The Best Traditional Food From Bologna & Emilia-Romagna
If Italy is the Foodie capital of the world, and we know that it is, then it’s only natural to ask, where is the best food in Italy? It’s a difficult question since a good argument could be made for almost every Italian grandma’s kitchen, and Italians aren’t known for their objectivity. A Tuscan will tell you Tuscany, a Roman will tell you Rome, and so on and so forth.
To get the closest to an objective answer that you can, ask an Italian, "where’s the best food in Italy, BESIDES [name of his hometown]?" Perhaps begrudgingly, he will answer Emilia-Romagna.
Think of some of your favorite typical Italian products. We bet at least a few, if not most of them are named after places in Emilia-Romagna! Does Bologna, Parma, or Modena sound familiar? These cities are practically synonymous with their most famous foods!
If you consider yourself a foodie, then Emilia-Romagna is your mecca, and these are the foods you can’t leave without trying:
Mortadella di Bologna:
We’re not talking about "bologna" pronounced "bah-low-nee" here. Mortadella is a spiced pork meat, sometimes with pistachios or olives, that you have to taste to fully understand the difference from the bland slices used to pack school lunches that you may have tried outside of Italy. You’ll find Mortadella on many an aperitivo plate in Italy as it makes the perfect pre-dinner appetizer.
You’ve probably tried Parmesan cheese before, but once you try authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano from it’s namesake, Parma, you’ll understand why it’s so often imitated, and you’ll taste the immense difference between the imitations and the real thing. Parmigiano Reggiano is D.O.P protected, meaning that only cheeses made in a specific zone within Emilia-Romagna that follow the strict rules of production and inspection can carry the name "Parmigiano-Reggiano."
This small, ring-shaped pasta is beloved all over Italy and even the world, and it too hails from Emilia-Romagna, specifically Bologna and Modena. They are usually stuffed with cheese or prosciutto, and served in broth. While you’re in Bologna we recommend trying fresh, hand-made tortellini to change your definition of good pasta forever!
Tagliatelle alla Bolognese
Tagliatelle is another must-taste pasta during your stay in Emilia-Romagna! The long, flat pasta is made with egg and flour, and is perfect served with a hearty ragù alla Bolognese. "Bolognese Sauce" outside of Italy often bears little resemblance to the real thing. If you’re looking at a runny, tomato-heavy meat sauce, then an Italian wouldn’t call it Bolognese and keep a straight face. The authentic Bolognese is a thick sauce made with plenty of beef or pork, onions, garlic, tomato and wine. It’s best served with any long, flat pasta. Tagliatelle are best, but pappardelle or fettuccine will work in a pinch.
Prosciutto di Parma
"Prosciutto crudo di Parma" also known as Parma Ham, is a cured pork that comes from - you guessed it: Parma! This is another D.O.P. product that must be produced within a certain area with defined standards of production. For the ultimate taste of Parma, try a slice of Prosciutto di Parma paired with a nice chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano!
Culatello di Zibello
Prosciutto's even more tasty and noble cousin, Culatello di Zibello, is undoubtedly the king of Salumi. Culatello is made from a part of the rear leg bone, and because it eliminates the possibility of making a cured ham like the prosciutto di parma described above, it is considered a more exclusive product and is more expensive.
Fried dough show up varied forms under different names all over Italy. In Emilia-Romagna you'll find Gnocco Fritto, a square of golden fried dough, fluffy on the inside, crispy and lightly salted on the outside. Gnocco Fritto is typically served as a appetizer along with sliced meats and cheeses.
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
"Aceto Balsamico di Modena" is another staple of Italian cuisine that comes from Emilia-Romagna. "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale," Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, is only made in Modena or Reggio Emilia and is a thick, rich and glossy syrup. The quality is no less than that of a fine aged wine, and in fact some are aged for 25 years or more. Read more about balsamico here.
To explore all the best food of Emilia-Romagna, and see first-hand where Parma Ham, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, and Parmigiano Reggiano are produced, book our Food Delights in Parma Tour! When it comes to food, Emilia-Romagna does not disappoint!