Emilia-Romagna is often thought of as lying at the heart of Italy’s food culture with the town of Bologna being referred to as Bologna la grassa – Bologna the fat one, a sly allusion to the delight its inhabitants take in food. This region is the home of fresh pasta – think of delicious tortellini in brodo and a whole series of handmade ravioli, anolini, and cappelletti – and also of Parmegiano Reggiano, and of balsamic vinegar from Modena. The region’s pork products and salumi are excellent and are much appreciated throughout the whole of Italy, from the exquisite prosciutto di Parma and culatello to numerous salamis and the great favorite, mortadella. Emilia-Romagna also has several official truffle towns and is one of Italy’s principal truffle and mushroom producers. Markets here are great fun to visit, especially Mercato delle Erbe and Mercato di Mezzo.
Piadina Romagnola: Romagnola Flatbread
- 1 kg flour (type ‘0’)
- Pinch of salt
- Small pinch bicarbonate of soda
- 150 g shortening
- Water or milk
- Sieve the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl.
- Rub in the shortening until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Stir in just enough water or milk to obtain a firm dough, but try not to overwork dough as this will cause the formation of bubbles during cooking.
- Leave dough to ‘rest’ for an hour or so covered with a clean tea towel.
- Divide the dough into large egg-sized rolls then roll each one out with a rolling pin until it is about 30 cm in diameter.
- (It should be about 5 mm thick.)
- Cook each piadina over a hot griddle, making holes in the surface with a fork, and cooking until it is cooked in the center.
- Make sure you turn them so they cook evenly and on both sides.
- To serve, fold them in half and stuff with cheese, ham or vegetables.
Number of servings (yield): 6
Tortellini en Brodo: Tortellini in Broth
- For the pasta:
- 500 g flour
- 3 egg, beaten
- For the filling:
- 150 g minced pork
- 150 g minced veal
- 150 g minced chicken breast
- 100 g prosciutto crudo
- 100 g mortadella
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 60 g grated Parmesan cheese
- 1½ – 2 liters beef broth
- Start by making the filling.
- In a frying pan, melt a tablespoon of butter and cook the pork, veal and chicken.
- If necessary, add a little more butter.
- Season meat with salt and pepper then mix in the prosciutto crudo and mortadella to obtain a moist paste.
- Stir in a grating of nutmeg and 30 g grated Parmesan cheese.
- In a large bowl, mix the flour with the beaten eggs and roughly half a cup of water until you obtain a pliable dough.
- Roll out dough very thinly and cut into small squares.
- Place a little meat filling on one side of each pasta square and close to form a triangle.
- Taking the two outside points of the triangle, pull them back until they touch and press firmly to obtain the classic tortellini shape.
- Cook the tortellini in the simmering beef broth.
- Once cooked (when they float to the surface of the stock they should be ready), take the pan off the heat and leave broth and tortellini to rest for a couple of minutes.
- Ladle broth and tortellini into serving dishes and garnish with a last sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese.
- Serve immediately.
Number of servings (yield): 6
Lasagna alla Bolognese
- 1 packet of egg lasagna
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 300 g minced beef
- ½ glass dry white wine
- 250 g tinned tomatoes
- 500 ml béchamel sauce
- 75 g grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- Heat the oil in a pan and cook the chopped carrot and onion.
- Add the minced beef and cook until browned, stirring often so it doesn’t form lumps.
- Pour in the wine and stir until wine evaporates.
- Salt to taste, add the tomatoes and cook for about half an hour.
- Season with a little freshly ground pepper.
- Meanwhile, quickly par cook the lasagna in boiling, salted water if it is the type that requires par cooking.
- If not, continue as described below.
- Butter a rectangular ovenproof dish, and begin forming layers of pasta, a few spoonfuls of the meat ragù, a little béchamel and a dusting of grated Parmesan until you have used all the ingredients.
- Finishing with a layer of pasta covered with béchamel and Parmesan.
- Cook in an oven preheated to 400ºF for half an hour or until surface is golden and crunchy.
- Leave to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Number of servings (yield): 4-6
Gnocco Fritto: Fried ‘Gnocchi’
- 15 g fresh yeast
- ½ glass of tepid water
- 1/3 glass milk
- 300 g flour
- 25 g shortening, softened
- Pinch of salt
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Melt the yeast in the warm water then add the milk.
- Sieve the flour into a large bowl, form a hollow in the middle and in it place the softened shortening, the pinch of salt, then slowly add the water and yeast mixture stirring continuously and incorporating little by little all of the flour, adding a little more flour or water as necessary.
- Kneed dough until it is well mixed and pliable.
- Leave dough to ‘rest’ for a couple of hours, covered with a clean tea towel.
- Roll dough out until it is about ½ cm thick, then cut it into fat diamond shapes with each side measuring about 6 cm.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a deep pan and fry the gnocchi until they are golden brown and swollen.
- Drain on kitchen paper and serve alongside a selection of cut salamis, hams and mortadella.
- (You could even dip them in Nutella or chocolate sauce to transform them into a sweet.)
Number of servings (yield): 4