Food & Drink

Region home to some of Italy's best

Emilia-Romagna contains some of the greatest treasures of Italian cuisine. Cities like Parma, Modena and Bologna lend their names to famous products like Prosciutto Di Parma, Parmesan Reggiano, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, and Ragu Bolognese.

Just imagine trying to cook without Parmesan Reggiano and give thanks for Emilia-Romagna.

To many people, Bologna is the gastronomic capital of Italy. The city is known as “Bologna La Grassa” or Bologna the Fat. After my course, I may be known as Joe the Fat – I feel my borders expanding.

Bologna is famous for mortadella, the often-huge yet delicate cured meat invented by the Romans about 2,000 years ago. It's nothing like its U.S. stepchild, bologna.

Fresh pasta is the common denominator for the region. Pasta in Emilia-Romagna is a rich egg pasta, typically very yellow from yolks. It is amazing to see someone roll out a ball of pasta to the size of a bed sheet and use the matterello (a long rolling pin) to hold it up high like a curtain so you can see through it, all in about two minutes.

There are several reasons the region has so many high-quality products. The geography creates micro-climates that give perfect conditions.

The Po River deposits rich sediment in the valley and provides water and humidity essential for curing great meat. The riverbed, Apennine Mountains and sea are a magical combination.

Lambrusco is produced in great quantities. Lambrusco is not as esteemed as many Italian wines, but there is a reason for consuming it here. The bubbliness and fruitiness help to cut the fattiness and richness of the cuisine.

The recipe I chose this week is a stuffed pasta, Tortelli D Erbetta. Don't be afraid of making the dough. You can do it with a mixer, although it is more fun and rewarding by hand. The recipe calls for Swiss chard, but you can use any of the fresh greens in season. Don't forget to put the ricotta in a strainer or wrap it in cheese cloth to drain for a couple of hours or overnight.