5 foods you should eat when visiting Bologna. This province has one of the greatest culinary tradition in Italy because its area encompasses the Appennini mountains and the Pianura Padana. The array of basic ingredients is enormous giving birth to sophisticated and traditional cuisine.
Crescentine or Tigelle.
Crescentine are simple small breads traditional baked sandwiched in disks of clay and cooked by the kitchen fireplace. The ingredients for the dough are simply flour, water salt, yeast (sometimes a splash of cream). The greatness of this bread is that it becomes crispy outside and it is hot and moist inside therefore thy are just great when cut in half and stuffed with the local salumi. Crescentine are the food of the Appennini mountains and widely eaten across the provinces of Bologna and Modena. For a nice addition you should try them with Pesto alla Modenese. This nothing else than pork lard mixed with a pinch of salt, garlic, rosemary and parmesan cheese.
It is long the tradition of pork raising in the Emilia Romagna area. The meat is mostly consumed in form of sausages, salami and hams, and rarely eaten fresh. Bologna most iconic sausage is Mortadella. Lately this cooked sausage is living a revival and producers are trying to move away from the unhealthy image of a fatty sausage. According to the traditional recipe it must be made from the lean and noble parts of the animal which are ground to a fine paste, fat cubes and spices are added, then stuffed into a casing suitable for the size, and finally slowly cooked for 2/3 days at low temperature. Mortadella can be thinly sliced or cubed.
Parmesan cheese is the king of cheeses. Made from high quality unpasteurised milk and aged from a minimum of 12 months. However rarely it is eaten at this age. Bolognese people like their cheese when it is at least 24 months old. At this age it has fully developed its potential flavours and it is suitable to enhance the stuffing of tortellini . Bologna produces Parmigiano Reggiano only on the west bank of the Reno River. At the moment of writing there are about 10 producers of the cheese in the Bologna area, you will find more proudcers in Mantua, Modena, Reggio Emilia and Parma.
Shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano can be also enjoyed with a few drops of traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena.
Tortelllini are the quintessential Bologna’s winter food. In town there is no Christmas without a plate of tortellini cooked in capon broth. As the legend goes they have been shaped according to the navel of Lucretia Borgia. As she checked in to a INN, the host impressed by her beauty was trying to spy her from the keyhole, but he could only see her pretty belly button.
Traditionally tortellini are made from sheets of egg pasta. Then stuffed with minced pork, parmesan cheese, mortadella, prosciutto, and the recipe changes depending on the family who makes it. Today you can buy tortellini almost everywhere but the best ones are those made by hand. They are pricey but well worth every cents.
To conclude our short guide to the Bologna food tour we wanted to include a dessert. After all sweets always close all good meals. Zuppa Inglese is another iconic dish of Bologna but quite common all over Emilia. This pudding is inspired from English trifles in fact the the name translate roughly to “The English Soup” . it is made from 2 custards: egg and a chocolate custard which are then layered on top of savoiardi biscuits (Italian Ladyfinger). These biscuits are spongy and especially made to soak up the liquors that are added.