When you plan your holidays in Italy we bet that you soon start thinking about delicious dishes to taste. If you then book a tour in Emilia Romagna, those obsessive images of tempting tortelli, Parma ham and chestnut desserts won’t leave you until you go and savor them!
Once arrived in the land of authentic Parmesan flavors, don’t stroll too much to find the perfect place. If you want to have a great meal, just let be guided by our accurate proposals. Emilia Delizia suggests two of finest places to dine in Parma with excellent dishes of the regional tradition, incredible desserts and superb wines: Parizzi and La Greppia.
The outside of the restaurant is classy as much as the interior. Minimalist style and modern concept are the key features of the setting, as you will soon notice entering the door. A mix of tradition and innovation, you would say, reading their sophisticated menu.
At Parizzi you will be served anolini and tortelli d’erbetta (with fresh herbs) or filled with pumpkin (the famous tortelli di zucca) – stracotto (beef), and a mouthwatering “tutto castagne” dessert. The modern side of the menu features Porcini and Fontina lovely arranged in a crunchy cone, risotto with snails and cress, pork barely smoked. For other culinary advice refer to Marco Parizzi, while for wine tasting ask to wife and sommelier Cristina who will gather some excellent bottles from their cellar. And of course you can ask for the tasteful PDO Parmesan cheese, Culatello and Parma ham.
The elegant atmosphere pervades the suites – perfect for a peaceful rest after a stroll in the city center of Parma – and the school kitchen – hosting exciting cooking lessons for those who wish to bring a little of Italian style in their own kitchen.
Parizzi restaurant is located in Strada Repubblica 71, in the multicolored facade houses street, where the bell tower of the remarkable San Sepolcro church stands out.
A mix of modernity and regional flavors is what you will remember of this women-only run restaurant. Conscious of the strong culinary tradition, chef Paola Cavazzini is well determined to reinvent a menu with signature dishes.
Seasonal food seems to be the secret for antipasti, primi and secondi marked by a strong savor: artichokes covered with a soft ham sauce, handmade pasta stuffed with pumpkin or chestnuts, rice Venere enriched with black truffles, salted codfish with tomatoes and potatoes, veal savored with ginger. Finally, the top desserts pumpkin pudding and kaki ice cream are a must!
At La Greppia, you will dine in a cozy atmosphere, under soft lights and wooden roof. You will happily notice wooden shelves and tables where fine wines and baskets of handmade pasta are exposed, perfectly arranged tables with elegant tablecloths, impeccable cleanliness and service.
La Greppia restaurant is located in Via Garibaldi 39. You can reach the restaurant after a visit to the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Steccata and Teatro Regio, two of the greatest tourist attractions in Parma.
In the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, the humble pig is so revered that an entire month of festivals is dedicated to the gastronomic delights of pork. It is quite understandable! The pig provides the raw product for one of Italy’s most sought-after exports, Parma Ham, but the story of the pig does not end with Parma Ham, and at this month-long festival you will find out how many other great pork delicacies are produced in the region. There are also demonstrations of how the carcass is divided up and how all the various cuts are processed – this event is not for vegetarians, who should perhaps give this festival a miss and rather visit one of the many other attractions of the region!
The November Pork festival, takes place each weekend for the month of November, and each stage is hosted by a different village along the Street of Culatello, (or the Pork Road), starting in Sissa, with “The Flavours of Pork” event. At each stage, the village butchers compete to produce the biggest, longest or heaviest product, which is why the competition is said to be the “greediest” of all food festivals in Italy.
Sissa – The annual “November Pork” fair starts in Sissa on the first weekend of November. On the Friday night there are live concerts and festivities and on the Saturday visitors are tempted by a market of typical products of the area, which include not only pork but also many organic products, fish, teas, spices and spirits. The music and entertainment continues late into the night. Sunday is the day everyone is waiting for – there are demonstrations of cheese making and the making of salamis and other pork products, before everyone gets to taste the giant Mariolone (a type of cooked salami) that the local butchers have been making all weekend.
Polesine Parmense – on the second weekend of the month the festival moves down the road to the village of Polesine Parmense, where it takes much the same form as the previous weekend, with music, dozens of market stalls and this time the star of the show is the Prete(Priest – this is made from the cured meat of the pork shoulder and knuckle, all rolled up in strips of pork rind into a triangular shape, reminiscent of a Priest’s hat) Usually it is a modest sized salami, but for this festival the butchers make the biggest one they can! It is baked and distributed(for free!) to everyone on the banks of the River Po. Of course, it is all washed down with a great local Fortana wine.
Zibello – is the village where the festivities take place on the third weekend, and this time the starring product is the Salame Strolghino; this is a “thin” salami, very delicate in flavour, traditionally made from the trimming of the large pear-shaped Culatello salami, which is locally known as the King of Salumi”. At November Pork, the local butchers of Zibello try to make the longest ever Strolghino to feed the many visitors. And I mean long…sometimes it can be up to several hundred metres!
Roccabianca – is the last village to host the November Pork competition and there are all sorts of extra events to mark the end of the celebrations. These include the “Pork Hot Feet” race, a Christmas Market and, of course, the tasting of the giant Cicciolata (this type of salami is more like a meat-loaf; it is made with some of the best pork cuts, generously flavoured with spices and then set in a loaf-shape, and served with hot polenta).
Each weekend, in addition to all the market stalls where you can buy local products, you can also visit regional restaurants, many of which feature special menus to showcase pork dishes from the region. Also in November, there is a black truffle festival in Parma, a Cheese Fair in Talamello(Rimini), and an olive oil festival in Ravenna, making November one of the very best times of the year to visit Emilia Romagna.
Everybody knows that Parma is the home of some of Italy’s most famous exports, namely Proscuitto di Parma (Parma Ham), Parmesano Reggiano (Parmesan Cheese), Balsamic Vinegar and, of course, Ferrari and Maserati! But did you know that one of the greatest composers of all time also hails from the province of Parma? Giuseppe Verdi was born there in October 1813, and every year the region celebrates the life of one of their favourite sons! The Verdi Festival takes place every year in and around Parma and people come from near and far to listen to his operas being performed in his home territory. This year will be especially wonderful as 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of his birth, and no effort has been spared to make this anniversary a very special showcase for his work.
Giuspeppe Verdi and Parma province.
Giuseppe Verdi was born in Le Roncole and later lived in near-by Busetto in the province of Parma. It is in Busetto that Verdi’s musical talent was first nurtured by Ferdinando Provesi, of the local Philharmonic. After some time spent in Milan learning all he could about music, the prodigy returned to the province of his childhood and became the town’s music teacher. His twenties were marred by great hardship when he lost both his children and his wife, but the Maestro went on to overcome his grief and his best works were composed in the years that followed his tragic loss.
The Giuspeppe Verdi Festival in Parma
The 2013 bi-centennial Verdi festival is a must for all opera lovers, and many special tours and opera packages have been arranged to bring music lovers to Parma. There will be an opera or concert every day at the historic Teatro Regio di Parma (which is also the final resting place of Nicolo Paganini, one of the most renowned violinists in the world) and at the Teatro Giuseppe Verdi in Busseto. Many other side events will take place all over the countryside.
Attending a Verdi Opera or concert at the fabulous Teatro Regio in Parma is an experience you will not easily forget; the beautiful neoclassic style of the theatre makes this an exceptional venue to enjoy the music, and you will be moved by the enthusiasm of the local opera patrons who are very knowledgable about Verdi’s music and respond most enthusiastically.
Operas are usually performed in their original language, and if you do not speak Italian, your experience will be enhanced by reading the libretti – an English synopsis of the story of the Opera – before you arrive for the concert. ( Libretti usually accompany your tickets). Oh yes, do dress smartly for the Opera – on opening nights formal attire is the norm, and for the other performances at least a tie and/or jacket would be acceptable.
The 2013 festival runs from the 30th September to the 31st of October and you can browse all the performance dates and book online at:
Emilia Delizia would be delighted to organise a castle, food and wine tour for your group departing from Piacenza, Parma and Milan. For more information about the castles of the Piacenza/Parma area, please check our article below.
Piacenza and Parma’s Castles, a unique experience in Emilia Romagna.
Planning a holiday in Italy is always a delight with such a lot to look forward to! The Emilia Romagna region in North-Eastern Italy is home to the town of Parma, and we all know that Parma is the birthplace of some of Italy’s favourite exports, Parmesano Reggiano (Parmesan Cheese) and Proscuitto di Parma (Parma Ham), but did you know that the province, (or duchy), of Parma and Piacenza is also home to more than 20 castles? Castles and fortresses are symbolic of the region; they are a constant reminder of the hundreds of years the region has been under siege by successive waves of marauding invaders intent upon destruction and mayhem; they are magical places to visit for adults and children alike and you should not miss the opportunity to include a few in your itinerary.
This area is acknowledged to be the best place to view some wonderful examples of the best-preserved castles in all of Italy, and they are relatively close together, making exploring easy. I will tell you a little about 3 of the castles:
Castello di Bardi. The fortress of Bardi is an excellent example of Military architecture and has stood for more than one thousand years. It was built for defence, but later (16th century) partially converted to an aristocratic residence. There is plenty to see, including the ancient patrol paths, the parade ground, the fortified towers and all you would expect to find in a structure dedicated to defence. The view from the towers is worth the climb, and you can also visit a Museum dedicated to the story of the ancient Valley-Dwelling Civilisation. The Castle is open from March to Nov and entrance is around €5.50 per adult.
Castello di Arquato is found in the little medieval town with the same name (Castell’Arquato) in the province of Piacenza. The Castle was built from 1342-1349, and was a strategic structure, designed for the defence of the area. The rectangular courtyard enclosure is dominated by the Tower (keep) composed of a series of small rooms built one on top of the other, and linked by a series of staircases leading to the very top. Once again, your climbing efforts will be rewarded by the views of the surrounding countryside. You can visit the castle all year round for €3.50 (If you plan to visit several castles, you can buy a discount ticket for €2.00 at the castle that will save you money at all the other castles in the region.)
Make sure to visit the Multimedia Museum of Medieval Life, then explore the pretty little town than spills down the hill and visit the 12th century church of Santa Maria to see some sculptures and frescoes dating from the 12th and 15th centuries.
Castello di Bobbio. Bobbio is a small town near Piacenza, mainly famous for its Abbey and its Christmas Eve Snail Festival! The castle, properly known as Malaspina Dal Verme Castle now lies within the city walls of the town. It was begun in 1304 on the hill overlooking the town and although it is no longer intact, it is still worth a visit. You will find ruins of the Bishops Tower, and another circular tower built on two levels; you can still see the ancient arrow slits on the battlements, now converted to windows. The interior has undergone several modifications but the original large barrel-vaulted main hall is still intact, as are some very old frescoes in the stairwell. The Castle is open all year round and it costs €2.00 to visit. The little town of Bobbio is a lovely place to spend a few hours and you should try to visit the Abbey while you are there.
Food and wine in the Piacenza province.
When all the sightseeing has made you hungry and thirsty, you will be delighted to find yourself in Emilia Romagna, the culinary capital of the country where good food and wine are the order of the day! You are certain to have tasted Parma Ham and Parmesan cheese, but here in Piacenza there are other specialities to try, namely the Coppa Piacentina, Salame Piacentino and Pancetta Piacentina; all of these are wonderful examples of cured meat from the region and have been awarded PDO status (Protected Designation of Origin).
Your meat platter is beautifully accompanied by a glass or two of Gutturnio wine from the hills of Piacenza; this mellow blend of red Barbera and Croatina grapes has recently been awarded DOC status – do not miss it! Salute!
Parma is a beautiful city in Northern Italy. It is located in the region of Emilia Romagna, where you can also find other interesting towns as Bologna, Ferrara, Rimini or Piacenza. The cathedral, the theater Regio or the theater Farnese are very well known. But it is the gastronomy that has turned the world’s eyes to Parma. Do not miss the following events to discover it.
Festival del prosciutto, ham festival
Parma is the town where a delicious cured ham is produced. Made from pig’s ham the whole process can take one year and often even longer. If you want to know more on the production you can visit Parma during the Ham Festival held in middle September. Ham factories are open to public letting people see how they salt and cure the meat. But for those who prefer tasting the product there are many opportunities to do it during these days. Ham is often served as an antipasto with grissini. It can also be used with pasta or pizza as most of the visitors are often used to. If you do not have the time to stop and eat, then a sandwich with ham, a panino, will be your possibility to enjoy the product.
An important point during the festival is the Parma Ham and Deli Meats Museum in the Cattle Market. Other events organized in this period are special menus in restaurants, music and activities for children.
During the month of May since 1985 it is held Cibus, an international food exhibition that attracts a large number of professionals from all over the world. It is a real window for the Italian agri-food sector trying to show the Made in Italy way to the rest of the world. More than sixty thousand visitors from seventy countries and ten thousand products presented are the key numbers. The event is addressed to restaurants, retailers, dieticians, bakers and catering companies. Food processing and machinery are exhibited at la Fiera di Parma where the event is located. The location has been chosen due to its proximity to the Italian Center for Agri-food Research. Next appointment is expected for May 2014.
Verdi festival, a tribute to the maestro
Roncole di Busseto, in the province of Parma is the native village of the great operas Romantic composer Giuseppe Verdi and celebrations of the most famous citizen are held at the beginning of the Autumn. For twenty eight days one of his masterpieces is daily offered at Theater Regio. Otello, The Battle of Legnano, Rigoletto and many other operas are performed by young and great artists. But side events are also amazing and visitors enjoy them greatly. Do not miss Il gioco dell’Opera, an introduction to opera for children, or Premio Zanfi, an international contest for new performers. Concerts and other events are also held under the arcades of the Portici del Grano.
Music and gastronomy are the main activities in Parma, a modern city with an exciting past full of history and culture. Exquisite hotels, tours in the Old Town and unforgettable meals with parmigiano cheese and Italian wine wait for the visitors of the Ham Festival, Cibus and the Verdi Festival.
Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) guided visit to a cheese day.
Emilia Delizia offers detailed Parmigiano Reggiano cheese tours in Modena, Parma and Reggio Emilia. Our tour will begin early in the morning in order to catch as much as possible. Below we tried to reproduce our tour in pictures to give a better idea to people about what they will see when at the Parmesan dairy.
At the arrival at the dairy we we will see the raw milk sitting in the vats. These large containers “cauldrons” contains 1000 kg of full fat and half milk mixed together. The compound is then acidified and the rennet is added. At this point the milk will turn into a yoghurt like substance.
These are the 2 twins, one is a boy and the other is a girl. Basically these are the curds of the cheese that have been cut and left to rest. From 1000 kilos of milk we obtain 2 45 kilos wheels. Some of the weight is lost during the ageing, and therefore the final product weights approximately 37 kg.
The unformed cheese goes into the Teflon mould for one day and one night. The cheese master carefully add a weight on top of the cheese. In order to squeeze our all the liquid the moulds are then turned every couple of hours. In the evening the cheese cloth is removed and the matrix carrying the naming Parmigiano Reggiano is inserted in the mould. Telon is a new material that has replaced the hand made wooden moulds that were originally crafted by hand. In the video you can clearly see how the cheese is moved from the vat to the moulds. Our guests will be able to see the full production just meters away form the cheese being made.
The cheese goes into the metal mould for another day. These moulds have the shape of the wheel which will not required further manipulation such as the trimming of the edges. The cheese always rest on wooden shelves which allow breathing and the correct ageing.
The wheels then go to a brine bath and stay here for 3 weeks. This is an important step to make hard cheese in fact the high salinity of the water will allow residual moisture to exit thanks to natural osmosis. It is important to keep in mind that Parmesan cheese does not contain any preservative or anti fermentative, therefore it is essential to have the right amount of moisture in the wheels.
The last part of the visit will be spend in the ageing cellars. Here is the Parmigiano Reggiano is stocked on the traditional shelves for a minima of 12 months. During the visit we will learn how to recognise the real Parmesan cheese from imitation and we will discover the nutritional values of the product.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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. And do not forget to check where to eat in Parma, and when you are too full you can take a nice walk in Parma to discover more.
Curing ham in a culinary art and it should not be taken lightly.
To become a master Parma ham salter might take many years. Fabrizio of La Perla Parma ham factory in Langhirano says it might take up to 10 years to really master the ability to put the right amount of salt in the right places, he explained during one of our prosciutto tour in the area.
According to the discipline of the Parma ham consortium the back legs of the animals must arrive quickly at the curing facility. In fact the freshly slaughtered meat has bacteria growing on it, the faster you start the production, the least salt you will need to use.
Parma ham is famous for its delicate aroma, and surprisingly it is not salty at all. This is obtained by adding little salt, time and patience. But curing meat with little salt also increases your chances to fail.
When the meat arrives in Langhirano is loaded on a machine that massage and salts the rind.. The difficult bit is to salt the exposed meat, and that it is done exclusively by hand. Below you can see the 3 fundamental points where the leg is salted precisely by the skill full hands of the master salter.
1) it is important that the meat is not covered in salt, but it is applied only in these critical points. Firstly salt is applied on the femoral head as you can see in the picture above. These are points that if they are not salted correctly they will spoil easily.
2) Secondly he presses on the femoral artery, as pictured above, and he adds salt in the area that he created with his fingers. So this is an other critical point where the ham curer should take care of.
3) The 3rd and last part that has to be salted is the fatty part that it is between the meat and the rind of the pig. Therefore the master salter takes a handful of salt and smears it along the fatty line of the leg.
Emilia Delizia organises Parma ham factories tours at small and artisan producers in the Parma province. If you are interested in ham curing techniques we will be glad to organise a detailed visit in the language of your preference.
Parma is a town in the north west of Italy, not far from Milan and the Cinque Terre. Parma is well connected via train links, motorway and recently even by air with the newly opened Verdi airport which connects the town with London Stansted. Thanking to this new possibility it is now possible to spend a long weekend to explore the best food in Italy, medieval castles and aristocratic palazzoes.
The Castle of Torrechiara and Parma ham.
Heading south just 30 minutes by car from central Parma, we will find the Castle of Torrechiara. An important manor overlooking the Parma river valley. Once belonging to the Rossi family is now a museum open to everyone interested in visiting this splendid example of medieval architecture. The highlight of the visit is the magnificent “bedroom” once dedicated to Pier Maria Rossi’s lover: Bianca. But this is not all. The Torrechiara castle is only part of the fun. The castle’s adjacent town is the centre of the Parma ham production. In Langhirano you can sample the best prosciutto that you can find around, and directly from the producers too. The best of all comes when you can stay at the castle b&b and have your dinner right at Locanda del Castello a restuarant providing excellent and typical Parma style dishes.
Farm stay with Parmesan production.
To make things more interesting you could stay a selected farm and wake up in the morning with an amazing breakfast followed with a tour of parmesan cheese production. This is possible in Lesignano Bagni not far from the Parma ham production area and it also close to a balsamic vinegar producer. In fact you can visit all 3 products in just one one day with a 2 night stay.
Colorno, little Paris, and culatello ham.
The Parma province has a lot to offer and maybe you need to start to make choices in your long weekend. The area once under the French control was named the little Paris, due to the charming resemblance of the river side of the two cities. But another important guest was living in the small town of Colorno. Marie Luise duchess of Parma and wife of Napolon. She made Colorno her home and she had a whole palazzo for herself. The ducal palace of Colorno is a splendid example of renaissance architecture. Not to be missed is the hourly tour inside the palace. Do not forget to walk in the English style palace garden that is always accessible during daylight. But Colorno is home of another delicacy: Culatello ham. Probably it is the first location making the ham heading north from Parma. Remember that many producers are happy to do guided visits inside their cellars, so just follow the culatello road sign and ask.
Polesine Parmense and the Antica Corte Pallavicina.
Heading north from Parma towards the great Po’ river we will encounter an unpretentious village called Polesine. The highlight here is the building named after the noble parmense family: the Pallavicini. While the village has been moved from the shores for the river, remarkably the Antica Corte still sits next to to the banks of Po’. The Antica Corte Pallavicina has been completely restored by Massimo Spigaroli, who is the keeper of the secrets of culatello. He will oblige to show you the massive brick cellars of the palace literally filled with the precious ham. Massimo also organises cooking lessons, and ham making sessions. Cycling and boat tours of the Po’ river. Of course you can also stay at the palace by renting one of the modern and comfortable room.
Roccabianca literally the white castles lies in the flat of the Parma province just few kilometres from the Po’ River. Pier Maria Rossi not satisfied with Torrechiara castle builds another palace for Bianca (his lover) here in the foggy and marshy lands north of Parma. Roccabianca is simply spectacular, the external walls of the inner courts are completely covered in ivy. Here it is easy to imagine tales of knights and dames. But Roccabianca is also the home of the Italian author Giovannino Guareschi, maybe known more familiar to the Italians than the foreign visitors. It is still worth to mention that you can visit his house and discover this stories of Don Camillo and Peppone. Of course Roccabianca is one of the homes of Culatello, so enjoy it while you are there.
The home of the famous culatello and also the headquarters of the consortium. In November there is the culatello festival called Novemberpork. The local fiesta is totally dedicated to swine delicacies. Their tagline is: speriamo che ci sia la nebbia, it translates as we hope that it is going to be foggy. For many might sound strange but the producers claim that they need to open the windows of their cellars to let the fog. Apparently you will need that sort of humidity to cure the ham correctly.
Needless to say that here in Soragna you will find 2 things: a castle and culatello ham. It is a tiny comune with a characteristic porticoed town centre. While you are here you should visit the Rocca di Soragna, another magnificent castle with the advantage of still being inhabited by its prince descending from the Lupi family. English guided visits can be organised and culatello producers are in range.
San Secondo Parmense.
San Secondo is the home of spalla di San Secondo. A pork speciality made with the front shoulders of the animal. The cooked version is served warm with torta fritta (a earthy fried bread) coupled together it is a mind blowing experience The flat land around Parma do not produce great wines but if you come across the Fortana wine, or Fortanina you should not miss the chance to try it, light and fruity is heart-warming in those foggy nights.
Cycling Activities from Parma – Discover the great river from Polesine Parmense.
The Po’ river offers plenty of opportunities for those wanting to cycle or walk. In fact it is possible to rent bicycles locally and go on cycling tour of the area. The activities require some sort of fitness but they are considered easy trails as they are in the flat. The day can be also combined with the navigation of the Po’ river and a stop in Cremona. Of course we will include a gourmet visit to a culatello producer.
Lovers of Italian food have labelled the Regione Emilia-Romagna as “the bread-basket of Italy.” It’s easy to see why. The historic cities of Parma, Modena and Bologna are famed for their food, from the air cured and delicate prosciutto (Parma ham), parmigiano reggiano (parmesan cheese) and traditional aceto balsamico (balsamic vinegar) – some of the quintessential ingredients of Italian cooking. The verdant Po Valley has given rise to agricultural practices that produce some of the most flavoursome and robust ingredients in the country.
When visiting Parma, Modena and Bologna, the starters are most likely to be slices of Parma ham, culatello, Salame di Felino, and shavings of Parmesan cheese. Parma ham has a delicate sweet savouriness that it is unique to this air cured ham. Culatello has also a unique and distinctive savouriness and every bite keeps giving our flavour, with hints of aromas like black pepper. Parmesan cheese is the quintessential savoury flavour, unique and inimitable, due to the long fermenting ageing.
First courses: Pasta Dishes
Fresh egg pasta in Emilia-Romagna is an artistic affair. Indeed, the cooks of this region are believed to be the masters of fresh pasta, producing distinct varieties of stuffed tortellini, and Tortelloni. Such pastas are recognised by their intricate and delicate shapes, as well as their rich fillings, which usually include pork or soft ricotta cheese.
Tortellini or Cappelletti
These attractive little pasta dumplings are filled with the best meats of the region – prosciutto, mortadella (a local variety of sausage) and ground pork. There are many old legends as to how tortellini originally came about. The most popular tale comes from Modena, near the Castelfranco Emilia. Lucrezia Borgia checked into an inn there, and the host was so captivated by her beauty that he spied on her through the keyhole of her private room. He only got a glimpse of her navel, but was so thrilled by this sight that he immediately went to the kitchen and attempted to recreate it in the form of pasta. And thus tortellini were born. For the real connoisseur they are only served in the famous Emilian capon broth, but a cream version is also available in most restaurants.
This is a larger version of tortellini, squares of egg pasta (in Emilia Romagna is commonly called sfoglia) are folded into triangle and folded one more time into a hat shape. They are commonly filled with spinach, ricotta cheese and a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. They are served with a sauce – butter and sage being a local favourite, but also with a nice tomato sauce with a leaf of basil.
To your surprise this time it is not going to be a pasta dish. Passatelli is the poor man meal made into an elegant and refined dish, and if you visit Bologna in the winter months, it would be a sin not to have passatelli. This dish consist of dumpling made of bread crumbs, egg, and parmesan cheese. This is worked and turned into a dough and pressed through a die to obtain the classic shape. The dumplings are then served in a rich capon broth.
Along Passatelli, Zuppa reale is one of the less known dishes of the Emilian cuisine but well worth the hunt. Zuppa reale is a sort of spongy omelette like cake which is cut into cubes and served in the capon broth. The ingredients are flour, eggs, a lot of parmesan cheese, butter. The dough is cooked in the oven until golden crispy and spongy inside, then left to cool a little and cut into bite size dumpling.
Emilia-Romagna has a thousand-year history of raising swine – making it one of the most distinguished Italian regions for pork. Local pork dishes are layered in flavour, rich and hearty, and are perfect for chilly winter evenings. Veal is also a popular meaty option.
Zampone from Modena
Emilia-Romagna is famous for its decadent range of preserved meats and salamis. Zampone of Modena is a unique local treat that is often eaten at Christmas time. This winter sausage was born in 1510. Modena was under siege at the time, and food had to be preserved. As a result, ground pork, rind and other cuts were salted and stuffed into a de-boned pig’s trotter. These days, zampone is served with lentils and washed down with Lambrusco DOC.
Cotolette alle Bolognese
Tagliatelle alla Bolognese (it’s actually called tagliatelle al ragu in Italy) is not the only famous dish to emerge from Emilia-Romagna’s historical capital, Bologna. This original veal parmigiana consists of breaded veal topped with shavings of parmesan cheese. It can be also layered with prosciutto, but for an authentic and complex speciality white truffles are added as a final touch.
As the tortellini go with the broth, the meat is normally eaten as a second course. When visiting Bologna you should ask for the Carrello dei Bolliti, literally the boiled meat trolley. The waiter will oblige and push to your table a serving trolley full of succulent boiled meats. Here you will find capon, boiler chicken, beef briskets, as well as beef tongue for the more daring. The meats sliced thinly and served with salsa verde or mostarde. Salve verde is a condiment made with a base of parley and cooked carrots, boiled eggs, olive oil, vinegar, the recipes varies from location to location. Mostarda is more typical in the northern areas of Emilia Romagna and consist of fruits cooked in a light mustard sugary syrup.
Many sweet dishes of Emilia-Romagna originated from traditional festivals highlighting the weeks before Easter. People would often indulge in sugary treats on Shrove Tuesday before the period of abstinence marked by Lent.
This sweet resemble to original pasta dish is one such Shrove Tuesday invention. Strands of tagliatelle are deep-fried, and then coated in honey. This is a popular dessert throughout Bologna. It can also be topped with sugar, cinnamon or lemon zest.
This directly translates to “English Soup,” but it actually refers to the Italian version of English trifle. During the 16th century, the rulers of Ferarra met with Elizabethan statesmen from England, and this contact introduced them to the delicious custardy dessert. The Italian diplomats fell in love with it, and attempted to make it using local ingredients. The Emilian version consists of pan di spagna (sponge cake), or savoiardi (finger biscuits), thick custard and Alchermes, an aromatic herb liqueur.
These are just a few of the dishes you will discover on a gastronomic journey of Emilia-Romagna. Its culinary legacy is sometimes rustic, but also elegant and refined – and is considered one of the best in all of Italy.
A meal in Italy is not finished without a shot of your favourite digestive. In Modena we have the dark and aromatic Nocino made from unripe walnuts which are steeped into pure alcohol, and sugar. The liquid is aged into oak or hash barrels for a minimum of 6 years. In Parma you will be likely to be served Barniolino. This liqueur is made from the berry of the wild growing hawthorn berries steeped into alcohol and sugar. The liquid has hints of strawberry and cherries with a pleasant bitterness.
Wines of Emilia Romagna.
Wines in the region and often sparkling red, this is unique characteristic of our products. In fact Lambrusco (Modena) and Gutturnio (Piacenza) are wines that in the tradition where double fermented in their bottles. This would give rise to a first alcoholic fermentation and then a second one which gives the bubbles to the wine. Lambrusco is a wine that is enjoyed young, often the year after the harvest, and it certainly lends itself to accompany the rich local cuisine. Remember that the perfect lambrusco is a dry wine, with an evanescent froth, purple in colour (Grasparossa variety) with hints of violet flowers.