Emilia Romagna, in northern Italy, has few rivals when it comes to its breadth of local typical foods on offer. With 41 PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) products, several Slow Food Presidia foods, a long tradition of local dishes and traditional recipes that have become famous all over the world (suffice to mention tortellini and lasagna), the region also boasts the best restaurant in the world in Modena – Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana.
There are many culinary experiences to be had in the region, so many that you are likely to get lost. So we've have selected 8 Emilia Romagna typical foods, representing just a tiny part of the heritage of the region, but a great starting point to discover the land of piadine kiosks and where the scent of happiness rises from the ragus, and where cheeses are aged in pits.
It would be too easy to talk about Culatello and Parmigiano Reggiano, Mortadella and balsamic vinegar. We went in search of lesser-known specialties worth a taste.
1. ANGUILLA MARINATA DELLE VALLI DI COMACCHIO (Marinate Eel of the Comacchio Valleys)
The eel is a fascinating fish, as unappealing in appearance as it is tasty. This one comes from the valleys of Comacchio, its region of preference. Since the fish are available for a limited period (November to January ), they are traditionally cooked on spits over an open fire and then put them in brine inside "zangolini" (wooden containers), where they are marinated for months in vinegar and salt.
Photo: Fratelli Salini
With a musky aroma and a spicy, intense flavour that lingers, the first taste of mariola is never forgotten. The traditional sausage from both Parma and Piacenza, is formed in a characteristic round shape, and comes both cooked and uncooked: traditionally, the first version was the inferior version, and the second richer.
A sweet and delicate cheese little known outside the region because it's (almost) impossible to transport it: it's produced from October to March, and should be eaten up to a few days after production. The curd – cow or sheep's milk – is not broken and is seasoned with salt and a mass of fern leaves. It was first mentioned back in 1515.
4. SALE MARINO ARTIGIANALE DI CERVIA (Artisanal Sea Salt from Cervia)
Photo: Italian Botanical Heritage
In the midst of so many foreign gourmet salts, this is the local Italian choice: a jar of salt from Cervia: an unrefined sea salt, rich in trace elements, with a sweeter taste. This area has produced salt since Etruscan times, and today the Saline Nature Reserve is a protected natural area.
5. Vacca Bianca Modenese (White Cows of Modena)
Photo: La Grande Bouffe
In a region rich in the so-called "rare breeds" of animals, both beef and pork rearing is plentiful. However, worth a mention are the white cattle of Modena: once threatened with extinction there are now a few hundred. Their milk is particularly suited to the production of Parmigiano Reggiano, but their meat is also good for eating.
6. COPPIA FERRARESE IGP
Picture : Flavors Ferraresi
This unusual looking 'twisted bread' from Ferrara has an impressive history dating back to the 13th century. The centre is soft and should be eaten fresh, and the long ends last longer and are excellent eaten wrapped in slices of mortadella or ham.
7. PERA COCOMERINA (Cocomerina Pear)
One of the so-called forgotten fruits, this special pear is now being rediscovered by small specialist producers. Small and fragrant the pear from Cocomerina in the Romagnolo Apennines has a particularly sweet flavour and an intense aroma, but also a red colour that makes it unique.
8. PATATA DI TOLÈ
Photo: Events and Festivals
For the people of Bologna DOC the only vegetables to consider are potatoes, especially those from Tole in the Emilian Apennines, where potatoes with yellow or white flesh grow. They lend themselves to countless uses: the former are very good fried or baked, while the latter can be made into dumplings or mashed.