The culinary traditions of Reggio Emilia

Reggio Emilia is often overlooked by the tourists coming to Emilia Romagna. Reggio Emilia is a medium size town on the Via Emiia situated between Modena and Parma, and it makes the perfect base for the culinary traveller as there are many gourmet foods to be discovered.

Reggio Emilia and Parmesan cheese.

Reggio Emilia is in the cradle of Parmigiano Reggiano. The history of this amazing cheese starts here. Bibbiano has been named the town where the first production started around 900 years ago due to the discovery of the first written accounts of the cheese production. Therefore visiting Reggio Emilia makes perfect sense for those interested in seeing the production of Parmesan cheese.

Traditional balsamic vinegar of Reggio Emilia.

Modena made balsamic vinegar known worldwide but the production of aceto balsamic tradizionale is not restricted to the Modenese province. In the tradition balsamic vinegar was the dowry of young women who would marry and bring the vinegar barrels with them. Due to the close proximity of the two provinces the tradition was also brought in Reggio Emilia. Here it is possible to find more old fashioned producers who make only high quality traditional balsamic vinegar rather than concentrating on industrial vinegar as many do in Modena.

Fresh Egg Pasta: tortelli di zucca.

Of course Reggio Emilia, as all towns in the Emilia Region, produces its own version of fresh egg pasta. One of the most peculiar ones are the Tortelli di Zucca. Sometimes hat or ravioli shaped these parcels are filled with ricotta cheese, parmesan and pumpkin. Some recipes require a hint of crumbled amaretti biscuits in the filling, it is indeed an acquired taste but they can be delicious when topped with melted butter parmesan cheese and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.

A Medieval Pie: Erbazzone.

Erbazzone belongs to the simple farmer’s style cuisine. The women in the kitchen had to come up with something filling and tasty so erbazzone is a pastry made with lard and flour with a filling of chard, spinach, or whatever was in the allotment at the time of preparation. The filling requires to be laced with parmesan cheese, and you could put as much as you could afford. The pastry is pierced with a fork to let vegetable inside to steam when baking in the oven.

Culaccia ham.

Culaccia is a culatello, (the best prosciutto cut) but it is cured with the rind on. This technique allows the meat to stay soft and tender. Culaccia can be found on the Reggio Emilia hills where the climate is drier and away from the foggy plains. In some cases Culaccia beats Parma ham and culatello in tasting competitions. So it is well worth to look for some slices of culaccia in the next trip to Italy.

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erbazzone made the traditional way

How to be a vegetarian in Bologna and in Italy.

The BBC recently published an article on vegetarian eating in Bologna. The article is entitled “Where vegetarianism is an exotic illness” written by Dany Mitzman who lives in Bologna and is a a long term vegetarian. After reading her article, here at Emilia Delizia, we felt that we should write back an open letter to this author on our website for everyone to read.

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Artichokes are an Italian speciality and can be eaten raw with a little olive oil salt and vinegar

First of all the article gives a stereotyped images of Italians as short-sighted and meat hungry people with no respect for vegetarians and animals. Is it so difficult to find vegetarian restaurants in Bologna the capital of the Mortadella pork sausage?

The short answer is do not expect to find vegetarian options on the menu of a TRADITIONAL TRATTORIA, as the words imply the cooking is based on the tradition. Back in the days people had to get by with what they had and pork fat was often the only option to get the calories that they need to sustain themselves. So these menus are not designed to be vegetarian friendly, and non-meat eater should not expect to find meatless dishes at a place proudly serving the traditional fare.

This does not exclude that in the tradition there are no vegetarian dishes, just to name a few you can have Tigelle (bread) with some local cheese or pinzimonio which is a selection of raw vegetables (crudity). Also you can have maltagliati e fagioli, they are the trimmings of tagliatelle making served with beans, just ask the waiter if they used pancetta to flavour the sauce.

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Pinzimonio – a vegetarian dish available in Italy

Most restaurants in Italy will be more than happy to customise their dishes for you. Even if it is not on the menu you can ask to have pasta and tomato sauce. These days they are quite accustomed to being asked for variation due to diet restrictions of their clients. Such as gluten intolerances, food allergies vegan or vegetarian options are welcome as they want you as a customer. In fact Italian are fussy eaters and it is quite common to hear in restaurant a customer to ask for a customised pasta dish or pizza.

Did you know that Italy and the Mediterranean diet is vegan friendly?

If you are in Bologna and you are vegetarian or vegan, remember that you are in Italy home of the Mediterranean diet. You can easily find a pizzeria and order Pizza Marinara. This pizza is just the base, olive oil, and garlic. It is tasty, cheap, healthy, and filling and of course it is vegan friendly. Now many pizzeria also cater for gluten intolerant people and it is common to find Kamut pizza, or even totally gluten free varieties which are normally prepared in a separate kitchen.

Continuing we can also mention other dishes such as spaghetti aglio, olio and peperoncino. A simple spaghetti dish made by stir frying garlic, and chilli pepper in extra virgin olive oil. Especially dishes from the south tend to be made with wheat, vegetables, olive oil and not much more, above you just have some ideas, I am sure you can figure out more combination of vegetarian and vegan dishes in Italy.

Italy as the home of modern vegetarians.

With so many sausages, cured meats, salami and prosciutto is hard to believe that Italy is now home of 7 millions vegetarians. In fact according to a research by Eurispes now more and more Italian are giving up meat for vegetables making it the most vegetarian country in western Europe. If this trend continues there will be 30 millions vegetarians in 2050 in Italy.

It is also worth to mention an organisation called “UN PUNTO MACROBIOTICO” which has restaurants in many major cities including Bologna. The not-for-profit charity promotes healthy eating via veganism. I believe Dany Mitzman has been a little short-sighted to write an article where the Bolognese are picutured as hungry meat eaters. In our opinion she should do more research about the place where she is living her life at moment.

 

 

3 culinary experiences that you should not miss in Bologna

What would be visiting Bologna and not to take any culinary experiences while you are staying in the capital of Emilia Romagna, and to be precise the capital of Italian modern cuisine. Bologna is the Fat, the Learned and the Red. The Fat is referring to the rich cuisine that it a typical signature of the area. So in short it is the best place on earth to visit for food a unique mecca for the foodies.

Pasta making classes, learn how to create Tortelllini, Tagliatelle and Tortelloni with our cooking classes in Bologna.

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Paolo Atti famous pasta maker in Bologna

In Bologna pasta is made with soft semolina flour bound together with the freshest eggs. Here a unique chance to learn from a master chef how to produce the most amazing dishes starting from these simple ingredients. Fresh egg pasta here is not only Tagliatelle al Ragu’ but it comes in literally hundreds of shapes, variates,  different fillings and sauces. Just to name a few of the most popular Tortellini, tiny dumpling shaped according the navel of Venus (or Lucrezia Borgia) stuffed with the tastiest produces of the land: Parmesan, Prosciutto, and Mortadella  Or Tortelloni which are a bigger version but stuffed with Ricotta (a by-product of Parmesan production) and herbs. Cookery classes in Bologna include a tour of the local medieval market to buy the ingredients. The expert and professional chef will introduce you to the best Bolognese ingredients to make the perfect sauce for your pasta dish.

Cooking at home with the Cesarine in Bologna.

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Cesarine is a group of ladies (and gentlemen)  who are the holders of the real Bolognese cooking tradition. This organisation takes small groups of discerning cooking amateurs to private homes. Here you will be introduced to Bolognese cooking style in the most intimate way: directly at local’s home to taste the real home cooking recipes. For those not interested in hand-on experiences the Cesarine also organise lunch and dinners for family and friends travelling to Bologna. The Cesarine is a charity organisation and you will be asked to purchase an annual membership to have access to their services.

Taking a culinary walking tour in Bologna to learn about history, tradition and cuisine.

Bologna needs to be discovered step by step and the old lady will open herself to those who know where to look. Having said that Bologna needs time to be discovered, there are many hidden treasures that need to be savoured slowly. Taking an organised food tour in Bologna or just doing it by yourself is a fun thing to do while visiting the town in a day. You can visit old pasta shops such as Paolo Atti, the home land of  hand made tagliatelle and tortellini in  Via Drapperie 6. The premises can visited with prior booking for small and large groups. Not too far from the city centre is also possible to pay a visit to an artisanal Mortadella SALUMIFICIO PASQUINI & BRUSIANI via delle Tofane, 38 Bologna.  Continuing and getting toward lunch you can also stop at the Salumeria Tamburini for a platter of cured meats, cheese served with a warm piadina and a nice glass of wine. Finally you can tickle your taste buds and tame the sweet craving at Venchi or Majani who represent the chocolate tradition of Bologna.

Even to strictly related to food you should also pay a visit to the oldest university in world that is just stone throw away from Piazza Maggiore. The wooden anatomy room is opened regularly to visitors for appreciation.

Do not forget that Emilia Delizia organises the 3 gourmet food tour from Bologna and the tour will take you to visit real parmesan cheese producers, Balsamic vinegar and Parma ham with a lunch that it will not easily forgotten, for more information please click here.

 

Best romantic and charming places to stay in Parma

Emilia Delizia is constantly picking up foodies from Parma for our special food tour in Parma that includes visits to Parmesan cheese producers, Balsamic vinegar and Parma ham, therefore we wanted to share some information about some special places where to stay in Parma.

Parma also called the “Petit Paris” as under the French control gained some details of the French cultural influence, so the appearance of a town running along the Parma river started to look like a little Paris.

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the Parma’s baptistery and Palazzo dalla Rosa Prati on the right

Palazzo dalla Rosa Prati.

Palazzo della Prati is for sure at the top of our list. Only if you can afford, it is going to be one of the best stay ever while you are in Italy. It is not a a faceless hotel but in Italy is classified as dimora storica or historical dwelling so you get to stay in a real palace, with all the frescoes, statues, chandeliers and charming gardens. On top of this you will be next to the Parma’s baptistery and Romanesque Duomo.

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Rubra b&b in Parma.

Rubra is a charming bed and breakfast in right in central Parma, and you will be minutes away from all the delicacies that you find here. Also the owner is said to be a foodie and he will be very happy to point out all the secret of Parma. Rubra is a home away from home with a secluded garden in central Parma.

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Villino di Porporano.

Villino di Porporano is in Porporano a small village about 15 minutes from central Parma, due to the location is better to have your own car or be prepared to take a taxi from the city centre. The villilno di Porporano is a fully restored country side villas that wants to introduce you to the charm of the past. All rustic details are taken in seriously, plenty of outdoor space in its idyllic garden. The stay includes a sumptuous breakfast and a swimming pool if you fancy a dip in the morning.

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Star Hotel du Park in Parma.

Star Hotel du Park is more popular than ever. The advantages of a 4 star hotel near the city centre (and station) can be difficult to beat. It is situated in a modern building with the look and charm of the past. Along the regular rooms they also offer a vast array of suites to please all tastes. It can be good value when booked on-line and in advance.

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Emilia Delizia 3 gourmet tour and farm stay included.

If you decide to stay in Parma and you have your own car, we can also organise a farm stay agriturismo stay in Parma, with Parmesan cheese production. So when you wake up in the morning you can see how the cheese is made from across the yard. The self drive itinerary also includes Traditional balsamic vinegar, and Parma ham.

Emilia Delizia.

 

Emilia Delizia recommends you also to visit the best of Parma while you are staying here and this includes Parmesan cheese producers, traditional balsamic vinegar that can be found in the near province of Reggio Emilia and Modena and of course you can also visit Parma ham (prosciutto di Parma) producers in Langhirano that it is no more than 30 minutes away from central Parma.

 

 

What to do with Parmesan cheese rinds

We have been recently searching on the internet about what to do with the end of Parmesan cheese rinds and we were surprises to discover that there is pretty much a lot of misconception about how to use the.

Well first of all do not throw them away, they can be used! Parmesan cheese is completely additive free and the rind do not contain any waxing or coating, it is made of cheese. The Parmigiano Reggiano rind is formed during the brine stage, when the wheels are soaked in water and sea salt for 21 days. In our region is custom to store the rinds in a fabric bag at the bottom of the fridge.

Once you have build up a decent cheese rinds you should start worrying about what to do wit them. You should scrape them a little with a knife and remove a thin layer of the external part. After all it was its protection and it have been touched and handled in different environments so better remove the impurities. Once you have cleansed the cheese rind you can cut it in small cubes and add it to Minestrone or virtually to any soup. Once you have cooked it do not discard the rinds but serve them with your soup, by cooking them they become soft and chewy, in fact one of our childhood favourites.

So in short you can eat the rind of the Parmesan cheese, and we are referring to Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy. If you have a stock of other cheese rinds we do not recommend to eat them as they might contain wax or other artificial coatings.

 

Three less known dishes that you should not miss in Bologna

Bologna is utterly famous for its fresh egg pasta, such as tagliatelle and tortellini. But there are three dishes equally rich and tasty that are often overlooked by the foreign visitors. Namely Passatelli, Zuppa Imperiale and Tagliolini in Brodo all of them are served in the famous capon broth that made Emilia famous for its food.

Passatelli, Bologna style bread dumpling.

Passatelli probably is a dish from the poor farmer culinary tradition. In fact they involve to use left overs such as stale old bread. It was a custom of the area to keep all uneaten bread in a bag and used it up for these poor dishes. To make passatelli you will need to make breadcrumbs and mix them with one egg, parmesan cheese until you form a moist dough. To season you can add a bit of salt, nutmeg and lemon rind! Once you have done so you will need to make “worm like” extrusions from the compound, this is usually done with a tool that resemble a potato ricer with bigger holes, if you do not have this you can use a grater with larger holes and literally grate the pasta you made. Cook the passatelli in your best broth and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Enjoy.

Zuppa imperiale, The imperial Soup of Bologna.

Zuppa imperiale is one of the lost recipes of the Bolognese traditions and one of the most tasty ones. Mentioned by Pellegrino Artusi cookbook, the dish has ancient origins. The ingredients are simple: semolina, eggs, Parmesan cheese salt, lemon rind, nutmeg and butter. It is interesting that the semolina and the parmesan cheese are used in equal amounts. The trick is to obtain a soft and whipped compound that it is going to raise and become like a savoury sponge cake once baked in the oven. The cake should be golden and slightly crispy outside and soft and spongy inside in order to absorb the broth that it is going to be serve with.

Tagliolini in brodo, Italian style noodles in chicken stock.

People are often impressed by this dish due to the familiarity with Asian preparations such as Japanese ramen. Tagliollini are egg tagliatelle that have been cut very thinly, about a 3rd of the typical width. The stripes are simply cooked in the traditional capon broth and they should be eaten with a fork and spoon, probably the only pasta dishes that you are allowed to eat that way.

 

 

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Tagliolini in Brodo

Four products that you should take home while visiting Emilia-Romagna

Emilia Romagna is the region of Italy that shaped modern Italian cuisine. Notably there are 4 products that you should take home with you and they are balsamic vinegar, Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano and a bottle of good Lambrusco.

Taking home Parmesan cheese – Parmigiano Reggiano.

Parmesan cheese as it is an aged cheese is safe to take back to most countries in the world, including the U.S. Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong and of course the entire EU. Generally speaking there are no restrictions in self importing Parmigiano Reggiano to any country. Custom officers back home should not give you any trouble when taking with you this aged cheese. It also a common norm to vacuum pack the cheese, and remember to ask for “sotto vuoto”, the shop keeper will oblige and vacuum pack the cheese for you. In this form the Parmesan cheese will last for 6 months and once opened, store it in a Tupperware container for no longer than 2/3 months.

Parma ham and other salumi.

For cured meat is a different story, unfortunately it virtually impossible to bring back any meat products when travelling outside the EU. The U.S. Japanese and Australian customs are quite strict when it comes to cold cuts from Italy, they might impose hefty fines. On the other hand if you travel inside the E.U. there are no restrictions of any kind.

Bringing back Traditional Balsamic Vinegar.

Aceto balsamico tradizionale of Modena and Reggio Emilia comes in 100 ml bottles and it is packed in sturdy boxes. Theoretically you could take it on the plane on your carry-on luggage as the content is 100 ml, however rather than confronting the check-in people with your precious black gold it would be a better option to store it in your checked-in luggage. As it comes in its strong boxes there are no chances of breaking the bottles. Shipping is another option but not all producers do it and it is costly especially for small purchases.

Taking home a bottle of Lambrusco from Italy.

Good Lambrusco is scarce back home, you are more likely to be able to find cheaper versions that fill the bottom of the supermarket shelves. In the last 10 years Lambrusco producers have been working hard to make upper scale versions of the wine and get the recognitions that they should really deserve. Many visitors after trying our best Lambrusco cannot go home without a bottle of the red sparkling wine. Customs wise is permitted to take alcohol back home but the quantities vary depending on the country so it is better to check this details before taking large quantities. Of course there are no restriction for personal use within the E.U. Bottles travel safely in the check in luggage but they should be properly wrapped before packing them. Try to wrap a towel around them. Shipping wine is also an option but really worth only if you buy expensive premium wines.

Emilia Delizia wholesale service, wine, balsamic vinegar and Parmesan cheese.

As Emilia Delizia main office is based in London UK, we would like to announce our wholesale food service for delicatessens, restaurants, food importers and resellers. If you are based in London and you are looking for one of our products in larger quantities we are able to supply premium organic quality directly from Italy at competitive prices. The produces are palletised and shipped directly to your doorstep. Parmesan cheese, Balsamic vinegar and Lambrusco can be also sent to the U.S, Australia, Japan, and other countries world wide. For more information about our organic products you can check our online food shop.

 

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Parma ham too big to pack in your suit case – many countries impose restrictions on importing meats

A culinary tour of Florence gastronomic tradition – Bistecca alla Fiorentina

How to cook the Italian t-bone steak Bistecca alla Fiorentina to perfection.

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Bistecca alla Fiorentina – Emilia Delizia Food tours

Italian cuisine is not just about carbs such as bread, pizza and pasta but we have aslo good meat dishes. In Particular in Tuscany we find the Bistecca alla Fiorentina a meat dish from Florence, a massive t-bone steak that should be at least 4 cm tick and one kilo of weight. The perfect Fiorentina steak comes from cows of the Chianina breed. A native cattle of Tuscany which is reared outdoor and fed with grasses according to a strict discipline. The diet of the animals will confer high nutritional values to the beef. When buying the meet from the local butcher in Tuscany you should make sure that the cut has enough fillet, as they tend to cut it out and sell it apart, however the best Fiorentina steak must have plenty of fillet attached.

How to cook bistecca fiorentina.

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How to cook bistecca alla fiorentina

The cooking of the steak is rather simply but you should follow the traditional steps if you want to obtain the perfect results. First of all it should be grilled on noble woods such as ash or oak which will confer the best flavours. When the coals start to ash the fire is hot enough. Spread them with a tool in order not to have an open flame or the meat will burn. Then position the stainless steal grill on the coal and use it only when is very hot.

To cook bistecca alla Fiorentina you will not need neither salt, nor oil, of course you can add a little seasoning at the end of the the cooking.

Once your “Griglia” is very hot, place the steak on each side for 3/5 minutes until nicely browned and a crust start to form. The following step is to cook the inside of the meat with the passive heat from the coal fire. So place the steak upright, sitting on the bone for 15/20 minutes. The traditional way wants a steak that is raw inside, but if you do not like your meat that way you can continue cooking it on the sides until it stops bleeding.

How to serve bistecca alla Fiorentina.

Once it is done, you can carve it on a wooden board and serve thin slices of the steak to each guest. A kilo portion will feed 3/4 people easily. Do not forget to get your best salads out and nice home made bread to go with. Of course you should serve Chianti Classico wine with the Italian T-bone Steak.

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a tour into Florence culinary traditions