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Gourmet Pastas and Sauces on-line

a tavola - the cuisine of emilia romagna
(return to food)

Emilia Romagna takes its name from "Via Emilia, the ancient road from Rome to the Alps, and its capital Bologna, the most important town along the way. The region is an intensely cultivated plain with fields of wheat, rice and beet. Ravenna, a provincial town on the Adriatic Sea, boasts some of the finest Byzantine mosaics in Europe. The region famous for its pork butchers, salami, mortadella, and prosciutto di Parma, and, of course, Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar. Pasta here is varied and delicious: alla Bolognese, tortellini, cappelletti, and tortelli to name a few.

more emilia romagna....
* Ravenna Secrets
* Ravenna's open Market
* Emilian Cuisine
* What do you know about Emilia Romagna?
* Emilia Romagna region
* More Italian regions...

Parmigiano Reggiano
The Apennine hills and mountains, which produce excellent forage from uncontaminated pastureland and where livestock is raised in favourable environmental conditions, are the ideal place for the production of milk destined for Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, which as far back as the Roman era was considered the "king of cheeses" for its characteristics and nutritional value. Though livestock production has been revolutionised over the last fifteen years in the size of the farms and the use of modern technologies, the particular environmental, cultural, and traditional conditions have ensured that productivity has not been excessively increased to the detriment of quality. But what is it that makes Parmigiano-Reggiano so special? Certainly its full flavour, never excessive and always pleasant even when aged. Then there�s its excellent digestibility and large percentage of high quality protein, which make it particularly suitable for dietetic use. Deeply rooted in the culinary culture of the Emilia-Romagna region (and now throughout Italy), Parmigiano-Reggiano is an indispensable ingredient of world-famous dishes such as tortellini, cappelletti, ravioli, tortelloni, lasagna, etc.

Prosciutto di Parma
Prosciutto di Parma and Parma Hamrare two registered names for the same product: hams from specially raised pigs from north-central Italy, cured in the small prosciuttifici that dot the countryside around Parma, Italy.

During medieval times, hams from Parma were one of the delicacies featured on banquet tables. In fact, the pairing of melon or figs with Prosciutto di Parmar may have roots in the Roman custom of starting meals with fruit.

Traditionally, every Parma family in the countryside kept a pig, which was butchered in late fall. Most parts were preserved, but this was also a time of feasting on every part of the pig. The winter festival called the maialata continues to be celebrated as a time when area restaurants serve all manner of pork specialties. Until the 19th century, private homes were pressed into service during the curing season. With hams suspended from ceilings in every room, Parmas inhabitants literally ate, slept and breathed ham! Eventually, the home drying was supplanted by apartment houses with long narrow windows that opened to allow fresh air to circulate around the hams.

The legal requirements concerning the origin of the pigs and the place of curing are based on the principlesometimes called terroir, that soil, plant life, climate and traditional production methods interact to create a product with qualities that cannot be replicated elsewhere. Every ham must meet rigorous standards set and enforced by the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma, an association of more than two hundred producers, before earning the right to bear the five-point ducal crown mark. Because every step is documented, the production process is completely traceable.

Four ingredients are essential to the production of Prosciutto di Parma: Italian pigs, salt, air and time. Prosciutto di Parma is an all-natural ham--additives such as sugar, spices, smoke, water and nitrites are prohibited. The curing is controlled carefully so that the ham absorbs only enough salt to preserve it. By the end, a trimmed ham will have lost more than a quarter of its weight through moisture loss, helping to concentrate the flavor. The meat becomes tender and the distinctive aroma and flavor of Prosciutto di Parma emerge.

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
Balsamic vinegar belongs to the most ancient Modenese traditions. For centuries the production of balsamic vinegar in the dry attics of homes, passed on from generation to generation, was the prerogative of all families, with its destination limited to home use or, at most, offered as a special gift. The Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena stands out for its organoleptic characteristics - colour, density, fragrance, and flavour - which are the result of a period of ageing that can range from 12 to 25 years and beyond. Known and appreciated for centuries, still today the "secret" of balsamic vinegar, hidden within the series of barrels, is passed down from father to son.

For many centuries, the numerous chestnut forests found in the zones up to 700-800 metres elevation were one of the most important nutritional resources in the Apennines. Still today, high quality chestnuts are produced in "natural" cultivations, which use no pesticides or chemical fertilisers. In addition to raw consumption, chestnuts are still processed into flour after being dried on traditional racks or in modern drying facilities. Peeled using a special machine for chestnut "threshing", they are then ground in water-powered mills. The flour obtained, which has a high nutritional and energy value, is used in cooking for soups, bread, desserts, and in particular the well-known delicate ciacci (a traditional mountain sweet). For a number of years, the Modena East Apennine Mountain Community has worked to recover and promote chestnut cultivation. The activity carried out thus far has placed this zone in the forefront at the national level in the sector of chestnut cultivation. Both the chestnuts and marrons, as well as the products obtained from their processing, are identified by a special provincial mark of origin.


Prosciutto e Melone o Fichi - Proscuitto with Melon or Figs
The best prosciutto for this elegant dish is the delicate Prosciutto di Parma. A great play of sweet and salty. Serve with slices of fresh Italian bread.

Have the prosciutto sliced razor thin. Alternate thin slices of cantaloupe with the prosciutto. Alternatively, serve with fresh, ripe cold figs. For a buffet dinner or cocktail party, wrap the melon with the prosciutto in bite size pieces, sticking a toothpick in each piece for easy handling. Or simply place the wedges of melon on individual plates and drape the prosciutto over them. Have a pepper grater on hand as some like a few flecks of pepper on it.

Serves 6.



Passatelli in Brodo -- Passatelli in Broth
3 cups (150 g) freshly grated Parmigiano
7 ounces (weight; 175 g -- this should be about 2 cups) bread crumbs
4 eggs
A pinch of nutmeg
An ounce (25 g) of beef morrow
2 quarts (2 L) beef broth

Melt the beef marrow over a low flame. In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, cheese, eggs, melted morrow, and nutmeg. The resulting dough should be fairly firm; if it's not work in some more breadcrumbs. If it's ridged, soften it with a little white wine. Let the dough rest for a half hour, and in the meantime bring the broth to a boil. Fill your passatelli iron or potato ricer with the dough and squeeze it over the simmering broth, allowing the passatelli to drop into it. As soon as the passatelli have risen to the surface turn off the flame and let the soup sit for a few minutes. Transfer it to a tureen and serve it, with more grated cheese for those who want it.

Mr. Pradelli notes that around Imola and Castel San Pietro Terme cooks work a little grated lemon zest into the passatelli dough, and also that some people substitute unsalted butter for the beef morrow.

If you want richer passatelli, you can make them with meat. The procedure is the same, but you'll want:

1/4 pound (100 g) finely ground beef
5 ounces (weight; 125 g, which should be about a cup) bread crumbs
2 cups (100 g) freshly ground Parmigiano
2 ounces (50 g) finely ground chicken breast
1 ounce (25 g) beef morrow
3 eggs
A pinch of nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 quarts (2 L.) beef broth

Serves 6.

Source: Cosa Bolle in Pentola, the Newsletter


Ragu' alla Bolognese
This robust meat sauce from Bologna, in north central Italy, is one of the most popular pasta sauces. It can be served over spaghetti, rigatoni or any pasta with lots of surface area to hold the sauce.

1 onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T fresh parsley, minced
2 T olive oil
1/2 lb ground beef, veal, or pork. You can also use any leftover meat you might have
3 T butter
1 - 14 oz can tomatoes, pureed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb pasta, spaghetti, rigatoni, penne or conchiglie

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the vegetables and saut� till onions are transparent and all the vegetables are soft. Add the meat and brown over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and 1 tablespoon butter. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Cook the pasta and when ready, drain. Pour the sauce over the pasta, either individual plates or a large and warm bowl. Pass freshly grated Parmesan cheese at table.

This sauce freezes very well. Always good to have some on hand, so double or triple ingredients and freeze in airtight containers.

Serves: 4 - 6.

Sugo alla Gorgonzola
This blue-veined cheese made of cow's milk with a strong flavor produced in Northern Italy. It melts quickly and works well in sauces whether for vegetables or pasta, as in this recipe.

8 oz Gorgonzola cheese, broken up with a fork
1 T unsalted butter
1/4-cup heavy cream
1/2-cup milk salt
freshly ground white pepper
a pinch sage fresh-2 or 3 leaves (optional)
1 lb spaghetti or spaghettini, penne or fettuccine

Cook the pasta. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan (a double boiler can be used but it will take longer) over very low heat. Add the Gorgonzola, crushing it further with a fork. Add the heavy cream, milk, nutmeg and sage stirring continuously with a wooden spoon till smooth and velvety in consistency. Remove sage if used. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat but keep warm. Drain pasta. If saucepan is large enough to accommodate the pasta, add pasta to Gorgonzola mixture, otherwise place pasta in a warm bowl. Pour sauce onto pasta and mix very well adding a little more white pepper. Serve immediately on preheated dishes.

Serves: 4 - 6.

Fettuccine con Prosciutto di Parma e panna
Parma in Emilia-Romagna is famous for its prosciutto and of course Parmesan cheese. Prosciutto di Parma is considered by most to be the best there is. Others consider prosciutto di San Daniele equal to if not better. This recipe is a scrumptious way to combine the two. Try to get a top-quality prosciutto for this wonderful sauce as well as fresh pasta, either homemade or store bought fresh pasta.

1-cup heavy cream
1/4 lb prosciutto, cut to 1-inch long strips
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg yolk
salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 T butter
1 lb fresh pasta, homemade or store bought

Cook pasta. While pasta cooks, mix the cream, ham, 1/2 cup Parmesan, egg yolk and a few grinds of the pepper mill in a large bowl till smooth. Place sauce in a heavy pan and warm over very low heat, stirring quite frequently, about 3 minutes. When pasta is done, drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Transfer the just drained past to a warm bowl. Add the butter and toss well. Now, pour the cream sauce over the buttered pasta. If not moist enough for your taste, add a tablespoon of cooking liquid for desired moisture. Alternatively, use a large enough pan for the preparation of the sauce and transfer pasta directly into the pan.

Serves: 4 - 6.

The preparation of tortellini is divided in two parts: the pasta and the filling. The following quantities are for 4 people.

4 fresh eggs of hen
12 oz. of wheat flour "0"

If you want make a good pasta, you need to use a wood rolling-pin and you have to be a good worker to roll out the pasta, otherwise you can make irregolar thickness or holes. Make a fountain with flour and in its center break your eggs. Then, you knead all with your (clean) hands until you obtain a soft and consinstent mixture. Roll out with the rolling-pin until you have a thin and regular foil. Be careful: don't leave dry your pasta, because tortellini will not close well.

Then, divide the foil into strips wide about 5-7 cm, and cut little squares about 2-3 cm. Place a little bit of filling in the center of each sqare, then close it. Closing Tortellini is art. Firstly you fold the square diagonally. Then push the edge of square to close the triangle, without leaving openings in the Tortellino. At this point, turn the Tortellino to the bottom and roll it on your forefinger, keeping the folded point at external side. Seal the two others angles. Now, you can admire the Tortellino.

Filling recipes change from place to place.
3 oz of Mortadella (Bologna sausage, baloney)
3 oz of pork loin
3 oz of beef rump
3 spoons of Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese)
1 egg of hen
Salt (a little)
Nutmeg (optional)

All ingredients are mixed together, after they are minced, to obtain a soft mixture.

Serves: 4.


Asparagi al Prosciutto -- Asparagus with Prosciutto
This is a specialty of Parma, the Emilian city that has given us both prosciutto dolce and Parmigiano. It's drawn from Alessandro Molinari Pradelli's La Cucina dell'Emilia Romagna

2 1/2 pounds (1.2 k) asparagus
12 slices prosciutto di Parma
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmigiano

Wash the asparagus, tie the bunches together and trim the ends so the stalks are all the same length. Then boil the bunches, standing upright, in about three inches of lightly salted water until the tips droop, 5-8 minutes.

While the asparagus is cooking, take an oven-proof serving dish, melt half the butter in it, and dust it with half the grated cheese. Also, preheat your oven to 360 F (180C).

Drain them and divide them into groups of 2-3. Wrap the groups in the slices of prosciutto, leaving the tips free, and put them into the oven proof dish. Dot the bunches with the remaining butter, sprinkle them with cheese, and bake them for 6-8 minutes.

Serves 6.

Source: Italian Cuisine


Fiori di Zucca alla Certosina -- Zucchini Flowers Certosina-Style
Here's a simple, zesty recipe fro zucchini flowers drawn from Alessandro Molinari Pradelli's La Cucina Dell'Emilia Romagna.

18 fresh zucchini flowers
3 cloves garlic, minced
A teaspoon of minced parsley
6 anchovy filets, rinsed, boned and minced
Olive oil or rendered lard (about a quarter cup)
Salt & pepper to taste

Begin by gently washing the zucchini flowers, patting them dry, and removing the pistils. Saut� the minced herbs and anchovies in the oil, in a skillet, and when the garlic has begun to darken (don't let it burn), add the zucchini flowers. Cook, stirring them gently about, and seasoning them to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. It won't take long for them to be done.

Serves 6.

Source: Italian Cuisine

Finocchi in Salsa -- Fennel in Egg Sauce
A delicate fennel dish that will work nicely with a succulent roast or a stew. The recipe is drawn from Alessandro Molinari Pradelli's La cucina dell'Emilia Romagna.

3 bulbs fennel
1/3 cup + a tablespoon (75 g) unsalted butter

For the sauce:
1 3/4 cups (180 g) flour
2 ladles of good broth
6 yolks
The juice of 2 lemons

Wash the fennel bulbs, quarter them, and boil them until fork tender in lightly salted water. Drain them well, heat the butter in a skillet, and brown them. In the meantime prepare the sauce: Begin by whisking the yolks until they are pale yellow and frothy. Set a pot over a low flame with the flour and add the broth, stirring it into the flour so as to form a paste that will be fairly dilute by the time you have finished stirring in the broth. Then stir in the yolks and the lemon juice, add salt and pepper to taste, and heat, stirring gently, until the sauce thickens somewhat (it should have the consistency of crema pasticcera).

Transfer the fennel bulbs to a warm platter, pour the sauce over them, and serve.

Serves 6.

Source: Italian Cuisine


Strawberry Sorbet with Balsamic Vinegar and Amaretti Cookies If you're in a last-minute rush for dessert, use purchased sorbet.

2 10-ounce packages frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups quartered fresh strawberries
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar*
4 amaretti (Italian macaroons),* crumbled

Balsamic vinegar and amaretti are available at specialty foods stores, Italian markets and some supermarkets. Place first 3 ingredients in blender. Pulse until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to ice cream maker.Process according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer sorbet to container and freeze. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead.)

Place fresh strawberries in medium bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and toss. Add vinegar and toss. Let stand 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Scoop sorbet into bowls. Divide strawberries over sorbet. Spoon over juices accumulated in bowl. Sprinkle cookies over strawberries and serve.

Serves 4.

Cranberry Fig Compote
Port and orange juice accent this cranberry and dried fig sauce.

1 12-ounce bag cranberries
1 1/2 cups ruby Port
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
2/3 cup sugar
18 dried black Mission figs, quartered lengthwise
1 tablespoon grated orange peel

Combine all ingredients in heavy large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until cranberries are soft and figs are plump, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. (Can be prepared 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Serve cold or at room temperature.)

Serves 3 cups.


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