Tortellini Making Day

Today’s guest post comes from a very special person in our lives — our daughter Lydia’s godmother Maria Campbell. Since we both live in the Des Moines area, readers might think we have a longstanding friendship. That isn’t exactly true. We actually “met” through the pages of this very site. Joel and I were in the midst of getting the infant loss ministry up and running, and well, you can read Maria’s story here to understand why we connected. She’s such a valuable resource, and more important, both Maria and her husband Mark have become tremendous spiritual friends.

Maria’s blog is Our Heavenly Homestead, where she writes about her family’s journey to slow down, simplify, live a more sustainable life, be debt free, and most importantly, learn and grow together. And speaking of learning and growing together, oh how I want to learn how to make tortellini the way Maria describes below. Bon appétit! Rather, Buon appetito!

Baptism with Campbells

For as long as I can remember, there has been a tradition in my family that is deeply rooted in our Italian heritage from my mother’s side of the family. I can’t say when it began but I know it was long before I was born. As far as I know, it has taken place in several different homes including that of my great-grandmother (“Little Nonna”) and that of my grandmother (“Big Nonna”) and now that of my own mother (“Nonni”).

We refer to it affectionately as “Tortellini Making Day.” We dedicate an entire day in early November to gather with my mom, 3 sisters, 2 sisters-in-law, and 5 nieces, to make homemade tortellini. It is a long day filled with fellowship, catching up, complaining, laughing, teasing, commiserating, and good ole’ memory making.

Although there is much fun to be had, we take our work very seriously. Kids are not allowed to be a part of the day until they are able to work hard enough to keep up with the adults. We get an assembly line going and churn out pound after pound of tortellini so that we have enough to send a batch to my aunt in Colorado and to feed roughly 50 people at each of the next Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinners. Somehow, even with all the “tasting” and the complaining that “mom made way more filling this year,” we always end up with just the right amount.

This labor of love is truly just that. When we walk into my parents’ house for holiday dinners we are greeted with the amazing smell of tortellini warming in Mom’s homemade chicken broth … that’s a whole other recipe! But that smell. If I had to name the smell I would have to make a whole new word that combined love, home, comfort, memories, and amazing.

When it comes time for serving the soup there are some in the family who will eat bowl after bowl and skip many of the other dishes served while there are some of us who can appreciate a good bowl of soup as an appetizer before digging into the rest. Regardless, you can rest assured that not a single tortellini is wasted without a stern talking to about the work that went into making it!

Although I don’t know when and how this tradition began, I feel so blessed to be a part of it and I hope that it continues on so that my daughter can experience a “Tortellini Making Day” and appreciate and be a part of this beautiful labor of love.

Tortellini Making Day

Tortellini Filling:

(This recipe makes enough filling for 40-50 pounds of tortellini — cut it down accordingly)

6 pounds chicken breast (boneless, skinless)
4 ½ pounds pork (center cut Loin)

  • Cut off fat.
  • Mix all meat in the food processor until fine.
  • Melt 1 stick of butter, sauté meat in fry pan (DO NOT BROWN THE MEAT)
  • Let the meat cool a little and then run it through the food processor for a second time, until fine
  • Let the meat cool completely


4 cups Romano Cheese
3 cups Italian season bread crumbs (maybe more)
2 ½ dozen eggs (med)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
4 tablespoons nutmeg (we like a lot so we double this amount)

Mix well with your hands.

NOTE: DO NOT add the eggs on hot or warm meat it will cook the eggs

PASTA (1 batch):

(For the tortellini recipe we make around 7-8 batches.)

7 cups Flour
9 Med Eggs
½ cup cold water
1 tbl salt

  • Mix well the eggs, water and salt using a stand mixer.
  • Add a cup of flour at a time to make sure it doesn’t clump together.
  • Knead well and put in a sealed bowl for about 1 hour before you start to roll it out.


Because of the quantity that we make on this occasion, we use ravioli trays for our tortellini.

To make by hand you would cut out small squares of dough, fill them, fold into a triangle, and twist into a round tortellini shape.

We always start by making the filling into a bunch of meatballs for easier handling when filling the tortellini.  One of us assumes the role of making batch after batch of pasta dough. Two of us man the pasta rolling machines and roll out long thin strips of dough. The rest of us each work the trays.

The dough strips are laid onto floured ravioli trays and each space is filled. Another strip of dough is laid across the top and rolled over to seal the individual bites (a little water helps here). We remove the entire tray of ravioli and lay them on trays to be frozen before being broken apart and stored away for serving later.

To serve the tortellini:

Bring of pot of chicken broth to a boil, add tortellini and simmer over medium heat until al dente, about 7 minutes.

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Read all Soups & Stories entries here.

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  1. says

    Tom sent me this recipe! That makes me smile. Tom appreciates good food but isn’t exactly one to read recipes.

    I have always been nervous about making pasta. Can I assume you really need a pasta rolling machine for this process?
    Karen Quiner

  2. says

    Thanks, Tom & Karen. I suppose you could try them without the machine but it would significantly increase the amount of work. The pasta is rolled into very thin strips to avoid them being too “doughy” and to keep them more uniform for cooking. Plus, if you have leftover dough you can run it through the machine to make homemade noodles too! Good luck! Let me know if you try them. Whip together some zucchini bars too and you’ll have a meal! ~Maria

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