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.
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
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 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.
Sogliano al Rubicone is a small but greatly loved town in Romagna. Today, it is famous above all for its celebrated 'formaggio di fossa', or 'cheese from the pit' which sounds a lot less appetizing than it actually is. In fact, it's a genuine local delicacy.
The practice of burying cheese dates at least back to the 15th century. A legend credits the people of Sogliano with wanting to protect their possessions from the invading Aragonese troops by placing what they had underground. When peace was restored they found that their cheese had acquired an extraordinary taste. The original pits were carved out of the tufa rock near the Rivers Rubicone and Marecchia and were used for storing grain. They are typically 3 meters high and two meters in circumference.
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.
Bologna Turismo produced an interesting guide to the porticoes of the city a little while back. It has the evocative title of 'Musica per Archi e Portici - note per un itinerario' in Bologna. Translated that's 'Notes for an itinerary - music for arches and porches. It's always more lyrical in Italian.
But it is certainly true that all the great composers have walked the historical centre of Bologna at one time. The guide mentions Mozart, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Rossini and Donizetti. If you know where to look, the alleys, ways and hidden paths of the city have left traces and clues to their presence.