Autumn in central Italy is sagra season. These are local food festivals and with so many typical products coming into season in September and October—grapes, mushrooms, olives, and truffles to name but a few—there’s a choice of sagra to attend every weekend. The two last weekends of October are the time of for the small Tuscan village of Caprese to have its chestnut sagra: the Festa del Marrone di Caprese.
Yes, that’s how it’s spelt!
With all its ‘qs’ and ‘us’ the word squacquerone looks impossible to pronounce. However, if you are travelling in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna you need to get your act together and learn how. If not, you’ll be missing out on one of the most delicious things the region has to offer.
It’s pumpkin season again and the shops are full of all shapes and sizes of squash ready to be made into soups, risotti, gnocchi and so on. Italians love pumpkin, or zucca as they call it, and there seems to be no end to their inventiveness in cooking them. So, I thought I’d share with you one of my (and my dinner guests’) favourite recipes: tortelli di zucca.
So what are tortelli?
Tortelli is a word used mostly in north-central Italy to describe two very different pasta shapes. In Tuscany, it’s used to describe a shape like ravioli. In the province of Arezzo, tortelli di patate, ravioli stuffed with mashed potato—eaten boiled or often deep fried (yes, you read that right)—are a local tradition. Elsewhere, such as in Emilia-Romagna, the word is used for large tortellini, which are often called tortelloni outside the region.
A showcase for famous ingredients
This recipe for tagliolini alla parmigiana is inspired by a dish I ate for Sunday lunch in a country restaurant near Langhirano. This is the village where most prosciutto di Parma (parma ham) is made. It showcases the two most famous products of the region: prosciutto di Parma and parmigiano reggiano cheese.
La dotta, la rossa, la grassa. These are the nicknames given to the city of Bologna by Italians. La dotta (the educated) because it boasts one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world. La rossa (the red) because of its distinctive red-brick architecture. And la grassa (the fat)? Because of its amazing food of course!