Some say that the secret to incredible cuisine boils down to one basic element: Geography. And that might be precisely what makes the food from Emilia-Romagna stand out from other Italian regions.
Planted firmly in Northern Italy, where the Alps meet the Apennine Mountains, Emilia-Romagna could easily be dubbed “food valley.” The Po River snakes straight through the middle of this fertile land, contributing to the rich soil that feeds fruits, vegetables, cereal crops, and livestock. The Po River eventually leads to the Adriatic Sea, which nets the region a veritable bounty of fish and seafood.
Though always referred to as one, Emilia-Romagna are two distinct areas. Emilia sits to the north and west, and includes the cities of Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and Ferrara. As for Romagna, there you’ll find Ravenna, Forli, Cesena, and, of course, Bologna. The two parts of this region offer different types of gastronomic delicacies, Emilia cuisine based heavily on pork, and Romagna delving more into lighter fare.
But when the two are combined, passionate eaters are met with some of the most famous foods, not only in Italy, but in the world. There’s Parmigiano-Reggiano, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto di Parma, tortellini in brodo, and bolognese sauce. We’re sure you’ve heard of those delicious and warmly comforting foods before!
In celebration of Emilia-Romagna, let’s take a look at the cuisine that we believe to be the heart of classic Italian home cooking.
The Po River feeds the lush Po Valley, where the cattle are extremely happy and well fed. This harmonious existence inspires the grazing beasts to produce truly exceptional cheese, the most famous being Parmigiano-Reggiano. Every Italian-American refrigerator has a wedge or container of Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Parmesan), just waiting to be added to pasta dishes and more. The firm, yet delicate flavor permeates all food it graces, adding a bite so singular that you’d swear you can taste the pasture. Other famous cheeses of this region include Raviggiolo, Grana Padano, and Provolone Valpadana.
There’s no better way to follow a wedge of good Italian cheese than with a mouthful of salumi. For many of us, Prosciutto di Parma was the gateway Italian coldcut of our youth—lusciously savory with a quick kiss of sweetness, the famous Parma ham shines in unadulterated brilliance. But that’s not the only cured pork to come out of Emilia-Romagna, where fallen chestnuts feed and flavor region’s pig and boars. And like any good charcuterie board, there’s many other varieties of salumi to indulge your most base carnivorous cravings. These include Mortadella di Bologna, Coppa Piacentina, and the absolute apex of cured pork, the highly prized Culatello di Zibello.
Read about some of our favorite Italian cured meats here!
Planted firmly in Northern Italy, where the Alps meet the Apennine Mountains, Emilia-Romagna could easily be dubbed “food valley.”
Vineyards stretch across the rolling land of Emilia-Romagna, providing another vital component of the region’s cuisine. But we’re not talking about wine. Instead, it’s all about balsamic vinegar in this part of Italy. Mainly produced in the city of Modena, the balsamic vinegar of Emilia-Romagna is a deep glossy color, with a syrupy consistency and complex flavor and aroma combination best found in roasted meats and sharpens salads.
There’s a sauce that comes from the city of Bologna that you’ve likely eaten many, many times—it’s called Bolognese and it’s the meaty sauce that rules the land in Northern Italy. Melding together the savory richness of pork and beef (or veal), Bolognese simmers slowly for hours until the flavors reach heights rivaling the Alps. Though Bolognese Ragù finds a delicious home atop most kinds of pasta, Emilia-Romagna tradition calls for fresh ribbons of tagliatelle pasta, which rounds out the hearty dish with sleep-inducing comfort.
Tortellini in Brodo
Speaking of comfort, no other food comes close to the warm hug that is Tortellini in Brodo. An uncomplicated dish that is greater than the sum of its parts, this iconic offering of Northern Italy is simply a bowl of stuffed tortellini pasta floating and submerged in a pristine chicken broth. The tortellini is typically filled with local cuts of pork salumi, along with flavorful flecks of Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s the stuff of memories—perhaps a sick day at nani’s spent slurping a bowl of this heartwarming, body-healing broth. A taste and experience owed to the traditions of Emilia-Romagna.