Game and Mountain Herb Tortellini with Organic Butter & Game Reduction

Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook The Venetian Republic

This is a classic northern Italian dish that you will find outside the Veneto area, stretching from Piedmonte all the way across to Friuli, and it’s one of my all-time favourite things to eat. Here we use pheasant, but any game product, including rabbit, venison, quail and wild boar can be a substitute.

Game and Mountain Herb Tortellini with Organic Butter & Game Reduction


PREP TIME 1 hour

COOKING TIME 1 hour 30 minutes

1 kg+ (2 lb, 4 oz+) whole pheasant or similar game bird or rabbit

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1 large carrot, diced

1 large celery stick, diced

1 large onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

5 g (¼ cup) rosemary leaves

6 sage leaves, 4 left whole and 2 finely chopped

6 stems wild thyme, 4 left whole and 2 picked

200 ml (generous ¾ cup) single (pure) cream

300 g (3 cups) finely grated, Parmigiano Reggiano

1.2 kg (2 lbs, 10 oz) fresh egg pasta dough, rolled into sheets no thicker than 1mm (see below)

1 egg, beaten, for egg wash

125 ml (½ cup) cognac

50 ml (scant ¼ cup) red wine

1 bay leaf

3 juniper berries

400 ml (1½ cups) chicken stock (see below)

2 tablespoons salt

4 tablespoons organic butter

Sea salt and freshly teaspoon black pepper


Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Season the pheasant thoroughly with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan for 2 minutes, then add the pheasant and brown all over.

Put the carrot, celery, onion, three-quarters of the minced garlic, the rosemary, 4 whole sage leaves and 4 wild thyme stems in a roasting tin. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Place the pheasant on top of the vegetables and herbs in the tin and roast in the oven for 45 minutes.

Strip the meat off the bird. Using a butcher’s cleaver or large knife, cut the carcass (bones) into small pieces and set aside. Finely dice the meat from the bird, allow to cool, then refrigerate.

Mix the diced pheasant meat with the chopped sage and picked thyme, the cream and Parmigiano Reggiano. Adjust the seasoning if required.

To make the tortellini, cut pasta into 5 cm (2 inch) circles and add a teaspoon of pheasant mix in the middle of each. Using a pastry brush, wet one side of each pasta circle with egg wash, then fold to form half moon shapes, then twist each side to the centre to form tortellini.

To make the game reduction, remove the whole sage leaves and thyme stems from the roasting tin and reserve. Add the chopped pheasant carcass to the roasting tin and return to the oven. Cook for 20 minutes or until brown. Add the Cognac and a little of the red wine to deglaze the roasting tin.

Spoon all the ingredients from the roasting tin into a medium-sized saucepan and add the reserved whole sage leaves and thyme stems. Add the rest of the red wine, the remaining garlic, bay leaf and juniper berries. Cook over low heat until reduced to a syrup consistency, then add the chicken stock and cook until reduced to a third of its volume. Pass through a fine sieve and season if required.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Cook the tortellini in the boiling water until they float. Melt the butter in a frying pan on the stovetop and toss the drained tortellini in the butter.

Serve the tortellini drizzled with melted butter and the game reduction.

Fresh egg pasta dough

Makes approximately 600 g (1 lb, 5 oz)

330 g (11½ oz) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra, for kneading

70 g (2½ oz) fine semolina

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

4 x 60 g (2¼ oz) free range or organic eggs


Combine the flour, semolina and sea salt and place on a work surface or large wooden board. The flour should form a peaked mound. With your hand, make a hole in the top of the mound so that it resembles a volcano. This hole needs to be big enough to be able to 'house' the eggs. Break the eggs into the hole. With your hand or with a fork, gently beat the eggs, then slowly incorporate the flour into the egg mixture. I do this by moving my hand in a circular motion, slowly incorporating the flour from the inside wall of the mound. Don't worry if the dough looks like a mess. This is normal.

Once fully combined, knead a little more flour into the dough if it feels a little wet and sticky. Set the dough aside and clean the work space. Dust some fresh flour onto the work surface and continue kneading the dough for another 5 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Next, roll the pasta to the desired thickness and cut into the desired shape.

Chicken stock

(Makes approximately 2.5 litres (87 fl oz/10 cups)

1-1.2 kg (2lb, 4 oz - 2lb,10 oz) free-range chicken or boiling hen

1 kg (2lb, 4 oz) fresh chicken bones, thoroughly washed

100g (3½ oz) carrot, roughly chopped

100g (3½ oz) celery stalks, roughly chopped

100g (3½ oz) leek, roughly chopped

100g (3½ oz) onion, roughly chopped

100g (3½ oz) Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rind

3 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley sprigs

4 litres (140 fl oz/16 cups) water

fine sea salt, to taste


Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer without a lid for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Skim away the excess fat and other particles that come to the surface of the liquid throughout the cooking process. Remove the chicken, shred the meat from the bones (discard the skin and bones), strain the liquid through a fine strainer and refrigerate. If there is excess fat, it will solidify at the top of the refrigerated broth. Remove this with a spoon before using the broth. The cooked chicken can be used in other recipes. Chicken broth can be made in advance and frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.