This week we are hosting an article published on Eataly's website that covers the gastronomy of Emilia Romagna. With the Chef Tour of Emilia Romagna coming up in June, we want to get deeper into traditional products and cuisine of this Italian region.
Nestled between the Alps and the Apennines, Emilia-Romagna owes a great deal to the unique nature of its territory when it comes to explaining its rich culinary tradition, which is often revered as one of the finest in Italy. The Po River, which runs across the whole of the region, marks the boundary between the fertile soil of the Pianura Padana Valley, the agricultural heart of northern Italy, and the gentle curves of the pre-Apennines on the border with Toscana. Following the course of the Po, the east of the region opens widely onto the Adriatic Sea with a low and uniform coastline and shallow waters.
Once marshland, the Pianura Padana is today one of the most fertile areas of the country following a long history of cultivation. Perhaps the first to spot the enormous agricultural potential of the region were the Romans, who made it a key center for the empire’s food production. Often dubbed ‘the food valley’, it is abundant in cereal crops and cattle rearing and home to some of the most renowned food producers in the country.
While institutionally one, from a cultural and gastronomical point of view Emilia-Romagna
In the western part of the region, from Bologna to the Adriatic coast, lies Romagna. Here, unlike in Emilia, the Byzantine heritage influenced many aspects of Romagna’s culture; it is still evident in the stunning churches and mosaics of the city of Ravenna and in the prominence of terracotta-based cooking methods. Influenced more by the closeness of the sea than by the aristocratic tradition of the courts, Romagna’s gastronomic tradition is simpler and closer to the land, but just as varied and deep as its counterpart in Emilia.
INGREDIENTS & FLAVORS
When it comes to ingredients, Emilia-Romagna’s track record is impressive. With more than 200 traditional products and 26 ingredients with geographically protected status, it is no wonder that the region is considered to be the gastronomic heart of Italy.
The geography of the territory has a lot to do with this. Low altitudes and rich, fertile soil alternating with mountains and the coast create an incredible range of spaces for gastronomic variety to thrive. Climate also plays a fundamental role, with its notoriously long and rigid winters followed by hot and humid summers. The
The abundance of pastures in the fertile corridor of the Pianura Padana means milk and butter are of exceptional quality. Parmigiano Reggiano, known worldwide for its firm yet delicate taste, is one of the greatest examples of how local produce is transformed into a premium product.
Parmigiano is the result of a delicate balance of factors; it is "made" by the knowledgeable hands of the
With its hay-colored, firm and slightly granular paste, it has long been a key condiment of many dishes in Emilia-Romagna – fresh
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Alongside the Parmigiano Reggiano,
With its characteristic sweetness and almost veil-like consistency, the Prosciutto Crudo di Parma (or Parma ham, as it’s more commonly known) is considered the "king" of salumi. Like Parmigiano Reggiano, it is the result of a careful balance of quality ingredients and a completely natural ageing process; while the addition of salt is important, it is the flow of warm sea breeze coming from the nearby region of Liguria that has always played a key role in drying the meat and giving its distinctive delicate flavor. Anyone working at a
In and around the hills near the city of Parma, there are
But quality salumi doesn’t stop here. Produced in the Bassa (the low Pianura Padana) along the river Po, around the towns of Busseto, Zibello, Soragna, Polesine, Sissa, Roccabianca,
Culatello is often considered to be a niche product in the world of salumi; a real delicacy, one that is best enjoyed simply. It is perfect
Another gem in the crown of the Bassa is the
Further west in the region, Mortadella di Bologna, with its distinctive cylindrical shape, pink color, and slightly spiced flavor, also holds its place as a giant (quite literally, given its size!) in the range of Emilia-Romagna’s salumi.
If exceptional milk and meat are
Made from simmered grape juice (usually the local Trebbiano variety, but also from Lambrusco and Ancellotta), it is slowly matured through a process of acidification in a series of casks made from different types of wood. Complexly perfumed with a delicate balance between sweet and sour, it is traditionally used to
In Romagna, perhaps one of the most notable ingredients is the
If the fertile soil of the Pianura Padana and the breeze of the coast are key to the production of so many ingredients, so is the mountainous region of the
In Bologna, a plate of fresh tagliatelle dressed with copious amounts of ragù
Stuffed pasta in Emilia-Romagna is known to have a variety of names, almost as many as the towns that proudly produce them. From Parma to Reggio Emilia, Modena and Bologna you will find
Another classic of Christmas festivities in Emilia-Romagna is the
If winters in Emilia Romagna are all about fresh pasta and pork meat, its summers have a distinctly different taste. On the Adriatic coast, the Piadina Romagnola is the undisputed protagonist of the season. Born in the coastal towns of Ravenna,
It is a round flatbread made of flour,
Piadina can be stuffed with a variety of cheeses,
Alongside the Piadina, another traditional snack from the street food scene is the Gnocco Fritto di Modena (also known as
Editor's note: This article by Caterina Violi first appeared on Great Italian Chefs. Caterina is a food lover, researcher, and freelance journalist from Parma, Emilia-Romagna. When she is not writing, she teaches Capoeira in Maremma, Toscana. Explore more cultural and culinary articles from some of Italy’s best chefs and writers!
Discover the flavors of Emilia-Romagna firsthand and join the Emilia Romagna Chef Bike Tour.