The first courses are the pin of the Emilian cuisine. First of all, the tagliatelle, thin and firm; they are seasoned with Bolognese-based meat and tomato sauce or diced ham sautéed in butter. A variant is the green tagliatelle, in the mixture enters the chard or the spinach, particularly tasty and delicate are then the green nettles with nettle. Baked lasagna is made with green pastry, a rich dish with alternating layers of Bolognese sauce and béchamel and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, similar in some ways to the “vincisgrassi” from the Marche.
A symbol of Bolognese and Modena cuisine, tortellini belong to the great family of pastry filled with more or less noble ingredients: a family of ancient origin (it is already present in medieval cookbooks) and widely distributed throughout central and northern Italy. Traditionally served in meat broth, they are also consumed with cream. Among the other stuffed pasta, mention should be made of tortelli (or tortelloni) made with lean meat, or even cappelletti di magro in Romagna, which are characterized by their size (they are much larger) and by the filling of ricotta, parmesan and parsley. There are also tortelloni stuffed with excellent delicatessen products such as mortadella and ham, strictly uncooked together with the other ingredients based on cooked meat, eggs, Parmigiano Reggiano and nutmeg or with ricotta and spinach compensation, the refined anolini from Piacenza and pumpkin tortelli (similar to those from Mantua, there are a variant from Piacenza and one from Reggio, they are also called cappellacci di zucca in the Ferrara area); not to forget the Reggio Emilia herbaceous, sort of savory pie with spinach and other vegetables, all seasoned with large doses of Parmigiano Reggiano and baked in the oven.
As for the middle dishes: the veal cutlet alla bolognese, is a rich variant of the Milanese cutlet, as well as another variant, prepared instead with the horse, is the Piacenza faldìa; the veal fesa (cooked in butter with ham, parmesan cheese and truffle) is a respectable example of Grande Cuisine translated into Petronian; the beef stew Piacenza-style, vigorous and fragrant with spices, has illustrious and joint ancestors scattered here and there in the peninsula: the most characteristic are the versions with horse meat and donkey. Particular are the pìcula ‘d cavall (dish of minced horse) and the stracotto d’asinina from Piacenza, a military town where horse meat was easily available, as well as stuffed vegetables from the Piacenza Apennines or the tip of stuffed veal (“button” or “pocket”) leaving a Ligurian matrix uncovered. Widespread along the Po is the consumption of the eel.
Emilia boasts a production of cured meats: the mortadella from Bologna, made with pork and beef, is a sausage of noble birth and a superb taste, unjustly underestimated for its mild price; the mortadella of Modena is of pure pork. Parmesan hams reach an admirable balance of sweetness and flavor. The culatello, obtained with the “heart” of the ham, is a royal salami, even if the bow is tied.
A Felino, in the Parma area, produces a salami seasoned in a workmanlike manner and with an intense taste, another superb salami produced in the area produced is the shoulder of San Secondo, both in the most famous cooked version and in the rarer raw version. Very well known are the zamponi and cotechino from Modena: both enter, steaming, into mixed boiled meats from Bologna, Modena and Reggio. The salama da sugo of Ferrara, very tasty and spicy, is a fragment of Renaissance cuisine that has come down to us. Very famous and famous is the Coppa Piacentina, produced by D.O.P., as well as the pancetta and salame piacentini (Piacentino is the only Italian province to boast three D.O.P. cold cuts). We also mention the fresh and dry cracklings (from Zocca), the cicciolata, the coppa di testa, the “salami rosa”, the rolled pancetta, the salami of Ferrara (garlic), the “mad” sausage. Remember the raw shoulder, a rare and connoisseur salami, typical of the lower Parma area.
Known all over the world and rightly called “the king of cheeses”, Parmigiano-Reggiano is an obligatory ingredient in numerous traditional and newly minted dishes from Emilia and other regions, even if its unparalleled fragrance is appreciated above all – and especially if it is very old – when it is eaten naturally, in small flakes. In the province of Piacenza, instead, Grana Padano and Provolone Val Padana are produced. Less famous than parmesan but certainly worth mentioning are also: the squacquerone, the casatella and the caciotta of Castel San Pietro Terme. Among the desserts stand out those of Renaissance ancestry, rich in almonds, honey and spices: the Carthusian (or Panspeziale) and the rice cake of Bologna, the cake Barozzi di Vignola (MO), the spongata of Brescello and Busseto, the pampepato of Ferrara. Not to be forgotten, next to these, some modest but widespread popular desserts such as frappe (or sfrappole), castagnole, ciambella (also known with different dialectal names, such as buslàn, bensone, belsone or brazadèla), Reggio’s Reggio Emilia Emilia.
We also mention the Zuccherini montanari (typical of Porretta), the Panone, the Fave dei Morti, the Torta di tagliatelline, the desserts with mascarpone, the raviole di San Giuseppe, the “zuppa inglese” (according to a typical recipe from Bologna).
Emilia, in the lowland areas, does not offer a great variety of wines. Lambrusco in the dry, light and sparkling version, goes well with the fat and tasty dishes typical of the Emilian cuisine, representing the right contrast; in the lovable version it is a dessert or conversation wine.
The DOC Lambrusco wines produced in the province of Modena are Lambrusco di Sorbara, Salamino di Santa Croce and Grasparossa di Castelvetro. Lambrusco Reggiano is produced in the province of Reggio Emilia. In the hilly areas, noteworthy wines are produced such as the Pignoletto of the Bolognese hills, or the Malvasia, the Gutturnio, the Ortrugo and the Bonarda produced in the Piacenza area under the Colli Piacentini label. In the area of Scandiano the Bianco di Scandiano (DOC) is also produced in the Secco and Dolce versions.
Also worthy of attention are the red wines from Bosco Eliceo (Ferrara and Ravenna) or Sauvignon (also passito) and Cabernet Sauvignon (in the Bologna area).