Who has not enjoyed Parmigiano- Reggiano? An indispensable ingredient in Italian cuisine, this famous cheese comes from the Emilia- Romagna region, more specifically greater Parma, hence its name. Whether one prefers it relatively young (aged 12 months) or older (aged 24 months, 36 months or more), real Parmigiano is an exceptional cheese, made according to stringent specifications to achieve a DOP appellation (denominazione di origine protetta). For a first-hand look at all the steps involved in producing this world-famous cheese, be sure to visit a local caseificio.
2- Traditional balsamic vinegar
When visiting Modena, aficionados should make time to visit an acetaia: a traditional house that produces authentic balsamic vinegar. To carry the locally produced designation (DOP aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena), producers must comply with a list of specifications, such as aging it for at least 12 years inside wooden barrels. Some vinegars are even aged 25 years or more! Made from different types of wood, the barrels are often set up in the attic of an acetaia in order to expose the vinegar to temperature variations and regional winds. The result is wonderfully syrupy vinegar with sweet and sour flavours and exceptional aromas. Enjoy it as is, by the spoonful, with a slice of fine Parmigiano, or as a topping on good vanilla ice cream.
3- Prosciutto di Parma
The famous prosciutto di Parma DOP appellation, also hails from the eponymous region, specifically the town of Langhirano, located twenty kilometres to the south of Parma. Several salumifici have been producing prosciutto for generations. Some open their doors to hungry visitors eager to learn more about how this most celebrated of cured hams is made.
Fresh pasta is an essential part of cooking in the Emilia- Romagna region. Classics include tagliatelle, which is wider than fettucini, but thinner than papardelle pasta. Tagliatelle is traditionally served with the famous ragù sauce (the authentic meat sauce of Bologna). A comfort food that never gets old!
5- Tortellini and stuffed pasta
Also very typical of Emilia-Romagna is pasta ripiena (stuffed pasta), which comes in different shapes (squares, half moons, circles, etc.). Such pasta can be very small or quite large, and is typically stuffed with a variety of ingredients (cheese, meat, spinach, squash, etc.). Tortellini are among the most common stuffed pasta dishes from Bologna and Emilia-Romagna. They can be served with a sauce, flavoured butter or in a tasty broth (tortellini in brodo).
6- Mortadella di Bologna PGI
Mortadella is a traditional deli meat from Bologna, which bears little resemblance to the “bologna-baloney” one finds in grocery aisles this side of the Atlantic. Mortadella di Bologna PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) is a sausage made with meat, pork fat and spices, according to traditional processes. Mortadella is cooked and shaped into a large sausage, and served in thin slices.
Piadina is a typical sandwich from Emilia-Romagna. It is served either hot or cold, on flat wheat bread, and cooked like a pancake in a heavy skillet. The sandwiches are filled with meat, cheese and vegetables, according to preference, and restaurant menus generally offer a range of piadina to suit all tastes.
A typical peasant dish from Emilia- Romagna, erbazzone is a kind of pie made with chard or spinach, sautéed in onion and garlic, to which is added a generous amount of Parmigiano and pancetta, which is cooked in a crust. This pie can be served as a light meal or as a snack with an aperitivo. It is also popular at outdoor picnics.
9- A trip to the market in the heart of Bologna
In the heart of Bologna’s old city, just to the east of Piazza Maggiore, lies a particularly food friendly neighbourhood. Lining the streets are restaurants, bars and specialty food stores (including delicatessens, butcher shops, cheese shops, farmers’ markets, bakeries, pastry shops, fishmongers, etc.). Remarkably, some of these businesses have been around for over a hundred years. At the heart of the shopping district is Eataly, a versatile establishment, which is part bookstore, part grocer, and part restaurant. This particular branch of Eataly even pre-dates the Eataly in New York City. A gourmet trek through Bologna is only complete with a visit to the public market: the Mercato delle Erbe on via Ugo Bassi.
In the late afternoon in Emilia- Romagna, bars and terraces fill up for aperitivo. In many establishments, snacks are served with beer, wine, spritzers or any other aperitif. And, these are not your average bar snacks! Common offerings are antipasti, salami, cheese, and more. A very nice way to kick off an evening!
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Learn How to Make your Own Ragù Bolognese