Tortellini — small circles of rolled dough folded around a filling — are one of the most renowned members of the Italian pasta family. In the land of their birth, the region near the Italian city of Bologna, they're strictly served as broth-like dumplings.
Possibly no foodstuff in Italian cuisine is surrounded by so much history and lore.
When we first started thinking about dumplings for NPR's Dumpling Week, we presumed that there wasn't much to the little balls of dough. They seemed simple, universally beloved and unencumbered by controversy.
But the semantics of the dumpling turns out to be far more fraught that we imagined. This became clear when we started wondering whether tamales, or samosas, counted as dumplings. The deeper we waded into the pool of quasi-dumpling snacks, the more we realized we needed some expert input to set us straight.
From Warsaw to Wuhan, people around the world love dumplings. They're tasty little packages that can be made of any grain and stuffed with whatever the locals crave. But where did they come from?
No one knows for sure, but Ken Albala, a food historian at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., thinks dumplings have been around for a very long time. "Almost without doubt, there are prehistoric dumplings," he says.