Emilia at the table: 5 foods you must try if you’re visiting Emilia
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Last week we recommended the five foods of Romagna that you can’t absolutely miss. But talking about food Emilia has its own word to say so today we’ll talk about the five unmissable Emilia dishes.
One more time the secret is simplicity and quality of the products used, which often hold the most important quality certifications such as DOP and IGP
Talking about Emilian cuisine and especially Bologna ’s typical dishes, it’s impossible not to mention tortellini. Tortellini have an ancient history: it was originally a “poor” food, born from the recycling of meat advanced on noble tables. The first written traces of this food date back to 1664 and come from the book “L’economia del cittadino in villa” by Vincenzo Tanara.
Curious are the two legends that tell about the birth of tortellini. The first one tells that the owner of an inn of Castelfranco Emilia, peeking from the hole in the lock inside the room where a noblewoman lived was thrilled by the beauty of her navel and wanted to reproduce it in a food, so the tortellino shape bore.
A second legend takes inspiration from the Tassoni’s “Secchia rapita” story, which tells that Venus, Bacchus and Mars one evening found refreshment at the Corona Inn. The next morning Bacchus and Mars moved away, leaving Venus sleeping. The innkeeper, attracted by the voice of the goddess searching for Bacchus and Mars, went into the room and, finding her slightly undressed, was enraptured by its shapes. When he returned to the kitchen, he pulled a piece of dough, filled it and bent it so that his form remembered the shape of Venus navel. Whatever the origin of tortellini is, if you are passing through Bologna you should stop to enjoy a dish.
Another speciality of Emilia is its cured meats, starting from the most famous prosciutto of Parma, and beyond! The Piacenza area is, in fact, the cradle of coppa piacentina. The first testimonies of this product date back to Roman times, and tell us how the pork was processed, including the doses and the spices used for the production.
Coppa was considered one of the finest cured meat, often destined to be consumed during the most important celebrations or used as a gift. Other testimonies of this sausage with the name “coppa” date back to 1800 in the areas between Val Nure and Val Trebbia, obviously in the province of Piacenza. Since 1996 coppa piacentina enjoys the DOP certification.
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
For enthusiasts of balsamic vinegar, it’s obligatory to stop in Modena, renowned in the Emilia region for its vinegar, so valuable to obtain the DOP and IGP recognition. Even in this case, the origin of the product is very ancient. In its less elaborate version, there are traces since the 3rd millennium BC.
However, the balsamic vinegar’s roots are related to the baking of must, from which there are news from Egypt epoch onwards. Balsamic vinegar is also mentioned by Virgil in his “Georgiche”, when he tells of a farmhouse in his Mantua, which then came into the Emilian area.
What can’t be identified is its original preparation because there were, and still exists, different recipes that differ according to the area. In 1598, in fact, Modena became capital of the Ducato Estense and the dukes brought from Ferrara their vinegars that paired with the typical recipes of local nobility. Probably from the fusion of these traditions a balsamic vinegar was born that had characteristics similar to the present one. For lovers of vinegar Modena is an indispensable stage.
Tortelli di Erbette
Parma is the heart of the FoodValley. There are lot of traditional dishes of that deserve to be mentioned and one of these is tortelli di erbette. It’s a fresh pasta made of dough filled with spinach, green beets and cheese. This recipe is born from the need to combine the few products offered by the countryside: vegetables, flour and eggs.
Tortelli di erbette are common in the provinces of Reggio Emilia and Modena, but only those of Parma province have been recognized as “typical products of the Emilia-Romagna region” and included in the relevant list by the Ministry of Agriculture. So if you are passing through Parma, stop to enjoy the best known local products and don’t forget tortelli di erbette.
Gnocco fritto is one of the most popular dishes in Emilia, so widespread that it takes a different name depending on the area. Thanks to the simplicity and speed of preparation and consumption, gnocco fritto can be considered the forerunner of modern ‘fast food’.
Its origins come from longobardi culinary culture, which was handed down to Emilia during their domination. Until the mid-1900, gnocco fritto was the main farmer’s food during the winter when the pigs were slaughtered, so there was great availability of lard, a key ingredient for dough and dumpling. The area of Reggio Emilia and Modena is therefore the perfect place to stop for a luncheon, strictly accompanied by a glass of Lambrusco wine.