This region is Emilia and Romagna. In short, Emilia means ham, cheese and Ferrari; Romagna means Sangiovese, the Adriatic Coast and cycling. Many more reasons to go below.
Lambrusco wine has regained a certain credibility recently. Not least thanks to a concerted effort by the Consorzio del Marchio Storico dei Lambruschi Modenesi. This no profit entity guarantees the authenticity of the product and the cultivation of the 'lambrusca' grape in a designated territory.
The grape was known in ancient Etruscan and Roman times. Greek physician Discoride, Cato and Pliny the Elder all spoke fondly of the characteristics of version of the wine in their times and documents from the late 17th century recording "strong red grapes" from various areas within the Modena territory including Sorbara, perhaps the definitive territory for Lambrusco.
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is one of Italy's great cheeses, but whatever you do don't say 'parmesan cheese'. A recent law has asserted that 'parmesan cheese' is not parmigiano-reggiano cheese and the name cannot be used to fool the customer into thinking the cheese they are buying is the real thing. Above all, look for the distinctive logo of the Consorzio Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano to be sure, both on the cheese itself or on the plastic packet.
This itinerary to discover the homeland of the great Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, centers around the city of Busseto in the province of Parma. The are eleven locations to discover; from his birthplace in Roncole to the Teatro G. Verdi in Piazza Verdi, Busseto. Verdi was born on the 10 October 1813 and his family home became a national monument in 1901. His birth certificate was written in French as the commune di Busseto had been annexed by France and incoporated into the Department of Taro at the time.
Formagio di Fossa or 'pit cheese" is produced in an area which borders Emilia Romagna and Le Marche and through which flow the Rivers Rubicone and Marecchia. The origins of the cheese were documented in 15th century and speak of the people of Sogliano al Rubicone concealing their possessions underground from the Aragonese troops who were plundering the country.
This is no doubt true but the custom of storing cheese in pits may have been happening a lot earlier (see 'Unearthing' below). Such pits were already in existence in the Middle Ages and were dug into the soft tufa rock under Sogliano to store grain and act as early refigerators. Even today they are different shapes and sizes, although a flask shape is more common, typically three metres high including the neck and a base of about two metres in circumference.
Cappelletti are small pasta squares filled with pork and ricotta cheese, particularly popular as part of Christmas Day lunch in regions such as Friuli, Emilia Romagna, Umbria and Le Marche. They are typically consumed in a brodo or broth.
500gr flour, 7 eggs, ½ turkey breast, 100gr pork tenderloin, 100gr ricotta cheese, 100gr stracchino cheese, 1 slice mortadella, 50gr. parmesan cheese, 30gr. butter, sage, rosemary, lemon, salt, pepper, nutmeg
The first half of October sees the not to missed eel festival of Comacchio in the province of Ferrara.
The Sagra dell'Anguilla is surprisingly only a decade old in its current form, but they must have been eating the things since Roman times.
We have been to Comacchio in mid July and enjoyed a grilled plate of the slippery fish. But, although eels can be eaten throughout the year, the atmosphere of the festival at the self declared Italian capital of eels must be something special.
Surrounded by the waters of the 'Valli', Comacchio is made up of small canals, huge bridges and popular traditions.
The event runs over two weekends and includes theatre performances, cooking competitions, exhibitions and the not to be missed balloon flights over the territory, as well as boat excursions.
Our press copy also mentions tastings of other local products accompanied with 'vini delle sabbie' or wines of the sands. Very mysterious, but expect to be eating 'maccheroncini al sugo di pesce', 'fritto misto di valle', 'anguilla ai ferri con polenta', 'bodetto d’anguilla con polenta', 'seppie with peas' and 'dolcetto Comacchiese'.
You can always take the autostrada along the Padana plain between Bologna and Modena.
But given the choice between fast freeze wrapped autogrill sandwiches or slow wine tasting in the historical hamlets of this corner of Emilia, well...
Take half a day out to by travelling the hills between the two cities by following the gourmet itinerary proposed by the Strada dei Vini e dei Sapori.
Your menu along the way should be salami, cheese, balsamic vinegar, cherries and traditional dishes like tortellini, tagliatelle and roasts. Time it right you will run into a local festival or two.
For example, the second weekend of December sees the master salami makers of Castelnuovo di Rangone cooking the biggest pork filled pig’s trotter or cotechino you'll ever be lucky to lay eyes upon.
Around 600kg, it is the highlight of the Superzampone festival - http://zampone.com
This recipe is 'passatelli' pasta with formaggio di fossa cheese in a chicken stew'. It was sent to us by the Albergo Ristorante I Tre Re which is located between Rimini and San Marino. It is very easy to make once, of course, you have managed to get your hands on some formaggio di fossa or 'pit cheese'.
300 gr. grated bread, 200 gr. grated 'formaggio di fossa' cheese, 100 gr. grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, 5 eggs, nutmeg, grated lemon rind.