Scroll down for a list of recipes from Emilia-Romagna on this blog.
Emilia-Romagna is often called the food capital of Italy, because of its many famous products used all over Italy. Many of the culinary staples of the whole peninsula come from the cities of Parma, Modena, or Bologna situated on the great plain of the river Po on the road from Rimini to Milan. In fact it was this road, now the E35, E45, and E55 dual carriageway, that as the ancient Via Aemilia—one of the only ancient roads that didn’t lead to Rome—gives the region its name.
Strictiy speaking, the region is made up of two historical regions Emilia in the north, and Romagna in the south, each with a distinct culture and history. The northern plain has lagoons and salt marshes, like those of the Veneto to the north, with the fertile agricultural lands sandwiched between these and the forests on the hills to the south. Wheat, maize, tomatoes, and potatoes are among the regions produce not forgetting the grapes that are used to produce the regions wine, including the famous Lambrusco. There is also a developed livestock industry of cows and pigs. The region also has a well-developed automotive industry, which contributes to its status as the third richest region in Italy.
Bologna, the regional capital has what is probably the oldest university in Europe, dating back to the eleventh century. Alumni include Dante Alighieri, the author of The Divine Comedy and in some ways the father of the Italian language; Nicolaus Copernicus, who first posited that the Earth revolved around the Sun and not vice-versa; Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the radio; and Umberto Eco, author of The Name of the Rose. The presence of the university gives the city a modern vitality in contrast to most Italian cities except, perhaps, Milan.
Other cities of note include Ravenna, ancient capital of the Roman Emperor Justinian, and famous for its fabulous late-Roman mosaics depicting the emperor and his court. In fact, I’ve used one of these portraits as the icon for this region on the blog. The elegant city of Cesena is linked to the coastal Cesenatico by a canal designed by Leonardo da Vinci. With their stunning Adriatic beaches, the seaside resorts of Rimini and Milano Marittima are popular with the rich and famous and not so rich and famous. The independent state of San Marino, one of the smallest in Europe, is also included within the territory of Emilia-Romagna.
This brings us all to food. As noted above, the number of famous products and ingredients associated with this region sets it apart from the rest. From Modena, there is the balsamic vinegar, Aceto Balsamico di Modena having a protected status. This is made with a reduction of grape juice which is then allowed to age in wooden barrels giving it the classic sweet and sour notes. From Bologna, there are the classic pasta shapes, tortellini, and tagliatelle, the latter and not spaghetti being traditionally served with the city’s ragù alla Bolognese or Bolognese sauce. Mortadella a large pink sausage is also from Bologna, the American version of which is known as Bologna sausage or baloney.
From Parma, come salami felino, the eponymous prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham) and of course the famous Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese) which is produced in an area taking in Reggio Emilia (hence the name), Modena, and Bologna. A variant, called Grana Padano is produced in Piacenza nearby. This covers the main products of the region but there are many, many more.