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Known as tirtlen or tortelli alle erbe, this vegetarian homemade fried rye flour ravioli is a traditional recipe from the beautiful Alto Adige (South Tyrol) in Northeast Italy. There rye flour is a staple ingredient used to make bread, pasta and other foods. These ricotta and spinach raviolis are easy to make and very moreish.

homemade fried rye flour ravioli (tirtlen)

South Tyrolean cuisine.

Also called the Alto Adige or Südtirol, this Italian province is part of the Trentino-Alto Adige region. From 1815 until 1919, it was part of the Austrian Hungarian Empire. The South Tyrol borders with the modern-day Austrian region of Tyrol.

Many people there speak German and, as you can imagine, there are a lot of similarities in the food in both parts of the Tyrol. That’s why many South Tyrolean recipes and dishes often have Germanic names, as you will notice below.

Italian cookbook showing the recipe for rye flour ravioli.

I found this recipe for spinach and ricotta rye flour ravioli in an Italian cookbook for recipes from Trentino-Alto Adige. This book is part of a collection of cookery books with recipes from all the Italian regions. Apart from these tirtlen there are some other dishes I want to make from it; like tagliatelle with cabbage and sausage, different types of canederli and gnocchi and more rye flour ravioli recipes.

homemade fried rye flour ravioli (tirtlen)

Rye flour in the South Tyrol kitchen.

Wheat doesn’t grow well in the mountainous South Tyrol. In fact, only the most rustic and resistant plants have adapted to the rough terrain of the Dolomite mountains in which the region is located. So, the locals traditionally use hardier types of grains to make their breads and pasta etc. These include spelt, oats, buckwheat, and barley.

Ingredients for rye flour ravioli filled with ricotta and spinach on wood pastry board.
Step 1 Gather your ingredients: Flour, milk, olive oil, salt, spinach and ricotta.

However, the most popular grain is rye. Rye has weed-like characteristics and not even the snow kills it, let alone the altitude. Consequently,  it has long been a source of staple foods that in the past helped the local population survive during difficult times.

Rye flour and soft wheat flour in white bowl.
Step 2 Sift the two types of flour into a bowl.

The most well-known traditional rye breads from this part of Italy are schüttelbrot: a crispbread made from rye, sourdough and cumin seeds and Vinschger Paarl meaning the ‘Venosta couple’: two flat loaves of rye and spelt or wheat joined together.

Plus, Pusterer Breatl: a flat and round loaf typical of the Val Pusteria, made with a mixture of rye and wheat and flavored with fennel seeds, coriander, cumin and fenugreek.

A tablespoon of olive oil held over a white bowl with flour in it.
Step 3 Add salt and olive oil to the flour.

South Tyrolean pasta made with rye flour.

Interestingly, schüttelbrot is even used to make pasta. Some time ago, I was given some schüttelbrot tagliatelle which I used in another South Tyrol pasta recipe with speck and chanterelles.

To make that tagliatelle, they finely grind the bread and mix it with eggs and durum wheat semolina. So delicious but sadly hard to find and not easy to make at home.

Milk being poured into white bowl with flour.
Step 4 Mix in the salt and olive oil and then add some milk.

Apart from the fried ravioli in this recipe, you can find similar ravioli including ravioli alla Pusterese or schlutzkrapfen. These raviolis are usually crescent, or half-moon shaped (mezzelune). The ingredients are mostly the same as tirtlen, but instead of being fried, they are boiled and served with brown butter and Parmigiano.

Flour and milk mixed together in white bowl with a fork.
Step 5 Mix the flour and milk together with a fork and then continue with your hands. Add more milk as required.

Is rye flour healthy?

Rye flour is a lot more nutritious than wheat flour as it retains a large amount of nutrients. This is because it’s harder to separate the bran whilst processing the flour. Rye flour is rich in B vitamins, which are important for the brain and nervous system. It’s also mineral rich with magnesium for nerves and muscles, phosphorus for healthy bones, iron for blood formation and oxygen transport and zinc.

Rye flour dough in white bowl.
Step 6 Knead the flour and milk in the bowl until you have a dough.

Is rye flour pasta gluten free?

Rye flour has less gluten than wheat flour but it’s not gluten free. However, the gluten in this flour (gliadin) is a different type of gluten to that found in wheat flours. Rye flour lacks the glutenin needed to form the elasticity in dough.

This is why many rye flour breads and most rye flour pasta also contain wheat flour. The homemade fried ravioli in this recipe has an equal amount of rye flour and soft wheat flour.

Ball of ready rye flour ravioli dough on wood worktop.
Step 7 Turn the dough out onto a floured worktop. Continue kneading until it’s quite soft and elastic. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

How to make the rye flour ravioli dough.

As mentioned above, the flour for this ravioli dough is half rye flour and half soft wheat flour. The liquid you need for the dough is actually milk, plus a tablespoon of olive oil. This dough is quite easy to make. Just sift the two flours together into a bowl, add a pinch of salt, the olive oil and some milk.

Start to mix the flour and liquid together using a fork, adding more milk until you have the start of a dough that doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl. Of course, you can mix the dough without a bowl on a floured work surface.

Puréed cooked spinach in food processor.
Step 8 Make the filling. Cook the spinach, drain it very well and purée in a food processor or chop finely.

Next, turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until it’s quite smooth and elastic. Then roll the dough into a ball, wrap it in cling film or a damp tea towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.

The spinach and ricotta filling for rye flour ravioli.

While the dough is resting is the perfect time to make the filling. This version of tirtlen has just spinach, ricotta and salt. There are also versions with potato as well and others made with cabbage and potato or cheese and Swiss chard.

Puréed spinach and fresh ricotta in white bowl.
Step 9 Put the spinach and ricotta in a bowl and mix well together.

Making the filling is pretty simple. All you need to do is cook the spinach in salted water, drain it very well, squeeze out any water and chop it finely. I used a food processor to do this. Then mix the spinach with the ricotta and add salt to taste. You can also add some grated nutmeg.

Puréed spinach and ricotta mixed together in white bowl.
Step 10 Add some salt and nutmeg to the spinach and ricotta and mix again.

Making and filling this ravioli.

Once the dough has rested, cut off about 20% of it and rewrap the remaining dough so it doesn’t dry out. Roll out the piece of dough you cut off until it’s reasonably thin. You can use just a rolling pin or a pasta machine.

Piece of rye flour ravioli dough cut off from larger dough ball on wood worktop.
Step 11 Cut off about 20% of the dough. Re-wrap the rest to keep it moist.

I used my manual pasta machine, passing the dough through the widest setting a couple of times first. Then again through the next two settings. On my machine, the widest setting has the highest number, 7. On other machines the wisest setting is sometimes the lowest number.

Sheet of rye flour dough in manual pasta machine.
Step 12 Roll the dough piece out into a sheet using a rolling pin or manual pasta machine.

The dough sheets for this homemade rye flour ravioli don’t need to be super thin. The next step is to cut circles out of the dough using a glass, or cookie cutter. Some Italian make their tirtlen 12cm (4.7in) in diameter. Mine were 9cm (3.5in).

Once you have some circles of dough, place a couple of teaspoons of the filling onto the centre of one dough circle, wet around the edge with some water and cover with a second circle.

Sheet of rye flour dough with circles cut into it.
Step 13 Cut circles out of the rye flour dough sheet using a glass or cookie cutter.

Press the edges down around the filling to seal your ravioli. Place the ready uncooked rye flour ravioli on a floured tray and repeat the process with the rest of the dough and filling.

Circles of rye flour dough with spinach filling in the centre.
Step 14 Place 2 teaspoons of filling in the centre of each dough circle. Rub some water around the edge and cover with another circle.

Frying and serving your rye flour ravioli

These homemade spinach and ricotta rye flour ravioli from the South Tyrol are traditionally eaten fried as a snack or street food. You can find them for sale at many of the region’s markets and fairs. They are best when they are hot and freshly cooked.

The best oil to fry your tirtlen in is a vegetable, sunflower seed, or peanut oil. In the past, locals also fried this ravioli in lard but that’s not common these days.

10 ready uncooked rye flour ravioli on baking papaer
Step 15 Place the ready ravioli on a floured baking sheet or tray.

Depending on the size and depth of your frying pan, fry the ravioli in hot oil until they brown on each side. I didn’t use a lot of oil so I did them 4 at a time and turned them over to brown. Once cooked, place the ravioli on some kitchen paper to drain some of the oil. But serve them whilst still hot.

Rye flour ricotta and spinach ravioli frying in oil in frying pan.
Step 16 Fry the rye flour ravioli in hot vegetable oil until browned on each side.

What to do with leftovers.

Leftover cooked rye flour ravioli can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for a couple of days and reheated in the microwave or eaten cold. BUT, they don’t taste as good as freshly fried ones!

Ready fried ravioli on white plate covered with kitchen paper.
Step 17 Place the ready fried ravioli on kitchen paper to drain some oil. Serve whilst still hot.

Uncooked rye flour ravioli can be frozen and cooked from frozen but be careful when you add them to the hot oil. You can also just boil uncooked tirtlen (fresh or frozen) and serve them with browned butter and parmigiano like schlutzkrapfen.

Fried rye flour ravioli from the South Tyrol (tirtlen)

Let me know what you think.

These vegetarian spinach and ricotta rye flour ravioli make a great appetizer for guests. They can also be eaten at a party as a finger food. Whichever way you you decide to serve them, I’m sure they’ll be a hit.

If you do try this fried ravioli recipe, I’d love to know what you think. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.

Your feedback means a lot to me!

Buon Appetito!

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Homemade rye flour ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta.

fried rye flour ravioli with spinach and ricotta.

Homemade fried rye flour ravioli from the South Tyrol.


This vegetarian fried rye flour ravioli from the Italian mountains is so easy to make, delicious, nutritious and very moreish. They are traditionally eaten as a snack, street food or antipasto. Great as an appetizer too!

Prep Time 1 hr

Cook Time 30 mins

Course antipasto, Appetizer, Snack

Cuisine Italian, Northern Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige

Ingredients for filling

  • 7 oz cooked spinach (200g) I used 1lb fresh spinach (500g)
  • 7 oz fresh ricotta (200g) well drained
  • salt to taste
  • nutmeg freshly grated

Ingredients for rye flour ravioli

  • 7 oz rye flour (200g)
  • 7 oz Italian ’00’ soft wheat flour or all purpose flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
  • 6-7 floz fresh milk (about 180-200ml) Amount of milk needed may vary
  • vegetable oil for frying

Make the ravioli dough

  • Sift the two types of flour into a bowl. Add a pinch of salt and the olive oil. Mix with a fork.

  • Continue mixing while you add the milk a little at a time. Once the mixture resembles a dough use your hands to start bringing it all together into a ball.

  • When the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl turn it out onto a floured work surface and knead for 7-10 minutes until it’s quite smooth and elastic. Roll the dough into a ball and wrap it in cling film or cover with a damp tea towel. Leave it to rest for 30 minutes.

Make the spinach and ricotta filling.

  • If using fresh spinach, wash the leaves and remove any large stems. Place the spinach in a pot with salted water and cook until it has all wilted.

  • Drain the spinach well and remove any water by sqeezing it with your hands or in a tea towel. Chop the spinach finely or roughly purée it in a food processor. You can use cooked frozen spinach.

  • Drain the ricotta and put it in a bowl with the spinach. Add a little salt and nutmeg. Mix together well.

Make the ravioli.

  • Cut off about 1/5 of the dough and re-wrap the rest so it doesn’t dry out. Roll the dough piece out into a sheet using just a rolling pin on a floured pastry board or roll it out using a pasta machine. It doesn’t need to be very thin.

  • With a glass or cookie cutter cut circles out of the dough sheet of about 3.5 in (9cm) diameter. Place 2 teaspoons of filling in the centre of half the circles. Rub around the edges with water and place another circle on top of the ones with filling. Press down around the filling to seal the ravioli.

  • Place the ready ravioli on a flour dusted surface and repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.

Fry your rye flour ravioli.

  • Heat some vegetable oil in a frying pan. Add some of the ravioli once the oil is hot. Turn to brown on each side. Be careful not to burn the ravioli as they cook quite quickly. Place the ready ravioli on some kitchen paper and cook the rest. You will probably have to cook them in batches of 4 or 6.

  • Serve while still hot.

Any uncooked rye flour ravioli can be frozen and cooked from frozen but be careful when you add them to the hot oil. You can also just boil uncooked ones (fresh or frozen) and serve them with browned butter and parmigiano.

To freeze the ravioli place them in the freezer spread out on a tray or plate. Once frozen they can be transferred to a freezer bag.

Freezing cooked rye flour ravioli isn’t recommended.

Keyword fried ravioli, homemade ravioli, rye flour, spinach and ricotta ravioli, vegetarian

Are you interested in learning how to make other homemade pasta and different types of gnocchi? Then check out my shop page for some great video online courses from my friends in Rome! Nothing beats learning to make pasta from Italians! Plus while you’re there why not order a copy of one of my pasta recipe cookbooks or checkout some recommended pasta making tools?