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Tortellini Alla Panna

Tortellini alla Panna is a tasty pasta dish with a luscious, creamy Parmesan sauce that will have your guests asking for seconds!

You won’t believe how easily you can make such a classic Italian dish in 20 minutes with just 6 ingredients. This is an ideal family weeknight meal when everyone is hungry and wants something delicious!

bowl of tortellini with peas and ham.

Why you will love this recipe

I can’t even begin to count all the reasons why you’ll love Tortellini alla Panna. This is one of those recipes you can rely on to be perfect every time. It’s a simple, no-fail, authentic Italian recipe that is loved by many.

Other hits in my house are my delicious homemade cavatelli pasta and tonnarelli that the family go crazy for and ask me to make again and again.

Tortellini alla panna actually means “tortellini with cream”. I really like to add ham and peas but that’s entirely optional. At its most basic, the sauce can be prepared with just butter, cream and Parmesan cheese.

When you need easy weeknight dinners for family and friends, this is the recipe for you. If you love alfredo sauce, then you’ll love it. Think of this as tortellini alfredo. Plus, the creamy Parmesan sauce is also delicious served with garganelli or tagliatelle.

For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card bottom of the page.

Ingredients

ingredient for tortellini alla panna as per recipe card.

This recipe relies on good quality tortellini – I like meat tortellini but use cheese if that’s your preference. The tortellini I use are locally produced and purchased frozen but you could also use refrigerated tortellini – the only difference would be the cooking time. Check the package for instructions.

Of course, homemade tortellini are wonderful if you have time and patience to make them. But if not, look out for a good quality filled pasta. Chilled tortellini can be found in the refrigerated section of the supermarket or hunt out a local supplier.

You may think that the quantity of tortellini suggested would not be enough to serve 4, however keep in mind that the creamy Parmesan sauce is quite rich. If you want to double the quantity, check out my tips below.

For the sauce you’ll need:-

  • Heavy cream: There is no substitute because this is a “alla panna” after all.
  • Parmesan cheese:  It’s best to buy a wedge and finely grate it yourself. The pre grated cheese contains stuff to keep it dry and not clumping. Firstly, you don’t want strange additions in your food. But secondly, this will give a dry mouth feel to the sauce.
  • Butter: I much prefer unsalted because there is enough salt in the Parmesan and ham. However, use salted butter if that’s what you have but don’t add extra salt before tasting and checking for seasoning.
  • Ham: Use Italian prosciutto cotto, which is “cooked ham”. But if you can’t find it or it’s too expensive, use whatever ham you like.
  • Peas – Frozen is the way to go here. No need for podding peas when we are all about making a quick and simple authentic Italian recipe.

Variations

There are a few ways to vary this tortellini alla panna recipe.

  • Add a few strips of roasted red peppers to the sauce
  • Substitute smoked salmon for the ham and serve with cheese tortellini
  • Add finely chopped basil leaves
  • Saute a crushed garlic clove with the ham (not authentic but very tasty)
  • Use Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano or Asiago instead of Parmesan cheese.

Equipment needed

  • Use a large pot to boil the tortellini (approx 6 quart/6 litres). Fill it ¾ of the way with hot tap water (or boiling water from the kettle) so that it comes to the boil quickly. 
  • A largish frying pan to make the sauce is ideal. Mine measures 12 inches across and is 2 inches high (30cm x 5cm). You’ll need the area once the tortellini are added.

Instructions

6 step photo collage showing how to make tortellini alla panna.

Start this recipe off with putting a large pot of salted water on high heat. While it is coming to the boil, prepare the ingredients and make the creamy Parmesan sauce. 

  1. Melt butter in a frying pan over medium heat and saute ham for 30 seconds. You don’t need to brown the ham but the gentle saute will bring out the hammy flavor.
  2. Add cream, salt and pepper and simmer for 1 minute. Don’t over reduce at this stage. The sauce will thicken with the Parmesan cheese and then the tortellini will release starch to thicken the sauce further.
  3. Stir in Parmesan cheese and peas and heat through until the peas are defrosted. Remove the pan from the heat until the tortellini are ready.
  4. Drain tortellini when cooked, reserving a little of the cooking water. Return the frying pan to the stove over medium heat and stir in the tortellini. Stir to combine and until thoroughly coated in the sauce. The sauce will thicken a little more once the pasta is added. If it is too thick add a splash of reserved cooking water.

Tips for success and FAQs

tortellini with cream, peas and ham in a bowl viewed from above.

The success of this tortellini alla panna recipe is based on timing. So the first thing I suggest is to use hot tap water to fill the pot for boiling the tortellini. This way the water will boil much quicker. The sauce is super quick to make so the longest step will be waiting for the water to boil. In fact, I sometimes boil water in the electric kettle and pour that into the pot for boiling the pasta.

Secondly, make the sauce while waiting for the pasta to cook. However, don’t leave the cream to reduce. As soon as the peas are defrost and heated through, set the sauce aside until the tortellini are ready.

Lastly, add cooked tortellini to the sauce and heat gently. What this does is add a little bit of starch to the sauce which begins to thicken it. Also the tortellini absorbs the flavors from the creamy Parmesan sauce.

Can I double or halve this recipe?

Yes, this is easy to do. Either way, be sure to use an appropriate size pan to make the sauce in. If you double the quantity, there will be a lot of tortellini to mix through the sauce so the pan will need to be rather large. If you halve the quantity, use a smaller sized pan otherwise the cream will reduce too much.

What do I do if the sauce is too thick?

Add a splash of the reserved cooking water until the sauce is the desired consistency.

How do I reheat tortellini alla panna?

If you happen to have leftovers, I prefer to reheat in the microwave. First stir in a splash of cream or milk then microwave on high for a minute. Stir and then heat for another 30 seconds – one minute. Stir again.
To reheat on the stove top, place leftover tortellini in a small saucepan, add a little cream or milk and heat gently over medium heat. Stir regularly until heated through, about 3-5 minutes.

Can tortellini alla panna be frozen?

No, this is best enjoyed freshly made.

More recipes like this

Here are some of my favorite pasta sauces and pasta combinations that I know you’ll enjoy as well.

Ragu Sauce for Pasta
Nut Free Pesto including a variation with pine nuts
Cavatelli and Broccoli is a fabulous to get more veg into your diet

Made this recipe?
Let me know if you liked it by leaving a ★★★★★ star rating and a review below. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter – it’s free!

bowl of tortellini with peas and ham.

Tortellini Alla Panna Recipe

This recipe is a tasty pasta dish with a luscious, creamy Parmesan sauce, ham and peas
5 from 57 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings:4 people
Author: Marcellina

Equipment

  • large pot to boil the tortellini (approx 6 quart/6 litres)
  • largish frying pan approx 12 inches across and is 2 inches high (30cm x 5cm)

Ingredients

  • 16 oz (450 grams) tortellini (fresh or frozen)
  • 3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 ½ oz (70 grams) ham, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 ½ cups (4oz /115 grams) finely grated Parmesan
  • 1 ½ cups frozen peas

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. When boiling, add tortellini and cook according to package instructions. The tortellini I use take 8-10 minutes.
  • Melt butter in a frying pan over medium heat and saute ham for 30 seconds. You don’t need to brown the ham but the gentle saute will bring out the hammy flavor.
  • Add cream, salt and pepper and simmer for 1 minute. Don’t over reduce at this stage. The sauce will thicken with the Parmesan cheese and then the tortellini will release starch to thicken the sauce further.
  • Stir in Parmesan cheese and peas and heat through until the peas are defrosted. Remove the pan from the heat until the tortellini are ready.
  • Drain tortellini when cooked, reserving a little of the cooking water.
  • Return the frying pan to the stove over medium heat and stir in the tortellini. Stir to combine and until thoroughly coated in the sauce. The sauce will thicken a little more once the pasta is added. If it is too thick add a splash of reserved cooking water.
  • Serve with a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.

Notes

Tips for success
  • Use hot tap water to fill the pot it will boil much quicker. In fact, I sometimes boil water in the electric kettle and pour that into the pot for boiling the pasta.
  • Make the sauce while waiting for the pasta to cook then set it aside.
  • Add cooked tortellini to the sauce and heat gently so that the sauce thickens a little and all the flavors amalgamate.
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 883kcal | Carbohydrates: 60g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 54g | Saturated Fat: 30g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 191mg | Sodium: 1302mg | Potassium: 281mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1879IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 633mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

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Recipe Rating




13 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Better than the restaurant I ate at. So easy to make!! You can now add this dish to your list of meals.
    Superb

  2. 5 stars
    I love the creamy parmesan sauce and the pop of color from the peas. This was an easy weeknight dinner!

  3. 5 stars
    This looks so delicious! And thanks to the peas, my little daughter will be more than thrilled too!

  4. 5 stars
    This is a fabulous tortellini recipe! I love the addition of peas to this. Such a great, family friendly recipe!

  5. 5 stars
    My son will love this. Such a delicious and easy family dinner idea. Definitely making this. Thanks!

  6. A true classic! For good reason as it’s scrumptious. And so simple, assuming you don’t make the tortellini yourself, of course…