It's not Christmas in Bologna without these 5 foods

Christmas food in Bologna
It's only a few days before 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 its own traditions and recipes.

These are my 5 favorite foods that have represented my Christmas holidays, for almost 28 years.

Tortellini in brodo

The most traditional pasta of Bolognese cuisine is a classic for Christmas and for New Year’s eve holidays.
Inspired by “Venus’s bellybutton”, they were usually prepared by the hands of the rezdora, the old women who hold the house and the kitchen.

These small ravioli are filled with a mixture of meat, mortadella and aged Parmigiano Reggiano cheese but if you move from Bologna to Modena, or even inside Bologna, you will find out that every family has its secret ingredient for them.

Everyone agrees that you must cook and serve them in a hot broth made with capon.

Zuppa Imperiale

This simple soup was described by Pellegrino Artusi in 1891, in his book The Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.
Now 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 is cut into small cubes and then cooked again in meat broth; finally, it is served very hot.

It's hard to find it in restaurants. It's more comfort food to have at home with your family.
You find it at Osteria Bottega, which also makes one of my best tagliatelle in Bologna

Cotechino with lentils

Typical of Bologna and the whole Emilia Romagna, cotechino is a charcuterie product made with pork meat rind and fat mixed with salt and spices.
It needs to be boiled on low heat for about four hours.

According to tradition, it’s always served with lentils and mashed potatoes on New Year's Eve, as a premonition of good luck for the coming year.

Zuppa Inglese

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 its 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 of my best gelato shops in Bologna.

Certosino & Panone

Certosino (or Panspeziale) is a dessert made with almonds, pine nuts, dark chocolate and candied fruits.
The recipe has its origin in the Middle Ages where Certosino was produced by pharmacists and later by Certosini friars.

You can find it in the most traditional Bologna's best bakeries like Paolo Atti (where is sold inside the 1920s designed box), in great patisserie like Gino Fabbri, or in the historic and most authentic Billi Bar.

Certosino is very popular inside Bologna city center.
​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

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