Bologna is in Northern Italy. It is the capital and it also happens to be the largest city in the region of Emilia-Romagna. This region in Italy is rich with food history, cuisine, and gastronomy, well come to think of it every region in Italy is rich with food. But this region of Italy is awarded the title of the “Culinary Capital of Italy.” Emilia- Romagna is where egg and filled pasta are made. The origin of Parmigiano Reggiano is in the region of Emilia-Romagna. Since Bologna is the capital and the largest city of this region, it has influenced the dishes the famous dishes of Emilia-Romagna. Bologna is the place of origin for the pasta dishes of tortellini, lasagna, tagliatelle, and gramigna.
The tortellini may be considered the symbol for Bologna. There is a legend behind this pasta. It is said that the shape of the tortellini comes from an inn keeper that was mystified by the beauty of Venus during her overnight stay at the inn. He was pepping through the keyhole of her room and saw Venus naked. The inn keeper ran to the kitchen and to commemorate her beauty he shaped a pasta to resemble her belly button. Regardless if the legend is true the inn keeper created a magnificent and versatile pasta. Tortellini is a rolled pasta and typically filled with rich ingredients, and I mean rich in the sense of hearty and flavorful not expensive ingredients. During the Middle Ages due to the abundance of cattle and poultry the broth made from these animals was used for tortellini’s and later the meat from the abundance of pigs was adopted as the filling for the tortellini. The 16th century brought the concept of the tortellini we are familiar with today.
The lasagna is thought to be originally an ancient Greek dish. There are two different stories that suggest a Greek origin. The Greek word “laganon” means a flat sheet of dough cut into strips. I must say that is a pretty close description of the Italian pasta lasagna. The second theory behind the origin is from the adaptation of the Romans from a Greek word that means “stand for a pot” or “trivet”, and the Latin word the Romans used means “cooking pot”. From there the Italians used the Latin word to refer to the pot or dish the “lasagna” was made in. And due to that it is thought that the name of the pasta adopted the name of the vessel in which the pasta is cooked in, hence lasagna. The pasta is made in Italy today from a drum wheat and eggs. The well known dish Lasagna alla Bolognese derives from Bologna. Bolognese sauce is a meat sauce, or ragu that was created in the 18th century. The meat and vegetables are minced and cooked with broth. Bolognese sauce is typically served as a filling in between the lasagna noodles or traditionally as a sauce for tagliatelle.
Tagliatelle literally means “cut pasta”. It is a wider pasta, the width is between a fettuccine and a pappardelle pasta. Similar to the tortellini there is a legend behind the creation of the tagliatelle, which involves a man taken back by the beauty of a women. The origin of the pasta is thought to be in the late 1400’s by a cook Maestro Zafirano, who was to cook for a wedding between the Duke of Ferrara and Lucrezia Borgia. Legend has it that Zafirano found the Lucrezia Borgia’s long blond flowing hair to be beautiful, and hence the creation of tagliatelle. The legend may have some truth, but it is documented that tagliatelle existed in Italy long before this wedding. Around the 11th century in the Arab health manual, a pasta which experts believe to be referring to tagliatelle, is a cut stripe pasta which is boiled.
Gramigna is a thin pasta, which is curled at one end, and resembles a half circle. Unfortunately there is no legend behind gramigna, and not much is known about this pasta. It is suggested that gramigna is best served with a lighter sauce since the pasta is thin and light weight.
Bologna is a well known city in Italy and it truly has a unique and delicious cuisine. The Po River Valley allows for this region to be rich in meats and cheeses. The valley is very fertile and the people of this region have used what nature has provided them to the fullest, by creating a cuisine that utilizes the environment to create delicious meats, cheeses, and the origin of scrumptious pastas.
Until next time, enjoy GOOD food!
- The Gastronome