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Spinach Balanzoni: a typical pasta from Bologna

Spinach Balanzoni: a typical pasta from Bologna

“I would like to ask you if you have any information about the history of the Balanzoni recipe, which is now a popular dish in Bolognese restaurants, but, as the Bolognese I am,
I don’t remember ever having eaten as a child” (signed email).

To tell you about the history of Balanzoni, green pasta dough filled with ricotta, mortadella, and Parmigiano, I took my inspiration from a reader’s email I received a few months ago.

For this, I thank those who read my blog or choose to cook one of my recipes: you motivate me to do my best!

Balanzoni are typical tortelloni of Bologna

Spinach Balanzoni: a typical pasta from Bologna

Last summer, while planning some Bolognese-flavored recipes for fall, I received an email to which I responded with relief. The consolation rests on my reader’s common sense: I am Bolognese, but I don’t remember spinach Balanzoni.

From this consideration, confirmed by the oldest cookbooks and supported by the memories of Bolognese, who are more than forty years old, we can deduce that Balanzoni became part of the Bolognese tradition recently. And they are not related to the Carnival season.

The origin of the recipe

On the tortelloni called Balanzoni there is a fake news.

The recipe is modern (in the ancient cookbooks, there is no trace of the preparation, just as there is no trace in the memory of the Bolognese). Most importantly, it has nothing to do with Carnival.

It dates back to the second half of the twentieth century. The recipe was probably born in the 1980s-1990s. When a Bolognese sfoglina (pasta maker), who worked in a fresh pasta lab, stuffed green tortelloni with some leftovers of the day: mortadella and ricotta cheese.

In the Bolognese fresh pasta lab, women chose a name that would make people think of Bologna. I imagine the gathered sfogline discussing around it.

And since in the filling, in addition to mortadella, there is ricotta cheese, another typical ingredient used to fill fresh pasta in town, the choice fell on the name of Dottor Balanzone, the Carnival mask of Bologna.

Fresh pasta from Bologna

Spinach Balanzoni: a typical pasta from Bologna
Although in Carnival, no custom refers to the preparation of Balanzoni as a “typical” dish of the period.

Fake news comes from a misinterpretation that derives the name.
And to say that it would be enough to ask mothers and grandmothers!

Instead, do you know what happens?
Those who “don’t know” spread (wrong) information, and those who “know” doubt what they know.

In conclusion, Balanzoni is a stuffed pasta dish of the most recent Bolognese tradition and is not a typical Carnival dish.

One last thing before I leave you with the recipe. Many call for spinach in the filling as well. As I wrote, there are no ancient sources to build the origin. But I will tell you why I think they did not originate with spinach in the filling. The mortadella is delicate and would be covered by the flavor of the herbs in the pastry and filling. You would also lose the color contrast between the bright green of the sfoglia and the white pink of the filling.

The Bolognese calendar on local sayings, rhymes, and recipes, and several pasta makers in the city offer a version of Balanzone without spinach in the filling. And so I do.

Buona cucina, Monica

If you need some tips for making pasta dough, on the blog, you will find a condensation of what, over the years, I have understood and learned. Making sfoglia at home is not mission impossible. It just takes a little practice.

If you love pasta dishes and fresh pasta, don’t forget the recipes for tortellini, garganelli, Goccia d’Oro lasagna, tagliatelle with chestnut flour, lasagne verdi alla Bolognese, strozzapreti di Romagna, and maltagliati.

Spinach Balanzoni recipe 

Spinach Balanzoni recipe (filled tortelloni) 

serves 4
List of the Ingredients

Pasta dough

300 g 00 flour
2 eggs
70 g spinach boiled and squeezed


400 g cow ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons mascarpone
150 g Bologna mortadella
60 g grated Parmigiano cheese
nutmeg and salt to taste

To season

butter to taste
some sage leaves


Pasta dough

Combine and knead flour, eggs, and chopped spinach. You can make it in a bowl or on the cutting board.

Let the dough rest for 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap.


Mix the ingredients in a bowl to make a smooth, well-blended filling. Transfer the mixture to a disposable pastry bag, then let it rest in the refrigerator for half an hour.

Make the green tortelloni

Roll out the dough into a thin sheet with a rolling pin or pasta machine.

Cut the pasta sheet into squares 4-5 cm on each side and stuff each square with the equivalent of a teaspoon of filling.

Close each square by forming a triangle and seal the edges with your fingers. Make the edges fit together to form a tortelloni.

Cook the Balanzoni in boiling salted water. Meanwhile, in a large pan, melt some butter with a few sage leaves (washed and dried).

When the tortelloni rise to the surface, transfer directly to the pan with the melted butter and sage. Serve with Parmesan cheese on the side.

Green pasta dough

Balanzoni's filling

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