Ravioli, Agnolotti, Tortellini, Gnocchi?

5 Apr

Ravioli    Agnolotti   Tortellini    Gnocchi

What do the above words have in common?  Well, they all end with ‘i’.  They all sound vaguely Italian.  They could be delicious.  All of those guess are true, but the common denominator between the four of them is that they are all filled pastas.

Chances are, the first filled pasta, and perhaps the only filled pasta, that you ever had was ravioli.  They’re those fun square shaped pastas that generally have meat mixed with tomato sauce in the middle.  These have been made wildly popular by Chef Boyardee.  They come in a can and cater to laziness (or the college student lifestyle).  Don’t feel like making lunch?  Pop open a can of Chef Boyardee, dump it in a bowl, nuke it for a couple of seconds and PRESTO, instant meal.  Grab a banana for fruit and your mother would be proud.

Ravioli, however, is not the only filled pasta that’s out there.  Buitoni is a common brand of filled pastas.  They make a delicious agnolotti, tantalizing tortellini, and a great gnocchi.  They also make ravioli, and it is very good, so that shouldn’t be left out.  What’s the difference between all of these though?  Are they different?  Does it even really matter?  Of course it matters!   Before I was exposed to the wonderful world of filled pastas I really didn’t care that there was a difference between these pastas, or even know that there was a difference.  I just figured they were all the same.  I’m glad I was wrong.

It's ravioli!

Ravioli – As I stated before, this is probably the first filled pasta that you ever had.  It is delicious.  Ravioli is essentially something stuffed between two thin pasta pieces.  There’s really no limit to what you can put inside ravioli, and the flavors that you’ll find inside depend on the region in which it was created.  It originated in Italy.  Ravioli is occasionally breaded and deep fried.   Ravioli is generally square shaped with a border that looks like it was cut out with zig-zag scissors.  Did you know that fresh ravioli will last you about six or seven weeks?  If it’s canned ravioli I’m pretty sure it’s one of those things that’ll make it to the new millennium (yeah, I know that’s not gonna happen for a LONG time).  For real though, it’ll last you a while, as it’s reason for being around was to make ravioli more available to those that couldn’t get it fresh.

It's agnolotti!

Agnolotti – The pasta above is the delicious agnolotti.  Scott and I absolutely love Buitoni Wild Mushroom Agnolotti.  When I was a wee young thing I HATED mushrooms with a burning passion.  Now I love them, and I’m really glad.  I very highly recommend the Buitoni Wild Mushroom Agnolotti.  On to the information though.  Agnolotti looks like….ravioli!  That’s because agnolotti is a type of ravioli.  It’s from a specific region of Italy known as the Piedmont region.  Agnolotti can be a square (that’s the traditional manner of making it) but it’s also been seen in half circle shapes like above.  The filling can range from beef to vegetables.  However, agnolotti do not usually contain cheeses in the stuffing.


Tortellini – Tortellini are cute little ring-shaped pastas.  They’re usually filled with meat or mixes of cheeses and are sometimes served in broth, though to be perfectly honest, I’ve never seen tortellini served in broth.  There’s also tortelloni, which are filled with vegetables.  Whatever they’re stuffed with, they’re delicious.  They originated in the Emilia region of Italy.  Tortellini shells are not limited to being just the yellow pasta we’re so familiar with.  Buitoni make delicious multi-colored tortellini with green spinach shells.  I’ve also seen tortellini with orangey-red tomato flavored shells as well.  Generally these colored tortellinis are filled with cheeses, and they’re yummy.  Tortellini are great served with a light alfredo sauce.


Gnocchi – Gnocchi are shaped like little pill bugs.  You know those little gray bugs that hid under rocks and in humid areas in the backyard?  Like those!  Enough with the metaphors that’ll kill your appetite though.  Gnocchi, like tortellini can also be seen with tomato flavored and spinach flavored shells.  Those are quite delicious.  Gnocchi can really be likened to dumplings.  If anything, they’re really like lumps of pasta.  Unlike regular pasta though, they can be made with other types of flour than just semolina.  Sometimes they’re made with potatoes though, or with potato as a filling.  They don’t typically have meat or cheese or vegetable fillings.


Now that you’re hungry, which of these four pastas would you like to have for dinner?  All of them are easy to make, just boil them up.  You don’t even really need a sauce for them.  If you so choose, leave me a comment and let me know what you tried, what you thought, and why.


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