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Massimo Bottura gave some insight into the wonderful Tortellante project during his recent speech at Identità Golose 2019, highlighting the italian pasta, Tortellini as a symbol of beauty and culture, but also of solidarity and social inclusion. The association which he is both mentor and ambassador, together with his wife Lara Gilmore, teaches young people with autism to work with fresh pasta, alongside Rezdore (a group of women from Modena, Italy, who are said to be the keepers of the secrets of true Tortellini) - a project that is giving real employment opportunities to those taking part.
All this activity happens in Modena, not far from Osteria Francescana, where 24 youths, aged 16 and over have learnt and found a real job. "Anyone who has finished school attends Tortellante every morning, doing a real job, while those who still go to school, have the opportunity to learn a job two afternoons a week", explained Erika Coppelli, president of the association.
Tortellante's activities were officially presented on 12 April at the Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan, with the support of BPER Banca. Hand-folded tortellini made by the young people at the association were served with Osteria Francescana's cream of Parmigiano to an audience made up mainly of volunteers and members of the Querce district association.
Tortellini by Tortellante - Credit: Mariarosaria Bruno
"This is a place full of beauty and with beauty, you can rebuild people's dignity. Today is a special day: there are the Rezdore, the grandmothers, the mothers, the aunts, who dedicate their lives to keeping the family together and folding tortellini using a magic formula that cannot be revealed, but in this case, they do! And they do it with guys who have problems, with difficulty entering employment. This is a totally inclusive project," said Bottura.
And the guys' reactions? "My son Charlie always tells me that they work a lot, but above all, they are proud to work side by side with Osteria Francescana. At the end of each session, then, there are always some tortellini that they can take home to their families: for once, they bring food home, and this makes parents proud," the chef continued.
Today the guys at Tortellante produce fresh pasta for large companies like Gucci and Tetra Pak, but their tortellini can also be purchased by anyone living in Modena, booking online at email@example.com. In the future, the association plans to equip itself as a fully fledged e-commerce business. Also, just for the record, the tortellini are rigorously prepared according to the Modenese recipe, with the cooked filling, based on pork, prosciutto and mortadella, Parmesan and a pinch of nutmeg.
Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore at the Refettorio Ambrosiano - Credit: Mariarosaria Bruno
What are Tortellante's future projects: will the Ambrosiano Refettorio model be replicated to do good around the world? "We would like that very much, even if we have to go slow, there are delicate situations. We want to create a sustainable model in Modena, with the sale of fresh pasta and the support of educators and psychologists, with social activities ", answered Lara Gilmore. "This is a cultural project, we are fortunate to work with many elderly volunteers who educate and help us every afternoon with our guys: two marginalized groups of society that, together, are stronger" she added.
"I think we can replicate the Tortellante project everywhere, especially in a magical and unique place like Italy, where orecchietti or ravioli, tortellini or pizzoccheri can become the cause, the spark, to open 10,000 Tortellante and include all the kids in the world, " concluded Bottura. The good of the food is also (and above all) this."