The New Shape of Pasta

  • Recipes:
  • Chicken Cacciatore with Tortelloni
  • Creamy Pesto Dipping Sauce

Filled Pastas Add Zest and Variety to Meals

Everyone knows what a mainstay of the American diet Italian food has become. "Spaghetti and Meatballs" was a beloved family meal long before the American public knew what "pasta" was. In the last 25 years, Americans have learned that pasta also means versatility, great taste and easy, quick and healthy meals. Today, pasta has evolved into more than just spaghetti and macaroni.

One of the most popular varieties of pasta on the market today is filled pasta or "pasta-plus." Filled pasta is pasta dough deliciously stuffed with savory blends of fine cheeses, vegetables, herbs, spices, chicken, beef or pork. It is available in a variety of delightful combinations, shapes and sizes.

Ravioli, often called tortelli on Italian menus, is a square or round-shaped filled pasta. Perhaps the most popular of the filled pastas, ravioli is a familiar staple on most Italian menus, and is a favorite entree for kids.

Tortellini is believed to have been developed in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, an area famous for its pastas, hams, sausages and Parmesan cheese. According to legend, tortellini was created by a cook who was so enamored after catching a glimpse of the beautiful navel of Venus that he created a special pasta in tribute to the goddess. Today, these small ovals of pasta are pinched around delectable fillings. Tortelloni is an oversized version of tortellini. The literal translation of tortelloni is "big tortellini."


Chicken Cacciatore with Tortelloni


(Makes 4 servings)


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces (about 2) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1 cup sliced green or yellow bell pepper
  • 2/3 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1-1/2 cups (12-ounce container) refrigerated marinara or plum tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth or dry vermouth
  • 1/2 cup (2-1/2-ounce can) sliced ripe olives, drained
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 package (9 ounces) refrigerated cheese & basil tortelloni, cooked, drained and kept warm
  • Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (optional)

Step 1. In medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil; sauté chicken over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Remove.

Step 2. Heat remaining oil in skillet. sauté onion, bell pepper and mushrooms for 3 minutes. Stir in cooked chicken, sauce, vermouth, olives, rosemary, salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Step 3. Toss mixture with pasta; sprinkle with cheese.


Creamy Pesto Dipping Sauce

(Makes 1-2/3 cups)


  • 2/3 cup (7 ounces) refrigerated pesto with basil sauce
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In food processor or blender container, combine pesto, cream cheese, sour cream and Parmesan cheese; blend until creamy. Serve as a dipping sauce with fresh vegetables or seafood.


Provided by Contadina

This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

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This page modified February 2007

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