When you’re Italian, the mixture of sauce, cheese, and carbs is essentially the Holy Trinity of ingredients. You never stop to consider the differences between pasta shapes and fillings because you’re too busy indulging. And just when you think you couldn’t possibly fit another bite into your mouth, that’s when your grandma plops another scoop on your plate. It’s a cycle that constantly repeats itself.
But as many times as I’ve enjoyed a bowl of ravioli and marinara or scooped out the tortellini in my vegetable broth, I’ve never actually stopped to consider what makes each unique. My ancestors are probably looking down on me with disappointment. They definitely wouldn’t offer me a second helping after I’ve confessed to not knowing the difference between ravioli and tortellini. Both are filled with either cheese or meat, so what’s the big deal?
Well, starting with the obvious, the shape of these Italian favorites is different—ravioli being square and tortellini being round and sporting a slight hole at its center. Various pastas receive their names according to the way in which the dough is molded and prepared. Ravioli, the plural being “raviolo,” translates to “little turnip” whereas tortellini’s diminutive, “tortello,” translates to “stuffed cake.” Ravioli is two layers of pasta that form a pillow-like shape whereas tortellini is folded into hat-like shapes akin to dumplings. It’s more likely for tortellini to be used in a broth, though it’s common for both to include either a cheese or meat filling.
Though both selections pair perfectly with red sauce, it wasn’t until the 19th century that tomatoes were introduced to various pasta shapes. The origins of ravioli and tortellini is oftentimes disputed, but both were created in the Middle Ages in Italy and rose to popularity, particularly in the 17th century when they were able to be mass produced. Originally, pastas were considered a rare and expensive meal.
Naturally, these fantastic foods stood the test of time because they’re delicious and there’s no end to the dinner possibilities that abound. We’ve come to love them so much that there’s even a National Tortellini Day (Feb. 13) and a National Ravioli Day (March 20).
If you think these Italian classics are cause for celebration all year long, try your hand at the recipes below.
This classic Italian dish gets a little va va voom thanks to hints of red pepper flakes and kalamata olives—two great ways to spice up the lovely combination of tortellini, tomatoes, and sausage. Go the extra mile and sprinkle some Parmigiano over the finished product and you’ll really have yourself a treat. Get our Tortellini With Spicy Sausage Ragu recipe.
Sweet dreams are made of cheese, and this ravioli dish is a double whammy. If the dairy selection at specialty stores unleashes your inner Augustus Gloop a la Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this recipe is a must. Bonus points for being a fun vegetarian option. Get our Mozzarella and Pecorino Ravioli recipe.
If there’s one way to spice up a serving of vegetables, you better believe it’s with some carbs. Take your soup to the next level by throwing a handful of cheese tortellini in your broth. What was once a starter dish can easily be upgraded to a main course thanks to this addition. Get our Vegetable Minestrone with Tortellini recipe.
There’s no better way to segue into the cooler months than with comfort food like this. Red sauce is a tried and true pairing for ravioli, but sometimes you need to shake things up, and this fall fruit selection is the perfect way to do so. (Yes, squash is actually a fruit, not a veggie.) Get our Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage-Brown Butter Sauce recipe.
This selection totally separates the standard tortellini recipes from the tortellini recipes of champions (obviously being the latter). Baking this pasta is a genius take on the food, and with the taste of the chard and mushrooms, we’re ready to be blown away. Get our Baked Tortellini with Chard, Mushrooms, and Mozzarella recipe.
Let’s face it: Anytime bacon is thrown into the mix, you know you’re in for a treat. This dish is basically tortellini’s answer to breakfast, especially thanks to that runny egg yolk. Whether you’re having this for brunch or dinner, it’s always a winner. Get our Egg Yolk Ravioli With Bacon-Sage Sauce recipe.
Whenever fall swoops in, we receive the pumpkin treatment in our coffee brews, sweets, and baked goods. Now pasta is even getting into the spirit of the season thanks to this dish’s filling, complete with Cinderella pumpkin or butternut squash, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg, among other ingredients. In lieu of the typical meat or cheeses, this filling is the perfect introduction to autumn. Get our Pumpkin Tortellini with Sage and Pumpkin Seeds recipe.
Nothing is better than a classic sauce with a twist on raviolis. This dish is the ultimate cheat that’ll satisfy the most intense cheese cravings. Get the recipe.
What better way to get your daily dose of greens than with this selection? There’s no need to feel guilty about over-indulging in carbs with this meal that’s complete with carrots, parsley, and vegetable stock. Get our Tortelloni in Brodo with Mustard Greens recipe.
Cream, corn, and carbs, comin’ right up. Though it sounds pretty filling, the light white wine, cream, and herb sauce for this meal will keep you just satisfied enough so that you still have room for dessert. Get the recipe.
— Head photo illustration by Chowhound, using: Foodal.