Emilia

 

 

Bologna | Modena | Parma | Piacenza | Reggio Emilia | Ferrara 

 

The region of Emilia-Romagna is an area rich of culinary traditions and whose cooking has expanded in Italy and all over the world. The region is famous for the Parmigiano  Reggiano  cheese and for the rearing of hogs that are fed with the whey leftover in the production of the cheese.
The pork meat is turned into cured meats, as did the Etruscans back in time and a myriad of pork products like salami, cotechino, la salama (sic) da sugo, mortadella, and the famous Prociutto di Parma, made in the area are the best in the world.
Since the times of the Etruscans, the region of Emilia-Romagna has been well-known for the cultivation of a large variety of vegetables, legumes and fruits and for rearing animals for food. Having the Po’ river crossing their land, fish was on hand, and game was copious in the bountiful forests: these provisions became part of their diet and a part of their cooking tradition.  
Today Emilia-Romagna is also famous for the stuffed pasta, tortellini  and cappelletti, small ravioli stuffed with meat, cheese, vegetables or a combination of them. Also, to name a few local specialties, lasagna, cannelloni, passatelli, which is a special pasta for soups, the piadina  a unique type of bread baked in Romagna, the  ciupeta  is a crunchy light bread baked exclusively in Ferrara in the shape of a double knot with the ends twisted and called crostini. Rice and polenta  also are typical regional fares.

 

 

 

 

 

Bologna

 


Bologna is called la dotta, the learned one, because it houses the Bologna University founded in the XI century; the oldest in Europe with over 100.000 students. It is also called la  grassa, the fat one in reference to gastronomic specialties that this city offers.
The Bolognese tagliatelle, lasagne  and tortellini  are typical egg pasta.  
The ragu’ alla Bolognese is the classic meat sauce famous around the world. 
Spuma di Mortadella is an appetizer made with minced mortadella, ricotta, Parmesan  cheese and some cream, served with lot of bread to dip in it; the frigione  is a sauce made with sliced onions sautéed with lard and tomato, served with pork skin or sausages or boiled beef.
Bolliti  misti  is an assortment of various cut of boiled beef: a popular dish throughout the region.  
Veal scaloppine  alla Bolognese is made enriched with local ham, wine and cheese, the fritto  misto, typical in the region, consists of many fried ingredients such as vegetables, dairy, various meats and entrails. The tripe with garlic, onion, beef broth and finished with eggs and grated cheese, is a delicious dish. Mortadella  is a characteristic big Bolognese  salame  made with pork grounded to a paste and flavored with myrtle berries, pistachios and black peppers; it is imitated in the USA and called bologna.  
Certosino  or pan  spezial  is a fruit cake containing honey, fruits mustard, candied fruits, marmalade, pine nuts, almonds, cocoa, chocolate, and cinnamon. The Ciambellone  Bolognese  is a ring shaped yeast dough cake made with fruits and nuts that goes well with lambrusco  wine.

 

 

 

 

Modena


Modena offers cappellacci con zucca, ravioli with pumpkin, maltagliati  with beans, risotto with chicken, thezampone, a mixture of minced pork meats, made into a sausage with the skin of the pig's front leg,bolliti  misti,  assorted cuts of boiled beef, served with a zest sauce, other pork dishes and specialties; and the famous balsamic vinegar, …..red Ferraris and Pavarotti, the loved tenor, born in Modena… 
Torta nera, a chocolate-coffee cake and the turnover stuffed with fruit’s mustard, chestnuts and nuts are only two of the many delicious desserts made in Modena. To conclude the meals, a glass of Nocino, a tasty and digestive liqueur obtained from the shell of the walnut, is appreciated; also produced in Sassuolo is Sassolino  an anisette liqueur. 
Parmigiano cheese, prociutto, and an assortment of salami are produced in  Parma, Piacenza and Reggio Emilia.


Mrs. Nancy Erdelyi wrote about her Modena’s visit:


“After an overnight in Parma, we moved on to Modena the home of Balsamic Vinegar. Never knew the origin of Balsamic (now I do), coming from the Roman times "balsa" or healing. After watching the cooking vats, we saw where the vinegar was stored in wooden barrels (like wine) and tasted some that was 30 years, 60 years and 120 years old. The 120 year old vinegar was processed by the owner’s grandfather. We didn't care for the 60 and 120 variety, but the 30 year old was almost sweet tasting and slightly creamy […]”

 

 

 

 

 

Parma


In the province of Parma, Val di Taro is known for the  porcini  mushrooms. 
Alla Parmigiana  describes any food served topped with Parmesan cheese such as cutlets, spinach, celery or eggplants. 
La sfoglia, rolled-out fresh dough, is cut into tagliatelle, noodles, lasagna  or used to enclose the delicate fillings of  cappelletti,  tortellini  or other types of ravioli.  Anvein, also called Anoli  are round ravioletti  stuffed with a combination of grated Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, eggs and cooked in broth.
Trippa alla Parmigiana is made with pancetta or lard, oil, butter, onions, garlic and with a little tomato paste and parmesan cheese, or in the white version replacing the tomato with broth. In the province of Parma tomatoes are grown in large amounts and it is Italy’s largest manufacturer of tomato paste.

                       

From the abundant and well fed hogs, Parma produces the best prociutto and the culatello,  a rare and pursued cold cut obtained from the rear of the thigh, it is artesian produced and only in small quantities. Other specialties are the coppa cotta  which is made with the cooked and seasoned remnants of pig’s carcasses, whereas the coppa cruda orcapicollo  is made from the cured, raw collar or loin of a pig, marinated in a blend of garlic and red wine, compressed inside a large piece of sausage skin and cured.

Thecotechino is a fresh sausage made with skin and pork meat usually boiled and served with polentaand lentils. Thepancetta is pork belly and similar to American bacon, it is cured with salt but it is not smoked and it’s rolled and tied in a cylindrical shape, then hung to dry.


Spongata  is a round, flat cake made of a tender, crunchy short dough crust, filled with crumbled biscuits, honey, almonds, pine nuts, raisins and candied orange and citron.
The province of Parma is the birthplace of Verdi,  Toscaniniand headquarters of the multinational Barilla Food.Lambrusco di Sorbara wine is produced in the province.

 

 

 


Mrs. Erdelyi Parma’s experience:

 

“[…] Then the tour moved on to Parma. I will never look at a piece of prociutto ham again without thinking of this place. We went to a ham processing plant; they process 50,000 hams a year that is 1000 a week! The place was SPOTLESS, not (the common) odor [....] you know when you go into a deli […] (and) get hit with the aroma of all the cold cuts! Not in this place. Among the things we learned is that as part of the processing procedure, which takes 120 days or so, they open the windows in the plant so that the air/breezes can come into the plant and surround the hanging hams and help cure them. This air phase is what identifies it as "Parma" ham.


 

                               

 

 We had a very nice dinner there with FRESH Parma ham, and other cured meats, salad, pasta (hey, we are in Italy) etc.”

 

 

 

Piacenza


The place of birth of the founder of the Boyardee Co., Ettore Boiardi and Giorgio Armani was Piacenza. The Grana Piacentina is a cheese that cannot be called Parmigiano  but has all the features and characteristics of the best Reggiano.
Pasta is made in the Emilian tradition and served with ragu’ or vegetables. Piacenza is the home of thetortellini  usually served with broth, popular in the region is the pisarei e faso, pasta e beans; freshtagliatelle  noodles are served with walnuts sauce or with a creamy sauce made with diced prociutto and peas. 
Risotti  and polenta  are prepared in many ways, coupled with vegetables and meats. The risotto  in tomato sauce is topped with a sauce of porcini mushrooms and grana  Piacentina cheese. The polenta  is cooked with ciccioli, little pieces of pork left after the extraction of lard from the meat.
Pork dishes are well-liked, young goat is stewed with vegetables and wine and garnished with minced parsley and garlic. Hare and rabbits are prepared alla cacciatore.  
Mustard  of  fruits  is preserved in light sugary syrup, the chisola  is a small turnover stuffed with mustardaand fried in lard. The river Trebbia crosses the province of Piacenza and from the Trebbiano grape growing along the river is produced the homonymous wine.

 

 

 

Reggio Emilia


Reggio Emilia is known for the Reggiano Parmigiano, the many gastronomic specialties and for the system of Advanced Schools for Early Childhood. 
The system concerns the education of children and the teamwork necessary between parents and teachers; this system was adopted by many American schools and called The Reggio Emilia Approach.
Reggio Emilia is rich of history, culture and culinary traditions. 
The hinterland is one of the most prosperous agricultural provinces in Italy. The fertile soil and the abundance of water makes it possible for the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, cereals and most importantly, herbaceous crops. The big production of fodder is useful in the rearing of cows and pigs, to produce milk to make the Parmesan cheese and meat for the pork products.
The produce and products originated in the region are skillfully combined and transformed in exquisite dishes. Tortellini di erbe with spinach, tortelloni con zucca with pumpkins, cappelletti,  stuffed with meat are finished with butter sauce or ragu’, are part of a broad pasta menu’. The scarpazzone  is a pie eaten as a light snack or appetizer, made with spinach or Swiss chard, ham, onions, garlic, parsley, and Parmesan cheese; this pie is made in nearby Parma and it is called erbazzone. 
Roasted pork, fresh sausages with vegetables, stuffed veal, braised or boiled beef and other meat dishes enrich the gastronomy Reggiana.  The rivers, crossing the region furnish a variety of fish to compliment a good, tasty and nutritious diet. 
Large manufacturers of salami, hams, cotechino and other pork products are located in the area. Cheese factories process the huge quantity of milk the area is enriched with, making the Parmigiano Reggiano and milk products.
The Balsamic vinegar D.O.C. from Reggio Emilia is an important asset to the economy of the province. 
The bountiful chestnuts trees provide to the dessert makers many sweet possibilities. The scarpazzoneis made in a sweet version with ricotta cream, candied orange and citron, raisins and nuts. Balsamic vinegar mixed in chocolate, vanilla and honey is made into a sweet sauce used as a condiment for strawberries and other fruits.
The lambrusco  wine is produced in abundance from the grapes cultivated in the province.

 

 

 

Ferrara

 

The province of Ferrara is located in an area with a mostly flat terrain, with fertile land rich with water.
The water from the streams and canals that flow into the Po River is used to irrigate the productive soil and the laborious inhabitants of the region have promoted good economical conditions and well-being, making the province of Ferrara one of the most outstanding in Italy.
The town ofCopparo is the headquarters of BERCO, an internationally known and large manufacturer of auto and truck parts, exported over the world.
Farms scattered in the hinterland produce the primary products for the meat and cheese industries. In fact, Ferrara is one of the biggest producers of salami and other cured meats of Emilia-Romagna and large quantities ofProvola andgrana cheeses are manufactured here also. The towns ofBondeno and Copparo make sweet creamy butter, the best in Italy.
The back country is occupied by vineyards, orchards, grain fields and grasslands, advancing the agricultural and food fortune of the land.
The Bosco Eliceo is a wooded area with elm trees, near the Adriatic coast, neighboring with the province of Ravenna. In the vineyards amidst sandy dunes on the delta of the Po River, grapes grow plentiful and wines are produced in the many wineries located in the area. The D.O.C wines of the Bosco Eliceo are Sauvignon, Merlot, Fortana, and Bianco del Bosco.
These wines are shipped outside the region and appreciated for their lightly salty and fragrant taste and are an ideal combination with the local meat and fish dishes.
Vegetable gardens and fruit orchards cover wide areas. Some of the high quality produced fruits are sold for table consumption, part is processed by the local factories into juices and preserves. The province of Ferrara is the biggest fruits producer in Italy and Europe. Abbondanza, Imperatore, Roma apples, Passagrana pears, peaches, strawberries, cherries, apricots, and melons are grown, using modern equipment and old methods dating back to Etruscan times.
The land obtained by draining the marshes in the Po’ Delta, exposed a rich soil ideal for crop growing: asparagus, zucca,thepumpkin and other vegetables are produced along with corn, wheat andsugar beetsutilized to make sugar , mostly used in the fruit and juice industries.
The wheat produced in the Ferrarese is ground very fine and utilized to make the ciupèta, the famous and ancient Ferrara’s bread, still prepared with the old recipe. This delicious and crunchy bread made with olive oil and lard, stays fresh for days.

 

                                                  Cioppetta

 

The Valli  di  Comacchio, a lagoon, where the eels are fished, is connected with the Adriatic Sea by canals; the Adriatic coast is flourishing with modern seaside resorts and small fishing villages. The local economy is based on fishing and tourism and it is possible to sample fresh sea food and gastronomic specialties in the many restaurants in the area.
The city of Ferrara is the capital of the province of Ferrara. 
The magnificent Castello Estense is a castle built in the center of the city; near by, the Palazzo Estense,now the seat of the town hall and the Cathedral of San Giorgio were built in Renaissance style. 
The Palazzo dei Diamanti, the house of the National Art Gallery, is one of the most famous buildings in Italy: the white marble exterior consisting of 8500 blocks are carved in the shape of diamonds. Other churches and infrastructures built in the 14th century are evidences of a glorious period of Ferrara’s history when the city was governed by the Dukes of Este. The University of Ferrara was founded in 1391 by Marquis Alberto D’Este with courses in law, arts and theology. In the XVI century, Ercole II D’Este engaged Sephardic Jews to traslate the Bible, called The Ferrara Bible, in Ladino, a Romance dialect resulting from the combination of Hebrew, Spanish, Turkish languages with some Greek and Latin words. 
The province of Ferrara has always been a theater of many significant events affecting the history of the Italian peninsula. Artists, scientists, philosophers and Saints have left indelible records in the chronicles of the world and masterpieces, institutions, and public works that benefit the community, are living monuments of this laborious and hospitable people.  
The cuisine of this region consists of an enormous amount of dishes that synthesize the Emilian cuisine and the traditional cooking of the farmers, of the fishermen and the inhabitants along the Po River and of the Adriatic Coast. The varieties and large amount of produce, meat, salt or freshwater fish and shellfish are used to prepare antipasti, pasta, rice, meat and fish dishes rarely found in other regional menus. The desserts are not many, made with simple and with a small number of ingredients, with little or no cream and usually made to last a few days. The Ciambella  Ferrarese  is made with flour, eggs, butter and a little sugar: my mother-in-law, Mrs. Occhiali, who was born in Copparo, made it often and called it brazadela. The torta di mele is a sponge cake mixed with fresh apples sliced very thin. The Panpepato  is a super rich chocolate cake with candied fruits and nuts, ginger, pepper and other spices. The mandurlin dal pont, mandorlini di Ponte are delicate and crispy biscuits made with eggs, sugar and almonds from Pontelagoscuro.
If you are a family’s guest, or you are lodging in one of the hotels or an inn, the food served is always excellent. If you find accommodations in a farmhouse usually with room and board or if you eat in a restaurant or trattoria, traditional fares are served and the food will be good, fresh and wholesome all the time. Be courageous and try anything: everything is delectable!
Offered as hors d’oeuvre are oysters, clams, mussels, roasted eels, herrings, shrimps, tray of cured pork specialties, the well-known salam da l’ai, garlic salame, cheeses, stuffed mushrooms, fried polentaand finger food to arouse and stimulate the appetite. Roasted eels are served and preserved in wine sauce, packed and shipped everywhere. Also available in season is the local caviar made from the sturgeons feeding in the Po’s Delta. The local fish men learned to harvest the sturgeons’ roe and make it into caviar from the Jewish population who were gathering it since the time that they moved into the area in the VIII century when Ferrara started to expand and before a large community of Jews established themselves in the region; Ercole I D’Este, in the XV century facilitated their settlement when they were expelled from Spain and Portugal. 
Cappelletti  in brodo, small hat shaped ravioli  stuffed with an assortment of minced meat (in the old way sweetbreads were mixed in) and cooked in a broth of capon and beef. The beef and capon is served as main dish with salsa  verde, a sauce made with olive oil, the inside of bread drizzled with vinegar, minced garlic, a lot of parsley, anchovies, capers and grounded grains of mustard.
The cappellacci con zucca, pumpkin ravioli, are served with ragu’ or butter and sage sauce; tagliatelle, noodles with ragu or mushroom sauce, the maltagliati, irregular cut eggs’ pasta is cooked with beans, classic  lasagna, green lasagna, pasticcio alla Ferrarese, a pie stuffed with maccheroni, béchamel, cheese and ragu’ with porcini  mushrooms, are everyday pastas; the passatelli  in broth is a rustic dish made with breadcrumbs mixed with eggs and cheese and grated into a pot with boiling broth; now thepassatelli  are made with flour, eggs, spinach, cheese, shredded and prepared ahead. Rice is grown in the area and cooked as a risotto: some of the delicious rice preparations are riso  con zucca e salsiccia, with pumpkin and sausages, or with fish  Brodetto, a seafood broth; rice is also prepared with eels, with ragu’, cheese and porcini  mushroom.

 

Polenta, a mush made from cornmeal is served in place of pasta. It can be fried in butter or dressed with a sauce, cheese, meat or fish. Anguilla  and polenta, polenta with ragu’, polenta  and sausages are common fare in the Ferrarese.


The town of Copparo  is the birthplace of my wife Terry and most of her family. The plain or refined dishes that the cuisine of this suburb of the city of Ferrara offers are the fusion of the local farmers' plain cooking and the Dukes of Ferrara, the Este’s family, refined cooking. Copparo and the surrounding area was a game preserve used by the Este’s family for hunting and for military training. The site of the city hall of Copparo is part of a hunting lodge built by the Estes’ family and used also to entertain and to spend the summer’s months.
The dishes that I sampled in my visits to Copparo or cooked by Terry or my mother-in-law Danila, include cappelletti,  lasagna, lasagna verde, pasticcio di maccheroni, fresh pasta with ragu’,bechamel  and mushrooms sauce, risotto con zucca, rice and pumpkin, gnocchi, delicious dumplings, salama da sugo, filetto  di maiale, pork tenderloin cooked in wine and thyme, roasted pheasants stuffed with porcini mushrooms and wrapped in pancetta. As typical of the region bolliti misti, boiled meats, stracotto, braised beef with vegetables and broth. Roasted, braised beef, pork and sausages; cotechini  made with pork rind and pork meat, served with lentils, polenta with sausages in tomato sauce, chickens cooked with bay leaves, tomato and chili pepper. Side dishes like potatoes cooked in the oven with butter and milk, asparagus with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, spinach with butter and parmesan cheese, baked mixed vegetables, eggplants and zucchini in balsamic vinaigrette, baked pumpkin served with oil and salt.


Zucca baked with sugar and cinnamon is a sweet snack.
In Copparo, hares, rabbits and other game are abundant, the one time ordinary horse meat, is now considered a delicacy; salt and fresh water fish arrive from the local rivers and from the Adriatic Sea, about 25 miles away.
Shrimps, sole, eels, calamari, scallops, other shellfish, turbot, and a variety of catch are combined, grilled and served with ciupete  bread and wine from the Bosco  Eliseo.
Steamed mussels and fresh oysters are great and simple appetizers, calamari  stuffed with rice, cheese, chopped fish and herbs are cooked in a light sauce made with tomato paste, seppie con piselli is a delicate dish of cuttlefish  with peas; eels with tomato, onion and garlic sauce, or grilled or cooked in wine sauce are specialties cooked at home and easy to find in restaurants, trattorie and wine bars.

 

       Brazadel


Among the sweet offering of Copparo are the popular almond biscuits, the brazadela, similar to the plain Ciambellone Ferrerese and also torte, cakes filled with marmalade or with light custard and drizzled with liquors. Fresh fruits cut bite size and drizzled with a mixture of syrup and wine or liquor are part of the Copparo traditional desserts.