Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
Kevin72

The Cooking and Cuisine of Emilia-Romagna

Recommended Posts

I hate to cop out here or revel in my own past glories(?), but every intro I've tinkered with writing for my favorite cooking region wound up sounding like last year's intro or trying to hard not to sound like last year's intro. So, with minor tinkering, I'm just putting up last year's:

This is my favorite regional cuisine of Italy. The sheer volume and depth of artisanal food products and that so many “classic” recipes originated or are perfected here is simply staggering. Parmigiano Reggiano, Aceto Balsamico, Prosciutto di Parma, lasagna Bolognese, tortellini, cotechino, zampone, rich, luscious egg pastas . . . need I go on? It is a cuisine unto itself.

Just about any introduction to this region in Italian cookbooks points out everything I noted above, mentions that Italians from all over the peninsula regularly hold it in the highest regard--second only to their mothers’ cooking of course--and then the author themselves adds a testament to the greatness of this cuisine. Waverly Root devotes 103 pages of Foods of Italy just to Emilia-Romagna, most of it just listing the unique dishes in each province and capital or twists on the traditional dishes (frankly, it gets tedious). Only Fred Plotkin, who, while acknowledging it is one of the best cuisines of Italy, offers a complaint: that what keeps it from truly rising above the rest is having great wine to match the food (a fair point, but not enough to hold it back in my opinion, especially when you have Tuscany just to the south, the Veneto just to the north).

Then there’s the fact that Marcella Hazan, and, to a lesser extent, Mario Batali, really carved out my understanding of Italian cooking during my formative period of learning, and both are extensively influenced by Emilia-Romagna. As if I need any greater authority than Marcella Hazan for reference for this month, but really, we can’t talk about this region without mentioning the very best Italian regional cookbook out there, Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table: The Cooking of Emilia Romagna. This has it all: regional histories, folklore, stories about dishes, profiles of notable restaurants and chefs in the region, personal anecdotes, and a bewildering volume of recipes. There’s a whole chapter just on variations of ragu, and many recipes of the Renaissance, which profited Emilia-Romagna greatly and lay the foundation for its elaborate cooking traditions. And yet, for as good as I say this book is, it’s that much better. Every time I read it I find all sorts of things I’d forgotten. I’d need one month just to make my way through all the standards of the cuisine and then another to do more unknown, interesting-sounding dishes. Nobody who likes Italian cooking should be without this book.

This, then, was the region I first chose when we decided to go to Italy for our honeymoon. Though, after our planning, we had the Veneto and Tuscany in there as well, so I didn’t get to spend as much time as I’d have liked there. Our stay was pretty much restricted to Bologna, the epicenter of Emilia-Romagna cuisine. Here’s what I wrote about Bologna when we came back from the trip:

One of the side benefits, of course, to visiting Italy is that you eat very well.  But if you go to Bologna, that side benefit now takes center stage:  if you come to Bologna, you are coming to eat . . . Witness the “Via Grassa”, my (hopefully not too offensive) nickname for the blocks in and around the intersection of Via Caprarie and Drapperie Calzolerie.  There’s not just Tamburini, the foodie mecca at its center, featuring everything great about Bolognese cuisine (cured meats, cheeses, homemade pastas, succulent roasts), but literally every store here sells food.  By my count, I saw three bakeries, two pasta shops, at least seven produce stalls (some hawking truffles!), three butchers, four salumerias, a latteria (all cheese), two stalls selling dried goods like mushrooms, beans, tomatoes, and pastas, two pastry shops, two seafood stalls . . . and Gilberto’s, which to my mind should be every bit the foodie destination as Tamburini.  Gilberto’s has not just a whole wall of liquors you’ve never heard of, and another wall of every sauce and condiment you can imagine, and a basement cantina that I didn’t even dare go into full of wines, but every spare inch in between is stacked with little boxes of candies and chocolates.

The first night there we played “restaurant lottery” and just wandered into the first place that looked good (and it was a tough choice!). Just some anonymous trattoria-style place with the hostess/waitress/owner sitting in a corner peeling chestnuts and popping them in her mouth (we compared chestnut peeling scars!). Every table had “riservado” on it, but we were eating at the Americano hour of 8 and when we left at 10, the first few Italians had just come in. How do you guys do it? Food was great, simple, honest, straightforward, right out of any Bolognese cookbook. Ate lunch at Tamburini, ate crepes with nutella for a snack, went to a piadineria, ate another lunch at Diana (we weren’t dressed for it and the service responded accordingly), and out last dinner there was at Montegrappa DaNello, fantastic. Our one foray outside of Bologna was to Villa Gaidello, a farmstead halfway between Bologna and Modena, for a night’s stay and a seven-course meal of E-R standards that still makes me misty-eyed just thinking about it.

Emilia-Romagna is a cooking and feasting with a passion for the very best way to do a dish, no matter what the cost, wallet or waistline.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

. . . Although, I'll be splitting this month, unfortunately, with Campania, since this time of year I always dig out Christmas dishes from this region, including of course the Feast of the Fishes. Yeah, I know E-Rians cook their own feast, but I'd be facing a revolt if I deviated from the traditional menu this year.

On to housekeeping: there seems to have been dwindling participation the past few months (poor Tuscany :sad: ), so the question is: is there interest in continuing the project into the new year? There's I think 6 or 7 regions left, though a couple (Abruzzo and Molise, Basilicata and Calabria) should probably be combined. That leaves the Veneto, Trentino Alto-Adige, Le Marche (holy crap there was a cookbook just published on this region in October!).

I don't want to weigh down what I hope will be an active thread with housekeeping issues. If someone knows how to do a group PM conversation, maybe we should take it there and I'll just keep adding people to the conversation who are interested.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I vote for keeping this going, while I may not contribute due to time constraints, I really do follow these great threads.

You have done a great job Kevin.

woodburner

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As if I need any greater authority than Marcella Hazan for reference for this month, but really, we can’t talk about this region without mentioning the very best Italian regional cookbook out there, Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table: The Cooking of Emilia Romagna.  This has it all: regional histories, folklore, stories about dishes, profiles of notable restaurants and chefs in the region, personal anecdotes, and a bewildering volume of recipes.  There’s a whole chapter just on variations of ragu, and many recipes of the Renaissance, which profited Emilia-Romagna greatly and lay the foundation for its elaborate cooking traditions. And yet, for as good as I say this book is, it’s that much better. 

Hear, hear! To be honest, I was introduced to the author while listening to NPR. The book is amazing and the force that shaped my shopping list this week. You mention the chapter I turned to first. I will even drag a chair into the kitchen to fetch the pasta machine from the cabinet high above the fridge.

* * *

I second the desire to continue next year, starting with the wintery region of Trentino-Alto Adige in January. Since the list is short and several regions best represented by fresh local produce, I would recommend a lull, reviving the threads when tender little lettuces resurface in the markets of the UK and Northern parts of the Americas, perhaps filling in the gap with Italian food of the diaspera (Italian-American, etc.). I couldn't see doing some of the Southern regions justice in February, though Basilicata is one place that would be appropriate. The one disadvantage would be a loss of momentum, but some of us might like the reprieve and absence makes the heart grow fonder. Just announce a schedule with assigned months at the end of January if this alternative makes sense. If not, that's fine, too.

Again, these threads will serve us well as long as eGullet is around, so why not do it all, including regions you were not able to cover in 2005?

Addressing two regions simultaneously makes sense with many of the remaining regions. I would defer to others, though, to ask if the reason we group them together nowadays is because the political division of the pair is arbitrary and the food really, truly is identical (Abruzzo & Molise?), or if it's a matter of inadequate resources for information and recipes, circumstances that may change in the future. Cf. your exclamation about Fabbio Trabocchi's new book on Le Marche, a region previously introduced by M Esposito and very well represented in Carol Field's book on nonne and (I think) LRK's book on the country table. I don't think it would be too confusing to offer two discrete threads and contribute to both during a single month.


Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I also vote to keep going. I don't cook as much as I'd like for every month, but I love following these threads and they are among my favorites on eGullet.

And I'm looking forward to this month! My Bolognese supply in the freezer is gone, so that one is on the list for sure, and hopefully some (to me) lesser known dishes as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love this thread, although I've contributed so little. I think I'll make it a resolution, to come here and cook with you all more regularly. I just freed myself from a major distraction, and this will make a nice new focus for me.

And I'm starting with Christmas. Ours will be very small this year, and one is a vegetarian who loves Italian food, so I see my Christmas dinner shaping up right here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

with the boy in the picture, i haven't had a chance to plan my cooking as extensively as i have in the past and my evenings are busier, so my participation has dwindled as well. but that doesn't mean i'm not enjoying what all y'all are doing. i feel like i'm holding my own as far as continuing to make good dinners and not relying on eating frozen tamales from trader joe's every night, but the kind of evening where i can get home from work at 5:30, make polenta, chill it, and then dawdle around putting together a polenta terrine type of thing and eat it at 9 are temporarily over.

however, last month the one specifically tuscan dish i made was a total revelation and a joy, so i certainly plan on getting back to cooking this month.

now this month will be perfect, if you guys can just point me to a definitive recipe for ragu....


Edited by mrbigjas (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've made the Marinated Baby Onions from The Splendid Table (p 16) some years back. I like this sort of dish that can be keep in the fridge and used with various meals. I made her Country Style Ragu (48), also. My recollection is that both were very intensely flavorful. I'm not sure why I haven't made more things from her book.


"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks as always for the support and encouragement everyone. But the success of these threads is due as much to everyone's contributions as anything else, and I did want to keep everyone interested.

All right, so we'll move onwards. Rather than do voting though, with just so few regions left, here's my proposal for the rest:

January: Trentino Alto-Adige

February: Veneto

March: Le Marche (heh)

April: Abruzzo-Molise

May: Basilicata and Calabria (Either one combo thread or two simultaneous threads)

I think that's it? Any I left out?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As I've said, and I'm sure everyone's in the same boat, it's hard to fit in meals this month. We've only got a set number of weekends we're in town and I want to cook at least one E-R meal a week. Saturday's first meal in the region was unfortunately more an "inspired by" than a true reading of regional standards. But anyways:

Risotto with apple:

gallery_19696_582_15796.jpg

For the main, a favorite of mine: pork braised in milk. In the background is Klary's beloved garlic cabbage.

gallery_19696_582_475664.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah! Pork braised in milk...Do you use Marios's recipe from his first book? I love that one and the onion-y sauce is makes. Even better the next day sliced thin and served on bread.

BTW, I am as guilty as any by slacking off. But man, an extra kid in the house really adds 3X the work. I am glad we are keeping on going though.

My ambitious commitment this month (and I am counting on all of you to coerce me to make it if I do slack of): a homemade Cotechino sausage with potatoes, lentils and Zabaglione. I need to buy the pork and pork skin soon and make the sausage. After that, it should be easy...


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh man I'm dying to see how this turns out. Please do step by step photos. That's been an ambition of mine for a while but I haven't been able to find a pig skin source.

There's a sentence I've never used before.

As for the pork dish, I don't like the abundance of onion in Mario's recipe and stick to a version that Marcella Hazan offered. Except I load mine up with carrots and two cloves of garlic to get the sauce tasting even more sweet (and that unappealing orange color).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Oh man I'm dying to see how this turns out.  Please do step by step photos.  That's been an ambition of mine for a while but I haven't been able to find a pig skin source. 

There's a sentence I've never used before.

As for the pork dish, I don't like the abundance of onion in Mario's recipe and stick to a version that Marcella Hazan offered.  Except I load mine up with carrots and two cloves of garlic to get the sauce tasting even more sweet (and that unappealing orange color).

I have no problem getting pig skin. I buy wholoe fresh pork bellies from an asian grocer to make bacon/pancetta and can easily get the skin from there. Anyways, I'll make sure to document the whole process with pictures and hopefully post a recipe in RecipeGullet.

Right! I forgot you do not like the cooked onion flavor much BTW.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Wow, that apple risotto, pork, and cabbage all look delicious!

Can anyone point me toward Christmas food from E-R?

The Splendid Table has a bunch of things suitable for Xmas dinner, some even labelled as a Christmas Capon or holiday cakes, etc. I used the above mentioned onions for a festive dinner as I like at least one dish with a bit of sharpness at an unctuous meal.

I've been eying her Tortellini Pie, filled with meatballs that have been cooked in ragu then covered with a cinnamon custard before topping with a decorative crust. It and others are too sumptuous and/or complex to cook for everyday dinner. Some are also "conversation" pieces as they date from the Renaissance, perhaps earlier. The vegetable dishes similarly tend to have a twist that would make them work for special dinners. I'm to bring dessert for a large family Christmas dinner. My plan is to bring 2 or 3, including at least one of her heavily fruited cakes.


"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, this is really a great month to match up with Emilia-Romagna. Many elaborate and festive dishes to choose from that are also pretty unique as well.

I have made the capon recipe or at least used it as a basis before for a Holiday party and it's really good. And yes, capon is worth tracking down over turkey, in my opinion at least: a richer meat that isn't as bland as turkey sometimes can be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't have the Kaspar book, although I get her weekly email and really like her recipes. Do they tend to be from E-R? I didn't realize that.

I definitely don't need entirely vegetarian, just a goodly proportion of vegetarian dishes.

Mottmott, that tortellini pie sounds outrageous. I've made timballo before, but that sounds possibly even better.

I'm going to Google E-R and see what I can come up with.

edited to add a couple of recipe links:

here's one

another

link to Kaspar E-R recipes online


Edited by Abra (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd make all effort to track down the Splendid Table book. There's an abundance of festive dishes in there (including many variations on the tortellini pie). For the vegetarian guest, I'm thinking of the aforementioned sweet-n-sour onions (they are fantastic, even for a non-onion dish lover like me), the asparagus and hazelnut salad, and some kind of tortelloni, either with squash or just ricotta.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So, it needs to be entirely vegetarian?

Do you have Kasper's book?

Lots of great comments about Kasper's "The Splendid Table" ... but what about her other book "The Italian Country Table", also with about 200 recipe and also focused on E-R? Does anyone know this book?

As for continuing, I'm definitely in favor of this community continuing ... I can't contribute photos (kitchen is being remodeled), but I am an active reader and hope to become an active contributor ...


JasonZ

Philadelphia, PA, USA and Sandwich, Kent, UK

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Content

    • By Melania
      It's one o'clock on a warm summer's day in Florence, I'm on my way to get ingredients for lunch. The sun is high in the sky, the cobblestones are warm under my feet and the aroma of something delicious is in the air. My mind starts to drift to the onions, celery and tomatoes I need for my pasta sauce, oh and don't forget something sweet for dessert...this truly is la dolce vita.
       
      My thoughts are soon interrupted by an unwelcome "chiuso" sign on the door of my new favorite deli. The blinds are closed and the friendly owners are nowhere in sight. The reality of having my favorite pasta dish for lunch was slipping further and further away.
       
       
      What a nightmare! How can this be?
        A local passing by must have noticed my frustration.   "Signorina, è riposo. Tutto è chiuso!"
        Of course! How could I forget about the sacred Italian siesta?
        A siesta or riposo, as most Italians call it, is a time of rest. This time is usually around midday, or the hottest part of the day (very inconvenient if you're craving a bowl of pasta.) No one can really say where the tradition of the siesta originates, but many say it's all about food (no surprises there really).
        For many Italian families the main meal of the day is lunch. This heavy meal in the middle of the day is attributed to the standard Mediterranean diet: A minuscule breakfast of a coffee and pastry , a heavy lunch and an evening meal around 10 o'clock. The logic is that after such a heavy meal one would surely be drowsy and need to rest, no one can work efficiently on a full stomach!
        Post offices, car rentals, supermarkets and even coffee shops (in some smaller towns police stations too) all close their doors for a riposo. Everything comes to a standstill as every Italian goes home to kick of their shoes, enjoy a homemade lunch with family and bask in the Italian sunshine for three to four hours. This is serious business. One would not dare work for 8 hours straight. After their riposo most businesses open again around 4 o'clock and stay open till 7pm. Its the perfect balance between work and play and does wonders for your digestive system!
        "Grazie!" I thanked her for the reminder. The midday sun started to become unbearable. The streets had cleared with only a few tourists braving the midday heat still around. I thought about the strawberries I bought from the market earlier that week. Strawberries for lunch on my shaded balcony and maybe a nap afterwards sounded like my perfect riposo. The pasta will have to wait till 4.
               
           
    • By haresfur
      I found this article about arancino/arancina really interesting
       

    • By jennyandthejets
      I'll be in Naples for a few days next month and I wanted to try something traditional, and my friend recommended trying parmigiana. She said she loved it, but the problem is that she ate it at her Italian friend's house, and I won't be able to have that exact parmigiana. So, I did some research online and found a few restaurants that have good ratings and are serving allegedly great eggplant casserole. This place is 4 stars rated, but people seem not to agree whether the parmigiana is good or not.... On the other hand, this place has a great rating, appears when searching for the parmigiana, but nobody seems to write about it in their reviews. Finally, this one is said to have the best parmigiana in Naples (or in the world, for that matter), and I wanted to know if anyone had the so-called world's best?
      I would really appreciate if you could help me make the decision. Looking forward to your advice!

    • By alacarte
      I recently took a trip to Northern Italy, and was delighted to find that the cappuccino everywhere was just wonderful, without exception. Smooth, flavorful, aromatic perfect crema, strong but not too strong.
      Aside from the obvious answer (duh, Italians created cappuccino ), what makes Italian capp so fantastic, and how do I duplicate the effect here?
      I'm wondering if it's the water, the way the coffee is ground or stored, the machines used....I'm baffled.
      Also noticed that the serving size tended to be smaller than what I'm used to -- i.e. a small teacupful vs. a brimming mug or Starbucks supersize. Not sure why that is either.
      Grazie mille for any insight on this!
    • By Modernist Cuisine Team
      The Modernist Cuisine team is currently traveling the globe to research pizza and different pizza styles for our next book Modernist Pizza.  Nathan and the team will be in São Paulo and Buenos Aires soon. We'd love hear from the eGullet community—what pizzerias should they visit while they're there? You can read more about our next book Modernist Pizza here. Thanks in advance, everyone! 
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...