Emilia Romagna is renowned as the gastronomic heartland of Italy. This intensely passionate countryside is famous for homemade pastas, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto and Parmigiano cheese, among many other staples of Italian cuisine. Throughout the region, each and every town has its own food specialties which are truly remarkable and unique.
Bordered by six other regions, this extremely fertile land skirts both the Po River and the Apennines. Most of the region’s important towns lie on the Via Emilia, a road built in Roman times that cuts a path from Piacenza at the top of the region to Rimini on the Adriatic Sea. The area from Bologna to the north is Emilia; from Bologna to the south is Romagna. The region’s capital is Bologna, which is located just about dead center and draws characteristics from both Emilia and Romagna. The foods of both regions are robust, flavorful, legendary and distinctive.
Emilia-Romagna is the motherland of homemade pasta. In Emilia Romagna, tagliatelle, lasagne, and tortellini are favorites and unparalleled to any other preparation in Italy. The homemaker, called “azdora” in dialect, is the cornerstone around which the entire family revolves and grows. The traditionally matriarchal culture makes the azdora the queen of the household. The azdora is in charge of preparing pasta at lightning speed with the region’s trademark one-handled rolling pin.
In Parma they say “Il maiale e’ come la musica di Verdi: tutto buono, niente da buttar via” (“The pig is like the music of Verdi: it’s all good, there’s nothing to throw away.”). And indeed pork is a cornerstone of Emilia-Romagna’s cuisine. Prosciutto, the most famous of Italy’s pork products, is made in Parma (pigs feed on the whey of Parmigiano region, which is said to make them fatter and sweeter than in other regions). Coppa and pancetta are specialties of Piacenza in the north, just above Parma. The delicate meat that is often passed off in other countries as bologna, which in fact the famed Mortadella of Bologna. Moving South, Romagna is the land of homemade salame.
Romagna also has a strong tradition of fish dishes, which find their apotheosis in brodetto, the most flavorful of fish soups. Parmigiano Reggiano, the unrivaled king of cheese (each fat wheel is made from 170 gallons of milk), has been made in the provinces of Parma, Reggio, and Emilia for over 700 years. So revered is Parmigiano in this region that it is among the first foods given to babies!
Another of Emilia-Romagna’s great culinary contributions (as if there aren’t enough already) is balsamic vinegar, which has been made in Modena for centuries and is still produced in the traditional methods and regulated by the state. (Edited, from A.G. Ferrari’s website)
Hand printed linens are one the oldest artisan crafts in Romagna. Using hand-carved wood block prints and colors made with natural ingredients, artisans have been making these beautiful linens since the Middle Ages. The patterns were inspired by rural life. Grapes, wheat, the rooster, sunflowers were the prevalent regional symbols. Later, the designs were expanded to include motifs from embroideries, architectural friezes, and other patterns from different ages. In addition to the traditional rust color, made with iron dioxide (rust), flour, and vinegar, linens are also printed in deep sea blue and earthy dark green, reflecting the tones of the region. A handful of artisan workshops have united into the Association of Romagna Linen Printers, and they still hand-print all their products. Each workshop proudly uses their own name on the label, but they all share a common association logo which guarantees the manufacturing quality and the use of the traditional printing method. Don’t forget to bring your table measurements with you in you are interested in these very special linens!
Formaggio di Fossa- Pit Cheese
The name of “IL FOSSA” from Sogliano al Rubicone derives from the fact that this cheese is allowed to ripen in special underground pits (in Italian “fosse”) probably dating back to the Middle Ages. These pits, dug out of tufa rock, can be found in the village of Sogliano al Rubicone belonging to the Province of Forli’-Cesena and bordering the territories of the Provinces of Rimini and Pesaro-Urbino. These three provinces represent the typical production area of “Il Fossa” cheese. The technique to ripen cheese in pits has unknown origins. However, this peculiar cheese is mentioned in two inventories of 1497 and 1498 from which it emerges that the cheese did not belong to the pit owner, thus proving the usage to rent the ripening pits. These same pits were used to house wheat in order to protect it against robberies by solidiers. Traditionally, cheese wheels were pitted late in August and September and pits were re-opened on November 25th, St. Catherine’s Day. Pitting cheese during the autumn had two primary reasons. On one hand, the period of maximum milk production was (and still is, though to a lower extent) the spring-summer time due to a richer pasture and the need to turn milk into cheese and stock it for less productive months. On the other hand, one had cheese available also in winter, and as fresh and tasty as in summer.
The cheese appears strongly deformed with respect to its initial cylindrical shape due to the anaerobic fermentation process which makes it’s soften and, consequently, deform. Such deformation also depends on the fact that cheese wheels are pitted one onto the other. Even the cheese rind and texture are not distinguishable, both appearing compact and crumbly. The color varies from white to straw; the initial mild and almost sweet taste gets increasingly spicy with a bitter after-taste. The cheese has a special earthy perfume.
Faience or faïence is the conventional name in English for fine tin-glazed earthenware on a delicate pale buff body. The name faïence is simply the French name for Faenza, in the Romagna, Italy, where a painted majolica ware on a clean, opaque pure-white ground, was produced for export as early as the fifteenth century. More info at http://www.faenza-faience.com/ceramica.cfm. Pictures of the various styles are available here.