Just a few days to Christmas so what’s better than a list of the most traditional foods of Bolognese cuisine for these holidays?
The list of foods on Bologna’s tables may be quite long, because every family has his own traditions and favorites, but these are my 5 favorite foods that represent my Christmas holidays, for almost 28 years.
Tortellini in brodo (meat broth)
The most traditional pasta of Bologna cuisine is a classic for Christmas and New Year’s eve holidays. Inspired by “Venus’s bellybutton”, they were usually created by the hands of the rezdora, the old women who hold the house and the kitchen. These small ravioli are filled with a compound of meats, herbs and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese but if you move from Bologna to Modena, or even inside Bologna, every family has its secret ingredient for it. They are cooked and served in a hot broth made with capon. It's not Christmas in Bologna without tortellini, that's why we have created a Christmas food tour in Bologna where you can taste them handmade by real artisans.
This classic soup was described by Pellegrino Artusi in 1891 in his book The Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well and is one of the most classic and hidden Bologna soup. Zuppa imperiale is a cake made with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, butter, semolina and eggs. After the baking it's cut into small cubes end the cook it again in broth and served very hot. It's not easy to find it in restaurants, it's more a confort food to have at home with your family. If you'd like to try it you can find it at Osteria Bottega, which also makes one of my best tagliatelle in Bologna
Cotechino with lentils
Typical of Bologna and all Emilia Romagna, cotechino is a charcuterie product made with pork meat and rind and fat mixed with salt and spices. It needs to be boiled at low heat for about four hours. According to tradition, it’s always served with lentils on New Year's Eve, to bring good luck for the coming year, and mashed potatoes.
A traditional dessert to end our Christmas lunch is zuppa inglese: a soft sponge-cake (pan di Spagna) soaked in liqueur, usually rosolio, and alchermes. Created around 1500 by Estensi family in Ferrara, it takes his name from the British “trifle”, an Anglo-Saxon traditional dessert created to use up scraps of rich banquets. You can also find the gelato version of this cake in a few on my best gelaterie of Bologna.
Certosino & Panone
Certosino (or Panspeziale) is a dessert made with almonds, pine nuts, dark chocolate and candied fruits. The recipe comes from Middle age where Certosino was produced by pharmacists and, after that, by Certosini friars. You can find it in the most traditional Bologna bakeries like Paolo Atti (where is sold in inside a 1920’s designed box) or in great patisserie like Gino Fabbri. Certosino is very popular inside Bologna city. If you move to the countryside you can find a different version called “Panone“: the decoration is similar but the presence of yeast in the dough gives it the softness of a cake.
Photos courtesy of Scott D. Haddow, Carmelita Caruana, Turismo Emilia Romagna and Giancarlo Bononi via Pasticceria Internazionale
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