Brown Butter Tortelli Recipe

A few more Rome pics & a simple pasta dish made from ricotta-stuffed tortelli tossed with brown butter balsamic sauce, arugula, pecorino cheese, and lemon zest.

Brown Butter Tortelli

I have three days left in Rome. A stack of used bus tickets thick as a deck of cards is on the nightstand. I see my little pocket journal filled with scribbles and notes. And next to it there's a yellow Bakelite bracelet I picked up in a Pigneto vintage shop for 12 euros. After two weeks+ here, I'm ready to say, I'm tired. Rome is intense. I love it, but it makes my head explode a bit. I ended up making a quiet lunch yesterday for Wayne with some freshly made, fat-bellied ricotta tortelli. I tossed the cooked pasta in some browned butter with a splash of balsamic vinegar and some lemon zest. Added a bunch of arugula and some pecorino and that was that. Easy.

Brown Butter Tortelli Recipe

As someone who has lived most of their life in California, where buildings more than a hundred years old are rare, sitting in the midst of thousand+ year old structures never gets old. I find myself seeking out quiet places, and then, alternately, plopping myself down smack in the middle of the Trevi Fountain crowds. Sitting there for the umpteenth time to watch the crowds go by. There is no other public space quite like it.

Brown Butter Tortelli Recipe

I took a picture of Wayne in this church, above, years ago. It's a beautiful place high on the Aventine Hill, Santa Sabina all'Aventino. Next to the church is one of the best overlooks of Rome. Inside the church the light changes throughout the day and soft, lace-like patterns are projected from the windows onto the walls. I caught a group of students in there the morning I passed through.

Brown Butter Tortelli Recipe

(Above) Here's a shot of me in a room overflowing with Barilla pasta. And below that, my favorite genre of graffiti - ti amo graffiti.

Brown Butter Tortelli Recipe

For those of you who think you might visit Rome at some point, I'll do my best to wrangle all my notes into a single, updated post for you when I get home. The problem with travel related posts is they become dated so fast. My Rome post from a few years back needs some t.l.c. Anyhow, I'll work on it. I'm looking forward to sharing some of the new places I've visited this time around. There are also a number of good Rome-based blogs and references I can point you to. I even found a lab that did a really nice job developing film for me while I was here.

In the meantime, give this pasta recipe a try. It's super simple and quite delicious. I know tortelli is tough to find in the U.S., but, as I mention below, feel free to substitute ricotta ravioli or tortellini. Pumpkin filled pastas would work beautifully with the brown butter and bitter greens as well. See you all when I get back. -h

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Brown Butter Tortelli

I used a dozen big, chubby fresh tortelli here. You can certainly use ravioli. The ones I used were stuffed with ricotta al limone, but a bit later in the year I can imagine substituting winter squash / pumpkin tortelli/tortellini/raviolis - about 1/3 pound / 150g for 2 servings.

one dozen fresh tortelli pasta
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
fine grain sea salt
grated zest of one lemon

2 - 3 big handfuls of torn arugula or other bitter/spicy greens

plenty of grated fresh pecorino or Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook tortelli per package instructions, or until the pasta floats, in well-salted water. Then drain, reserving a small cup of the pasta water.

In the meantime, place the butter in a skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the butter has browned and is very fragrant and nutty smelling. Remove from heat, and let it cool off for a minute or so. Whisk in the vinegar, a couple pinches of salt, and most of the lemon zest.

Add the cooked pasta to the brown butter pan and toss gently. Add a tiny, tiny splash of the reserved pasta water and toss again. Add the arugula, then turn out immediately into individual bowls or a serving platter topped with a bit of cheese and the remaining lemon zest.

Serves 2. You can easily double or triple the recipe to feed more.

Prep time: 5 minutes - Cook time: 10 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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beautiful photos! thanks for the delicious and simple dish recipe! enjoy the rest of your stay in rome.:)


So simple and so elegant. I love recipes which allow the ingredients to shine though.


Heidi, I'm glad to see my mind waves reached Italia. I was needing a new recipe for my Italian black (Lacinato) kale. This fits the bill: simple, delicious and greens friendly. Prego! HS: I love Lacinato kale, glad to hear you're putting it to good use Tom.

Tall Clover

I am making this pasta tonight! I simply love things made with brown butter and make it often, as it's so easy, yet so rich and delicious at the same time. And with the fresh pasta you can get at the market, this will take no time to to make. Now, I just have to decide which wine would pair well with this recipe. . . : )


Great inspiration! Browned butter is the bomb. :)

A Teenage Gourmet

Sometimes the most simple recipes are the best. Now only if I could get some freash hand made pasta from Rome... ;)

Mary (What's Cookin' with Mary)

This sounds absolutely wonderful, and just in time for our cool fall weather here. Can't wait to try it and I loved reading your perspectives on Rome.


Sounds like an amazing trip. Rome (and Italy in general) is at the top of the list of places that we want to visit. Maybe someday...

Tabitha (from single to married)

It's always nice to hear about your travels. I think it's awesome that you cook while you're there - exactly what I want to do if I ever get a chance to go somewhere. This pasta sounds perfect for fall. I've been wanting to make some pumpkin raviolis or something similar but had no idea what to do with them. Just started getting arugula from the CSA too and while I love the Ottolenghi Red Rice and Quinoa recipe, I can't make it every week! I really look forward to your recipes and I can't wait for your new book to come out. You got me started cooking and you continue to be an inspiration!


My mom used to buy homemade pasta at the farmer's market when I was a kid and serve it up with butter and balsamic for Sunday dinner. The first time she did it I thought it was strange to essentially put salad dressing on pasta, but once I tried it I was hooked. What brand/type of balsamic vinegar do you recommend? I am overwhelmed by the options on the market. Also good find with the vintage bakelite. I bet it's gorgeous.


I love Barilla pasta. It must be great being surrounded by mounts of it! Magda

my little expat kitchen

perfect! we're making homemade pasta today! and this sounds perfect! I'll post the results in my blog, thanks a lot! I love your photography! -Amalia


wonderful photos! looks like a fabulous trip.


Hi Heidi, I studied in Rome when I was in high school, at a private boarding school right near the Aventine Hill you mention. I was stunned when you mentioned Volpetti in your last post, as my friends and I used to eat there weekly to escape the terrible cafeteria food of my school. Then, when I saw this post, I just had to write a comment. The teacher in that picture looks exactly like my art history teacher from that school (of course it's a small picture, so perhaps I'm just imagining it). Was she speaking English to the class? That would be too funny. Anyway, I'm glad your enjoying Rome and keep the wonderful recipes coming!

Julia Norcross

ooh that sounds great and once again, beautiful pictures! Enjoy the rest of your time there!

Simply Life

Complimenti on your blog, I have been following it for some time, and find your recipes and approach just wonderful. Perfetto. Though I've lived in Rome since 2006, I love reading what others discover in the city, always something new down a that tiny alley-street, or around an anonymous corner. I look forward to your recap. Plus, I love vegetarian and vegan Italian dishes, so perhaps we will see some Italian influence in postings to come. BTW, I live in Prati if you desire to hear some of my favorites in this zona. Happy travels.


It's almost lunchtime, such a pity it's too late to make these tortelli! I'll try them next week, thank you very much! gaia

Gaia - the Cook

Browned butter with aged balsemic vinegar ... sounds really good with lemon zest . I must try this.


sounds and looks delicious! i always love your travel posts! enjoy the rest of your trip!

charlotte s

I thought I already knew the recipe for the simplest of pasta dishes: my family loves hot, fresh pasta with just a tablespoon of tomato paste fried-off in butter. The aroma of the butter is fantastic, made doubly delicious by the lightly fried tomato pasted. Your buttery version sounds just as simple. Will definitely try it soon!


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