Tortelli di Zucca (pumpkin tortelli) got famous in Mantua, at Gonzaga court, a cultural center attracting artists and architects from all over the world. The Lords of Mantua were also renowned for their passion for good food, thus all along the Renaissance, their court hosted the best cooks and chefs of the time, including those of Jewish faith.
The latter accustomed the taste of the court to the challenging match between sweet and salty flavors, and they did this through Tortelli di Zucca, in which the filling of fresh pasta was made of pumpkin, sweet mustard, amaretti biscuits, cheese and nutmeg. In 1629-1630 the laws against the Jews led many of them to leave the city and take shelter in the surrounding provinces, reaching the city of Crema in the North and the one of Modena in the South.
In this way, Tortelli di Zucca spread in all Padana valley, developing many variations from a place to another. The main difference is about the quantity of the ingredients employed in the filling: in Reggio Emilia, mustard and nutmeg aren’t much used, while Parmigiano Reggiano plays a major role.
Together with Tortelli Verdi, they are the traditional main dish for the dinner on Christmas Eve, when they are served with a seasoning of melted butter or with tomato and onion soffritto.