The people of Emilia Romagna eat more, care more and talk more about food than anyone else in Italy (and that’s not easy to achieve!). World famous ingredients are produced in this region. Parmigiano-Reggiano, in our opinion, the best cheese in the world comes from here; it has been produced by the same method for 7oo years, producers can get a loan from the bank based on how many wheels of cheese they have maturing!
Emilia has a large agricultural area, with its long plain in the valley of the River Po and its rich alluvial soil. Large quantities of soft wheat, maize, sugar beet and rice are produced there as well as many kinds of fruit. Pasta making and tomato canning are also carried out at a commercial level.
Prosciutto di Parma, the world-famous cured ham is produced here, possibly the most popular antipasto in Italy. According to legend raw ham was served to Hannibal when he passed through Parma in 217 B.C. Other cured meats and salamis abound here including culatello, from the best part of the buttock; fiocco or fiocchetto from the top of the leg and spalla cotta – boiled shoulder. Mortadella comes from Bologna as does Zampone, stuffed pig’s trotters often served at New Year’s dinners with lentils.
This region boasts some of the very best fresh egg pastas, lasagna, and ragù bolognaise served with tagliatelle, never spaghetti, or tortellini.
Another taste sensation from Modena is balsamic vinegar, made by boiling the grape must and then storing it in a well ventilated attic for a minimum of twelve years. during this time the bitter sweet liquid is transfered from one wooden barrel to the next. there should be a least five kinds of wood, each imparting its own special aroma. Oak, chestnut, juniper, ash, locust, acacia and fruit woods such as cherry, apple, pear and mulberry are used. Every year part of the vinegar from each barrel is transfered to another, and gradually it becomes more concentrated, darker and denser, creating a syrup-like rich sweet and sour flavour and seductive perfume. Try it in salad dressings, only a couple of drops are needed or drizzle a little over strawberries, radicchio from Treviso; its taste brings out the flavour of liver, kidney, pork and veal.
Other dishes to look out for if eating in Emilia Romagna:
Salami di Felino – a very fine salame from the town of Felino.
Primo may become a tris which is a platter containing three different pasta courses perhaps lasagne verdi, tagliatelle al ragù and tortelloni al pomodoro.
For Secondi try Cotechino – a minced sausage often served with cabbage or potaotes.
Cotoletto alla Bolognaise is breaded veal cutlet topped with prosciotto, Parmigiano and often mozzarella and maybe a slice of truffle.
Tacchino al Cardinale is turkey breast with prosciutto and Parmigiano.
Vignola is famous for its cherries and Romagna in general is esteemed for the many fruits produced there.
Pampepato is a peppered bread that traces its history back to Renaissance Ferrara – now it contains chocolate, spices, nuts and sometimes wine. Origionally there was no chocolate as it was already being made before Columbus discovered chocolate and cocoa in the New World.
For photos click here.