Today is the most highly anticipated day of our culinary tour in Italy. We are preparing foods from the Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna regions. Emilia-Romagna includes Bologna, the city in Italy I am most familiar with due to my travels. Bologna is know as la grassa or “the fat one” due to its abundance of wonderful food. I can tell you from first hand experience, food in Bologna is buonissimo (finger in cheek – as the Italians would do)!
An outdoor cafe in Bologna – besides its food, it is famous for these arched coverings over the sidewalks.
Emilia Romagna is located in Central Italy. It is responsible for many wonderful artisan products we are all familiar with such as Parmesan-Reggiano, balsamic vinegar of Modena, prosciutto di Parma, mortadella (bologna to us), and ragu (this region’s famous meat sauce). This region is also the home of many kinds of stuffed egg noodle pastas including tortellini, lasagna, and cappelletti (triangular shaped ravioli). You can find more imitation versions of these products than the real thing today in America. By reading the label carefully or going to an Italian market, you can taste the authentic product. I highly recommend doing so. The American imitation is a far cry from the original Italian product and not nearly as tasty. Once you try real Parmesan-Reggiano you will not go back to the plastic container, fluffy, shaker stuff. I find you have to use so much of that stuff to get any flavor – where with Parmesan Reggiano, it has such a wonderful and strong flavor, that a little goes a long way.
Florence at night – viewed across Il Arno
Tuscany is the region just south of Emilia Romagna, but still in central Italy. This region includes Florence, its capital, which is another city in Italy I have spent time in. My best memory is of a flavor of gelato there named for the Medici family – crema di Medici. It was delicioso! The best I have had in all my life (and that says a lot). Tuscans bake a salt-free bread that they make and use in many ways. Panzanella is their famous bread salad. Crostini are well known and popular in this region and abroad. To other Italians, the Tuscans are known as mangiafagioli, or “bean-eaters”. Most commonly that bean is a small white bean called cannellini. It is used in ribollita, the famous bean, cabbage and onion soup. Ribollita is sometimes thickened with chunks of their famous bread. Black truffles flourish in Umbria and are shaved onto brudschetta and over pasta.
A small town in Tuscany we passed through
Each house in Tuscany had its own vineyard and kitchen garden growing out back.
Just writing about these regions is making me salvate. I recall packing my suitcase with tortellini and little jars of truffle sauce to bring back to America after my visit. I have yet to find a tortellini of equal savory, soft, seasoned, deliciousness in America. I have also yet to find an authentic truffle oil or sauce that is not outrageously priced. If you love food, and have thought about travel abroad, this is the place to go. More to come after class… for now enjoy the pictures from my travels (which unfortunately, did not include the food we ate).