologna? Because Tortellini in broth is its speciality. Obviously, everyone will then use the pieces of meat that they like best or that they find available.

An Italian iconic fresh pasta shape from Emilia Romagna, typical of the city of Bologna, though consumed all over the region. According to the tradition, their odd and specific shape is inspired on Venus’ belly button. Their classic filling is : pork loin, prosciutto crudo, Mortadella Bologna, Parmigiano Reggiano, eggs and nutmeg.

The proper way to taste Tortellini is by drowning them in a rich, hearty broth made from scratch. Now that you have some Tortellini, it’s time to cook a scrummy traditional meat broth.

Makes about 2 litres of broth, Serves: 4 | Preparation time: 10 mins | Cooking time: 3 to 4 hours

  • 1 hen leg
  • 1 piece of rump or capon
  • 1 flank steak
  • bouillon bones, to taste
  • 1 yellow onion, 1 celery stalk with leaves, 1 carrot
  • a handful of coarse salt
  • about 2 litres of water at room temperature
  • Aromas: bay leaf 1, cloves 1, black peppercorns, 3
  • Optional: a pinch of nutmeg
  • Grated Parmigiano cheese, a handful
  • Parmesan crusts (optional)
  • Rock salt: to taste
  • Tortellini, 380 g


Tip: the secret of the meat broth is that it should never boil but only ‘mumble’.

Wash the vegetables, break the celery stalk in half, remove the outer skin from the onion.

Now put the vegetables, herbs, meat and bones into the large pot and add the about 2 1/2 litres of water, a pinch of nutmeg.

Bring almost to the boil (but should not boil) and then turn down to a minimum, put the lid on so that the pan is half covered. Avoid stirring if possible and leave to cook for about 3-4 hours.

Once cooked, remove meat, vegetables and bones from the stock. Discard the bones but keep aside both vegetables and meat. The boiled meat you make from this stock is enough for a second course for about 4 people. Veggies might be reused as croquettes or stored in the fridge and make a creamy soup the next day.

Cover the pot with the lid.

Traditionally the meat broth should rest for at least half a day in the fridge to get rid of the fat.

Use a skimmer to remove the impurities floating on the surface and the layer of fat that has formed during the cooling rest.

Place a strainer over the pot and strain the stock twice. With the strainer you degrease and clean the broth.

The broth is now ready to be used. Warm it up on the stove, taste it and add salt if necessary, pour Tortellini as soon the both starts boiling, cook until they bob to the surface (in 1-2 mins), then serve them with plenty of broth and some grated Parmigiano cheese.

Tip: do not throw away the Parmigiano rind. It makes the broth even richer. Cut a piece (or more than one) and rinse it under running water, then scrape the outer part with a grater or a knife, add it to the broth.
It won’t melt completely, only soften and it will be a pleasure to eat.

How long can I store meat broth?

It can be stored in a bottle in the fridge for 2-3 days or frozen.

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