The decision of the new Cardinal of Bologna, Matteo Zuppi, to offer Muslim-friendly pork-free tortellini for Friday’s feast of patron St. Petronius is causing a stir in Italy.

Driving the news

The pasta Zuppi and the Archdiocese of Bologna will offer Friday has been baptised “welcome tortellini”.

According to the traditional Bologna recipe, locked away in the city’s Chamber of Commerce, tortellini are made with pork loin, ham and mortadella, as well as with parmesan cheese, egg and nutmeg.

But the welcome tortellini will instead be filled with chicken, so as not to exclude the city’s Muslim population from the celebrations.

The culinary blasphemy has irritated many, including the auxilliary bishop emeritus of the city, Ernesto Vecchi, who told the Italian paper Corriere della Sera:

“I don’t judge the initiative, but if you falsify tortellini, you kill it. The classic ingredients, with mortadella, are fine: if you don’t use them it’s not tortellini any more, it’s something else”.

Chefs all over Italy, however, backed the Bologna recipe.

Gourmets like cook Mario Ferrara, for example, who recalled: “Food is a universal language; around a plate of tortellini everyone can agree”.


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For the record

For its part, the Archdiocese of Bologna came out firing against the controversy, saying the row over the pasta was “unacceptable”.

The archdiocesan curia blasted the “fake news” around the tortellini, and lamented that “a normal gesture of welcome and respect towards guests has been interpreted as an offence against tradition”.

Controversial far-right former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini also weighed in on the debate.

“Chicken tortellini is like Umbria red wine without grapes. They’re trying to cancel our history, our culture”, Salvini denounced.

The ultraconservative politician made the most of the opportunity to link the tortellini row to a new Government push to rid Italian classrooms of crucifixes and replace them with maps in a gesture of respect for students of other faith traditions.

“The problem is that some Italians are forgetting their roots, denying our history, from tortellini to the crucifix”, Salvini fretted.

“Should I be the one defending faith and values? I’m a sinner…”, he added.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.