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. I’ve never spent a New Year’s Eve without cotechino & lentils and my grandmother every year makes her own Zuppa Inglese. Sometimes I eat Lasagne alla Bolognese or Rice cake, but it’s not Christmas without Tortellini with meat broth. So this is my top 5.
Tortellini with broth
The most traditional primo 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 woman who holds the house and the kitchen. These small ravioli are filled with a compound of meats, herbs and grana 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 broth made with capon and you shall put 8 of them in a spoon. If you can’t, don’t call it tortellini!
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 primo, but not so easy to find in most classic restaurants. 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.
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 luck for the coming year, and mashed potatoes.
A traditional dessert to end our New Year's eve 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 tradition dessert created to use up scraps of rich banquets.
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 selled in inside a 1920’s designed box) or in great patisserie like Gino Fabbri. Certosino is the sweet of Bologna city but 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 of Panone 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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