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Tortelli, Tortellini And More, Oh My! At the Ristorante Alla Borsa

Ristorante alla Borsa

Ristorante alla Borsa

The Ristorante Alla Borsa, in the heart of Valleggio Sul Mincio (a town on the banks of the river that drains Lake Garda) is famed for its stuffed pasta, in particular its tortellini Nido D’Amore, which have a very thin pasta shell, and are made with several kinds of meat, but no cheese. They are — there’s no getting around it — extraordinarily good, but are far from the only kind of stuffed pasta to emerge from the restaurant kitchens.

And it is precisely this variety that led Angelo and Paola to organize a “Verticale di Tortellini” for the first night of this year’s Bardolino presentation, accompanying a number of the various kinds of stuffed pasta with Bardolino Chiaretto and Bardolino from the area around Valleggio. It was a stunning evening during which most of us ate entirely too much, because stuffed pasta is very much like cherries: Uno tira l’altro, One morsel invites another.

Ristorante alla Borsa Fried Tortellini

Ristorante alla Borsa Fried Tortellini

We began with fried tortellini, which are decidedly untraditional but a great favorite of Angelo’s, and quickly became a favorite of the rest of us too.

Ristorante alla Borsa Tortellini Nodo d'Amore with Butter

Ristorante alla Borsa Tortellini Nodo d’Amore with Butter

Next came Tortellini Nodo D’Amore, the Ristorante alla Borsa’s signature tortellini, served with a simple butter and sage sauce, and what can I say? Their renown is very well deserved.

Ristorante alla Borsa Tortelli With Monte Veronese Cheese And Potatoes

Ristorante alla Borsa Tortelli With Monte Veronese Cheese And Potatoes

The Tortellini were followed by Tortelli filled with Monte Veronese Cheese, potatoes, and a little rosemary, and they were again quite nice.

Ristorante alla Borsa Tortelli With Artichokes and Pecorino

Ristorante alla Borsa Tortelli With Artichokes and Pecorino

The Tortelli were followed by more Tortelli, this time with a pecorino and artichoke filling seasoned with marjoram, and while we were told that the recipe was still being worked on, it met with no complaints.

Ristorante alla Borsa Tortellini In Broth

Ristorante alla Borsa Tortellini In Broth

At this point the cooks decided to surprise us with a detour, as it were, and served up steaming bowls of tortellini in broth, which were quite refreshing and did help pave the way for:

Ristorante alla Borsa Tortelli With Squash Gonzaga Style

Ristorante alla Borsa Tortelli With Squash Gonzaga Style

Tortelli di Zucca alla Gonzaga, tortelli stuffed with squash, one of the most classic fillings of that part of the veneto, served with a tasty meat sauce that did a fine job of balancing the sweetness of the squash filling.

Ristorante alla Borsa Millefoglie and Gelato

Ristorante alla Borsa Millefoglie and Gelato

And to finish up? a selection of desserts; I opeted for Millefoglie with Gelato to start out.

Ristorante alla Borsa Semifreddo

Ristorante alla Borsa Semifreddo

And finished up with a semifreddo, which I enjoyed, but neglected to take notes on, though looking at it brings saffron to mind.

Bottom line: If you visit the southern part of Lake Garda, and like stuffed pasta (even remotely), do consider a meal at the Ristorante alla Borsa.

Adriana’s Beef and Pork Stew, Lo Stufato Dell’Adriana

Adriana's Pork and Beef Stew

Adriana’s Pork and Beef Stew

A number of years ago I finished Vinitaly, the major Italian wine trade show, with a delightful potluck dinner at the home of Lorenzo Begali, who makes wonderful Valpolicella and Amarone. And wrote down the recipes. This time it was a much quieter dinner, with family and kids.

Adriana, Lorenzo’s wife, served pasta followed by stew and polenta.

The recipe will serve 6-8

  • 3 pounds (1.5 k, total) stew beef and boned pork, cubed – proportions to taste but she used more beef than pork
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • A few leaves of sage, and the needles from a 6-inch sprig of rosemary, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A glass of white wine (optional)

Heat the oil in a pot and sauté the onion, garlic, and herbs until the onion becomes translucent. Add the meat and cook, stirring, until it browns.

If you’re including the wine, sprinkle it into the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until it evaporates.

Add a glass of warm water, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, and cook covered until the meat is tender and the juices are much reduced, removing the cover towards the end to hasten evaporation if need be.

Serve with a tossed salad, polenta, and a good red wine. For example, Lorenzo Begali’s Valpolicella.

Note:
Adriana’s pasta sauce is quite similar: She starts out with the same ingredients, though the meat is ground rather than cubed, and also adds enough tomato sauce to turn it pale red. Over tagliatelle, which are called lasagnette in the Valpolicella, it was very good.

Vinitaly! And A Fine Dinner Near Verona

Mid March – Mid April is a busy time for those involved with Italian wines: there’s Vinitaly, the wine trade fair in Verona, an annual event that wineries must attend and wine journalists ought to. Unfortunately, the show’s timing is horrid, falling at bottling time, which means that most of the wines being poured are freshly bottled, shocked to death, and very closed — or they’re barrel samples. Barrel samples are unfiltered and therefore not nearly as likely to be shocked (though they do get shaken up in getting to Verona), but their bouquets tend to be badly skewed, showing a strong predominance of oak if it was used, while the fruity/floral aromas that develop in the reducing environment of the bottle are weak or simply not there yet.

Why go, then? Because it’s the only place where one can taste lots of wines from throughout the Peninsula (and beyond; lots of foreign exhibitors too) conveniently. The current vintages may not be perfect, but they do give an idea of what the future will hold, and one can also find older vintages that are fine indeed.

The other reason to go is to network and hobnob; the days are long (9-7) but there’s always someone to look up or talk to — and go out to dinner with. A number of years ago, for example, on the last night I joined Elisabetta Fagiuoli, who makes extremely fine Vernaccia in Tuscany, but was born in Verona, and we went to dinner with old family friends of hers. A spectacular, very simple Veronese meal washed down with excellent wines from the Valpolicella made by one of our hosts, Lorenzo Begali.

WHEN IT WAS ALL OVER I found myself sitting, pad and pen in hand, writing down the recipes:

We began with Adriana’s Minestrone di Verdure, which is extraordinarily creamy. She notes that one can make it with pasta, but she prefers croutons.

We then had Costolette d’Agnello Scottadito, grilled lamb chops that get their name (finger-burning) from the fact that they’re so tasty people can’t wait for them to cool.

And Costicine di Maiale, pork spare ribs that were steamed and then grilled. Very tasty, and much less fat than one often encounters.

These were accompanied by polenta (in inch-high squares, unseasoned — taking the place of bread), grilled eggplant, grilled zucchini, sautéed wild greens, and a tossed green salad.

We finished with a number of cakes, the most spectacular of which was a Torts di Rose, a cake based on babà dough that someone gave Ivana in exchange for a couple of bottles of Recioto at Vinitaly (this exchange takes place every year). Rita’s fagottini stuffed with ground amaretti and strawberry jam were also nice, however, as was Lisetta’s hazelnut cake. And the Crema di Limoncello that wound things up was a delightful surprise.

Ivana’s Grilled Zucchini

One would think grilled zucchini to be an obvious dish, but it’s not nearly as common as all that. The recipe is courtesy of Ivana, who prepared it for a wonderful meal in the hinterland of Verona. It’s more of a procedure than a recipe:

Wash, dry, and thinly slice lengthwise a number of zucchini — 1/8-inch or so (3 mm) slices

Grill them for a couple of minutes, turning them once. Transfer the slices to a baking dish and lay them flat.

Take a look at how many you have, and prepare a mixture made with three parts grated Parmigiano, 1 part bread crumbs, and a little minced garlic and parsley. Spread the mixture over the zucchini — it shouldn’t be too thick — drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over them, and roast them for a few minutes in a preheated 400 F (200 C) oven. When the oil is crackling and the crust is lightly browned they’re done.

The rest of the meal this was served in.

Ivana’s Costicine di Maiale, Spare Ribs

There are lots of ways to cook spare ribs. Many end up being rather fatty, and though tasty aren’t particularly healthy. Ivana, who brought these ribs to a potluck dinner in the hinterland of Verona, steams them before roasting them, and in doing so removes quite a bit of fat. There really aren’t any quantities involved in the recipe, so the amounts you use will be up to you.

You’ll want individual pork spare ribs (figure 4-6 per person, or perhaps more)

  • 50-50 mixture of water and white wine
  • The needles of a sprig of rosemary
  • A little more white wine
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • A pressure cooker with a steamer basket attachment

Put the ribs in the steamer basket, put them in the pressure cooker, and add enough water and wine to fill the pressure cooker within an inch of the bottom of the basket (you don’t want to boil the ribs). Pressure cook the ribs for 10 minutes to render out most of the fat.

Let the pressure drop, open the pressure cooker, and arrange the ribs in an oven pan. Sprinkle them with the rosemary needles, season them to taste with salt and pepper, dribble a little more white wine over them, and roast them for 20 minutes in a preheated oven. Or broil them until they’re pleasingly browned.

The rest of the meal this was served in.