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Bologna is a province and city in the Emilia-Romagna region in northwestern Italy. Bologna is of great importance as a road and rail system for central and southern Italy. Until World War I the city was chiefly dependent upon agriculture based on the surrounding fertile plain. Although still an important agricultural market and food-processing area, Bologna also has developed into an important industrial center that manufactures agricultural machinery, electric motors, motorcycles, railway equipment, chemicals and shoes. Ferrari S.P.A. was created in Maranello, a town 20 minutes from Bologna. Lamborghini and Ducati motorcycles are also from this area. Every year the convention center in Bologna hosts the Motor show, one of Europe’s most important motor exhibitions showcasing the world’s fastest cars and bikes.

Garisenda and Asinelli leaning towers. Bologna, Italy

Garisenda and Asinelli leaning towers. Bologna, Italy

The arcaded streets of the central part of the city still preserve a medieval aspect, characterized by the leaning Asinelli and Garisenda towers. Among numerous medieval palaces (palazzi) the most notable are the Palazzi Comunale (town hall) and Podestà Mercanzia (chamber of commerce). The Palazzo Bevilacqua with a magnificent inner courtyard is one of the finest in Bologna. The first thing you may notice is that most of the city is built under porticoes, which are covered walkways. This is very convenient when you are stuck in the frequent rain or snow, but it can seem a bit dark. The reason they are so common is because they were primarily offered as a tax incentive to estate developers because it was considered a service to the town.

Decorated old portico with columns in Bologna, Italy

Decorated old portico with columns in Bologna, Italy

The university in Bologna is one of the oldest and most famous in Europe, dating from the 11th century. Originally the campus had no fixed location; lectures were generally held in the great halls of convents until the Archiginnasio Palace was erected. Today, the student population of 100,000+ dominates the city and everywhere you turn you’ll catch young people walking arm in arm down the streets.

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Bologna is considered the culinary capital of Italy and it isn’t nicknamed – Bologna la grassa – which means “Bologna the fat” for nothing. The market in the city center is one of the largest in Europe and has a huge array of fresh cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables, dairy and baked goods.  

Local specialties include:

Tortellini in brodo – Meat tortellini in a broth

Bologna is no doubt synonymous with tortellini. Legend has it that their shape takes inspiration from Venus’ navel. The recipe for authentic tortellini was registered with Bologna’s Chamber of Commerce in 1974. The dough is made with flour and eggs, while the filling contains pork loin, raw ham, mortadella di Bologna, Parmesan cheese, eggs and nutmeg. To enhance their taste, tortellini is eaten in a broth of capon or hen. It is a typical winter dish that the Bolognesi have for their Sunday lunches.

Tagliatelle al ragu – pasta with meat sauce

Lucrezia Borgia seems to have been the inspiration for the hand-made pasta, tagliatelle. Legend has it that Maestro Zeferino invented them for her wedding upon seeing her blonde braids. Bologna’s Chamber of Commerce guards the recipe of tagliatelle, along with its measurement rule: tagliatelle should be 8 mm wide when cooked. Their thickness has not been defined, although experts say it should be between 6 and 8 tenth of a millimeter.

The official ragu recipe also rests with Bologna’s Chamber of Commerce since 1982, but with ragù there is a lot of leeway. If you ask Bolognese women, you will find there are many individual variations, and they seem to be very secretive about them also. The most important ingredient is minced beef and the tomato based sauce must cook for hours. Ragù goes well with many types of pasta, but especially with tagliatelle and lasagna; never ever eat it with spaghetti though – the Bolognesi consider it an insult!

Lasagna Verde alla Bolognese – Lasagna composed of green spinach pasta sheets with meat ragu and a cream bechamel sauce
Mortadella – Pink colored Italian sausage often served in sandwiches or before meals
Bollito – Boiled beef
Zuppa Inglese – A colorful dessert of cake and cream
Mascarpone – A very creamy and sweet cheese dessert

Cook Bologna’s Famous Pasta Recipes At Home

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Tagliatelle al Ragu

by Mario Batali

Ingredients

Ragu

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup onions, chopped small
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped small
  • 1/4 cup carrots, chopped small
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, ground
  • 1 pound veal
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • Tagliatelle, recipe follows
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano

Tagliatelle Pasta

  • 1 3/4 to 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 3/4 to 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs

Directions

Ragu

In a large Dutch oven or saucepan, add the olive oil and butter and heat. Add onions, celery and carrots and cook until very soft and beginning to caramelize. Mix together all of the meats.

Add the meats to the pan and begin to brown. When the meat begins changing color and releasing its own liquids, add the milk.

Cook until the milk is almost totally evaporated–it should just be moist around the edges of the meat, about 15 minutes. Add the wine.

Add the tomato paste and stir well. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 hours.

To make the pasta:

Roll out the pasta dough to the thinnest setting on a pasta machine. Cut into strips that are 4-inches wide and 8 inches long.

Starting with the 4-inch side, loosely roll the pasta into a tube that is about 4-inches long and 2 1/2-inches wide. Cut the open side into 1/4-inch wide strips.

Unroll the pasta and place in small bundles.

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt to the water and return to a boil. Add the tagliatelle and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the tagliatelle and add to the Bolognese sauce.

Thin with a little pasta water, if necessary. Toss for 1 minute. Immediately serve in warm pasta bowls. Top with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Tagliatelle

Mound 3 1/2 cups of the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs and the olive oil.

Using a fork, beat together the eggs and oil and begin to incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the well.

As you expand the well, keep pushing the flour up from the base of the mound to retain the well shape. The dough will come together when half of the flour is incorporated.

Start kneading the dough with both hands, using the palms of your hands. Once you have a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up and discard any leftover bits.

Lightly flour the board again and continue kneading for 6 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky.

Wrap the dough in plastic and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Roll or shape as described above.

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Tortellini en Brodo

by Mario Batali

Ingredients

  • 6 cups brodo, recipe follows
  • 1 1/4 pounds tortellini, recipe follows
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

Brodo

  • 1 pound beef scraps
  • 1 pound beef or veal bones
  • 1 pound beef tongue, cut into 4 or 5 pieces
  • 1 (4 to 5 pound) stewing hen, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
  • 10 to 12 quarts cold water
  • Salt and pepper

Tortellini

Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces ground turkey
  • 4 ounces ground veal
  • 4 ounces ground pork shoulder
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, finely diced
  • 4 ounces mortadella, finely diced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Pasta:

  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Bring the brodo to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until all the tortellini are floating to the top of the pot.

Ladle equal portions of tortellini into 4 warmed pasta bowls. Ladle the hot broth on top of the tortellini and top with grated Parmigiano.

Brodo:

Place the beef, bones, tongue, chicken pieces, onion, carrot, and celery in a large soup pot, cover with the water and bring almost to a boil, very slowly.

Reduce the heat to simmer before the mixture boils and allow to cook for 4 hours, skimming off the foam and any excess fat that rises to the surface.

After 4 hours, remove from the heat, strain the liquid twice, first through a conical sieve and second through cheesecloth and allow to cool.

Refrigerate stock in small containers for up to a week or freeze for up to a month.

Pasta:

Filling:

In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed, large saucepan, heat the butter and oil until it foams and subsides.

Add the turkey, veal and pork shoulder and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is well-browned and begins to release some of its juices.

Add the prosciutto and mortadella and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Place in a food processor and pulse to combine.

Add the egg and the Parmigiano-Reggiano and mix well to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and add at least 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg and mix again.

Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Pasta Dough:

Mound 3 cups of flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour; add the eggs and oil.

Using a fork, beat together the eggs and begin to incorporate the flour starting with the inner rim of the well.

As you incorporate the eggs, keep pushing the flour up to retain the well shape.

The dough will come together in a shaggy mass when about half of the flour is incorporated.

Start kneading the dough with both hands, primarily using the palms of your hands. Add more flour, in 1/2-cup increments, if the dough is too sticky.

Once the dough is a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up any left over dry bits. Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for 3 more minutes.

The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Continue to knead for another 3 minutes, remembering to dust the board with flour when necessary.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes at room temperature.

Roll the pasta into sheets using a pasta machine.

For the desired pasta sheet thickness, gradually pass the dough through the settings starting with the widest and continuing to the number 9 setting.

With a pasta cutter or a knife, cut the pasta into 1 1/2-inch squares. Place 3/4 teaspoon of filling in the center of each square.

Fold into triangles, press out any air around the filling and press to seal the edges. Bring the points of the long side together to form a ring,and seal between your fingers.

Set the tortellini aside on a sheet pan, wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reserve for later assembly.

bolognalasagna
Lasagna Verde alla Bolognese

by Mario Batali

Ingredients

  • Ragu Bolognese recipe from above

Lasagna al Forno

  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 6 ounces frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed very dry and chopped very fine
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup for dusting the work surface
  • 1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Besciamella

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 8 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating

Directions

Make the ragu as directed from above and set aside.

For the lasagna al forno:

Combine the eggs and spinach. Mound 3 1/2 cups of the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board.

Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the egg and spinach mixture and the olive oil.

Using a fork, beat together the spinach, eggs and oil and begin to incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the well.

As you expand the well, keep pushing the flour up from the base of the mound to retain the well shape. The dough will come together when half of the flour is incorporated.

Start kneading the dough with both hands, using the palms of your hands. Once you have a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up and discard any leftover bits.

Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for 6 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky.

Wrap the dough in plastic and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions and roll each out to the thinnest setting on a pasta rolling machine.

Bring about 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Set up an ice bath next to the stove top. Cut the pasta into 20 (5-inch) squares and drop into the boiling water.

Cook 1 minute, until tender. Drain well and refresh in the ice bath. Drain on towels and set aside.

For the besciamella:

In a medium saucepan, heat butter until melted. Add flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until light golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat milk in separate pan until just about to boil. Add milk to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth and bring to a boil.

Cook 30 seconds and remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg and set aside.

For assembly:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a baking pan, assemble the lasagna, beginning with a layer of ragu, a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano, a layer of pasta, a layer of bechamel, a layer of ragu, a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano etc. until all the sauce and pasta are used up.

The top layer should be pasta with bechamel over it. Top the lasagna with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and bake in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, until the edges are browned and the sauces are bubbling.

Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

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