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Julia Busuttil’s Pumpkin Tortelli Recipe

by Kristina Gill

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I was introduced to Melbourne-based food blogger Julia Busuttil through The Design Files. Admittedly, because I live in Italy, it is quite hard to catch my eye with something Italian because I see it all the time. It has to be extra special and extra beautiful for me to take note – which is why I’m captivated by this recipe. Julia draws her cooking inspiration from her mother, and while living in Tuscany, her passion for humble and simple food grew stronger. Although her recipe for pumpkin tortelli with sage butter is not Tuscan, but from a bit further north, it stays in step with Julia’s approach to food – seasonal, simple, affordable. A tip: Don’t miss out on this great recipe if you can’t find the time to make your own pasta! You can use Julia’s filling to dress a dried pasta with a flat shape, such as bowties. Kristina

About Julia: Based in Melbourne, Australia, Julia Busuttil Nishimura is the creator of OSTRO — an online collection of recipes influenced by seasons, stories and a love of sharing food. Julia regularly contributes to various publications including two month-long features on popular Australian design blog, The Design Files. She creates cakes for workshops and events around Melbourne and devotes much of her time to these baking projects as well as teaching Italian to school children. Julia and her husband, Norihiko, also run an online store, MINAMI, which stocks beautiful Japanese products for the home, kitchen and everyday life. You can find Julia on Instagram: @juliaostro

See how to make Julia’s pumpkin tortelli after the jump!

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Pumpkin tortelli are found in the northern Italian regions of Lombardia and Emilia-Romagna where the winter is long and butter is most commonly used. In Lombardia, particularly in Mantova, where I first ate the dish, crushed Amaretti biscuits and mostarda or mustard fruits are added to the filling, giving the dish a complex, sweet and savoury character. My version, however, is most similar to the cappellacci you would find in Emilia-Romagna’s Ferrara – a beautiful town just north of Bologna.

Pumpkin tortelli with sage butter
Serves 4-6

For the filling

  • 750g pumpkin, skin on and cut into large wedges or pieces
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt
  • ½ onion, finely sliced
  • ½ tsp nutmeg, finely grated
  • 40g parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
  • 1 tbsp breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (about 356 degrees F). Place the pumpkin in a large baking dish. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season to taste with sea salt. Bake until pumpkin is tender and has begun to caramelize (approximately 45 minutes). Set aside to cool and scoop out the pumpkin flesh, discarding the skin.
  2. While the pumpkin is roasting, heat a small pan with the remainder of olive oil and add the finely sliced onion. Saute over a low heat until soft and translucent (10-15 minutes). Set aside to cool.
  3. Process roasted pumpkin, sauteed onion, nutmeg, parmesan and breadcrumbs in a food processor until smooth. Set the mixture aside while you make the pasta. If you’ve made the filling well before you begin to roll the pasta, refrigerate until needed.

For the pasta

  • 300g  Tipo 00 flour*, plus extra for dusting
  • 3 eggs
  • pinch of sea salt
  1. Place the flour on a clean board or workbench and add a pinch of salt. Create a well in the center and crack the eggs into the middle. Using a fork, gently whisk the eggs, slowly incorporating a little flour into the egg mixture at a time until a dough begins to form and you can no longer whisk with a fork. Now using your hands, begin to knead the dough and continue kneading for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding a little extra flour if too sticky or a little water if too dry. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rest at room temperature for an hour.
  2. Divide dough into four pieces and using a pasta machine, feed the dough through the rollers, reducing the width gradually until you reach the thinnest setting, dusting with flour each time. Keep sheets of pasta covered while repeating with remaining dough.
  3. Now, working with one sheet at a time, cut circles out of the pasta using a pastry cutter or another suitable object and cover with a tea towel. I used a 10cm diameter cutter, but if you prefer smaller rounds to make tortellini, use a smaller pastry cutter.

*Tipo 00 flour is suitable for making pasta. If you can’t find it, however, here are a few options:  Julia advises that she has used plain flour at times when she has run out of the 00 variety. She also says that you can mix plain flour with semolina for really good results – 2/3 flour to 1/3 semolina – so in this recipe, 200g plain flour and 100g semolina. Last but not least, Carol Field, in her book The Italian Baker, recommends using one part pastry flour and three parts all purpose flour as a substitute.

For the sauce and to assemble

  • 70g butter
  • 12 sage leaves
  • 40g roasted hazelnuts
  1. Working with a few rounds at a time, place a heaped teaspoon of the pumpkin mixture in the center. Fold in half and seal to form a half moon shape, lightly brushing with a touch of water if necessary and ensuring there is no air trapped. Bring both edges together and press to seal. Set aside on a floured surface and repeat until all pasta and filling has been used. Allow the tortelli to dry out a little (30 or so minutes) before cooking.
  2. For the sauce, heat the butter in a small pan until foaming. Add the sage leaves and hazelnuts and cook until butter begins to brown and sage is slightly crispy.
  3. Whilst the butter is browning, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water in batches until it is al dente and has floated to the top (approximately 2-3 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a large serving dish or individual bowls. Spoon over the butter and sage sauce and serve immediately with extra grated Parmesan.

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Photography by Lillie Thompson, styling by Julia Busuttil

Why Julia loves this recipe: When the leaves begin falling from the trees and the air is noticeably crisp, I love nothing more than to spend time indoors preparing fresh pasta. This dish is all about the silky delicate tortelli, and paired with the butter sauce, it is my ultimate comfort food.  I love the addition of hazelnuts as it adds a delightful texture and works especially well with the nutty browned butter and sage. You can substitute the pumpkin with squash, as they do in Ferrara. Although making fresh filled pasta is a labour of love, it is well worth the time and is much appreciated by those feasting on your efforts. 

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