Tortellini are little ring-shaped stuffed dumplings, an Italian pasta specialty complicated enough that almost no one makes them at home.
But the hearty pasta makes a substantial meal in practically any sauce, so machine-made tortellini have remained a favorite in American homes.
They're most often found filled with a blend of ricotta and Parmesan or Romano cheese, but meat fillings, including ham, ground pork or a combination are also available.
Tortellini can be found in the modern grocery store in three different areas in three versions. Frozen, with the frozen pasta and pierogis; fresh, in the dairy section with other fresh pasta; and dried, in the pasta aisle or Italian section.
Tummy rumblings: According to legend, the tortellini's shape was inspired by the belly button of the goddess Venus, or an earthly stand-in. That's why tortellini are also sometimes known as umbellico, or navel.
In this recipe, from Martha Stewart, tortellini gets a lighter sauce than the usual cream and cheese, or marinara. Lemon zest and a little pasta water carry the flavor of browned prosciutto and garlic without overwhelming the stuffed pasta.
> Lemony Tortellini with Peas and Prosciutto
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds frozen cheese tortellini
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook tortellini until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water. Add peas to pot; drain pasta mixture, and set aside.
In the same pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat; add prosciutto and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned, 2 to 4 minutes.
Add pasta mixture, pasta water, 1 tablespoon oil, and lemon zest and juice; toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.