Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Reggio Emilia

Reggio Emilia is one of the nine provinces in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna and it is situated in Northern Italy, in the Po Valley area. Reggio is a center of art, whose symbols include the seventeenth-century Basilica della Ghiara (a Baroque style church built in 1597) and the famous Teatro Municipale. (a theater).

The economy of the province was for a long time based on agriculture and the province is known for Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Lambrusco wine and Balsamic Vinegar. In the twentieth century Reggio Emilia saw a rapid development of small industries, particularly in agricultural mechanics. A few of those industries became large companies, with an international market. Reggio Emilia is also home to some fashion companies and the ceramic tile industry, For more than 100 years, a strong tradition supports building and banking cooperatives in the province, as well as consumers’ cooperatives. This industrial growth has attracted immigration from North and Central Africa, East Europe and the Far East (China, Pakistan, India).

The Autostrada A1 bridges were designed by Santiago Calatrava and opened in 2005-2006. A central arch bridge spans the Milan-Bologna high-speed railway line and the Autostrada del Sole A1 motorway, while twin cable bridges are at either end. The twin bridges pass over service roundabouts and access roads to allow connections with the adjacent Reggio Emilia AV Mediopadana high-speed railway station. In 2009, the European Convention for Constructional Steelwork gave the three bridges a European Steel Design Award, stating that the twin bridges’ original visual effects at different angles give the two bridges “the aspect of huge musical instruments.

Educational Leaders

In 1991, the American magazine, Newsweek, named the Diana Preschool in Reggio Emilia, Italy, one of the 10 best schools in the world. As a result, the early childhood centers in this city gained international attention. So what did this little Italian community do to create a world-renowned system of early learning and how does it work?

Until World War II, Reggio was known more for the quality of its wine and ham than for the excellence of its schools. The Reggio Emilia preschools have their origins post-World War II when a small group of women set up a preschool that was the first established secular school for young children. This break with the Catholic church forged a new kind of school. Today, Reggio Emilia has over 35 of these preschools and educators around the world attend conferences and seminars in Reggio Emilia to learn about the system.

The Reggio Emilia Municipal Infant-Toddler Centers provide early childhood programs for children from birth to 3 years and 3-6 years. The philosophy supports a new way of thinking about children and families – where all children, especially those who could be marginalized, are considered full of potential and possibilities – and this seems to have struck a chord with educators around the world who are looking for different ways of providing education.

The Reggio Emilia approach promotes a rethinking of childhood and calls for society to value children’s possibilities, potential, capabilities and competencies. The Reggio Emilia Approach values:children’s relationships with other children, teachers, parents and their classroom environment. Project work, where children are engaged in explorations of their world and make choices about what they will investigate are encourages., Then together with their teachers and peers, students express themselves in what is called the “100 Languages” that place a strong emphasis on visual arts and active listening, where children’s voices, thoughts and opinions are valued (as much as the teachers’). Through these approaches to teaching and learning, the educators challenge and extend each child. They see all of the children as capable and that a teacher’s role is to enable children to reach their potential – not to fix children.

A Foodies’ Paradise

Among the first courses typical of the Reggio Emilia cuisine are cappelletti stuffed with meat and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and pumpkin tortelli. Second courses include local specialties of meatloaf, rabbit alla reggiana and roasted stuffed pork. Typical of this area is also the fried gnocco served with salami and cheeses and erbazzone, a torte made with spinach and chard. Among the desserts, the favorites are sweet rice cakes and spongata reggiana with dried fruits, honey and raisins.

Spinach Tortelli

Ingredients

For the pasta

700g/1½lb ’00’ flour, plus extra for dusting
3 medium eggs
Semolina, for dusting

For the filling

200g/7oz spinach, cooked in salted water and chopped
200g/7oz ricotta
30g/1oz grated Parmesan
Large pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

Small handful of pine nuts
Handful of sage leaves
50g/2oz butter
Parmesan, grated or in shavings

Directions

For the pasta:

Pour the flour into a mound onto a flat surface and make a well in the center. Crack the eggs into the well and gradually mix with either a blunt knife or your hands.

When the dough becomes a thick past,e use your hands to incorporate more of the flour. Be careful not to make the dough too dry.

Knead until well blended and the dough is soft and flexible.

Let the pasta rest for about 20 minutes with a bowl inverted over it or leave it covered in plastic wrap.

For the filling:

In a mixing bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta, parmesan and nutmeg and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To make the tortelli:

Divide the fresh pasta into four pieces and keep three portions under a bowl while you roll and stuff one-quarter.

Roll out the pasta into a long, wide strip either by hand or using a machine. When you can see your hand through it, it is ready for stuffing. Cut the strip in half.

Place teaspoons of the filling in a line down the center of one of the strips about 5 cm/2 in apart. Place the other strip directly on top.

Press the air out from around the filling by pushing down the pasta around them and sealing them in.

Take a small glass or round cutter with a decorative edge measuring about 7 cm/3 in across and cut out circles of pasta around each mound of filling.

They can be cooked immediately in boiling water or stored in fine semolina for up to two hours. You can also freeze them at this stage and then cook them frozen.

To cook the tortelli:

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and gently lower in the tortelli. Cook for about four minutes or until the pasta is soft but not floppy.

For the sauce:

Toast the pine nuts in a dry, deep frying pan. Add the sage leaves and butter and melt the butter taking care not to burn it.

Add about a tablespoon of the pasta cooking water and stir together to emulsify the sauce. Add twist of black pepper. Remove from the heat.

When the pasta is done, drain it gently and toss with the sauce in the deep frying pan.

Let the pasta rest in the sauce for a few minutes. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Roast Pork with Balsamic Vinegar

By Kathy Bechtel (http://www.chefbikeski.com/)

Ingredients

4 bay leaves
1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 5-lb bone-in pork roast

Directions

Combine the first six ingredients in a small bowl.

Place the roast in a sealable plastic bag – it should just fit into a gallon bag. If not, place in a roasting pan. Pour in the marinade and seal the bag.

Turn the bag over a couple of times to move the marinade around and cover the meat on all sides. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Remove the pork from the bag and place in a roasting pan. Put into the preheated oven. After 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 375F°.

Roast until the internal temperature of the meat is 130F°, about 90 minutes in total. Check at 60 minutes, just to see what the temperature is.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

Torta di Riso

Ingredients

4 cups whole milk
3 large pieces of lemon rind (only the yellow of the rind)
Cinnamon stick
Quarter of a vanilla pod or 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup Arborio Rice
1 tablespoon Sassolino Liquor or rum
Zest from a whole lemon
4 eggs
4 teaspoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons bread crumb
1.5 tablespoon brown sugar
Confectioners’ sugar

Directions

In a medium sized pot, add the milk, lemon rind, cinnamon stick, quarter of a vanilla pod, and a half cup of sugar.

Bring ingredients to a boil over medium heat, occasionally stirring so that the sugar dissolves in the milk.

When the milk begins to boil, lower the heat to a simmer, remove any skin from the surface of the milk, and mix in the rice.

Cook over low heat (approx. 30 minutes), stirring occasionally. Once the rice soaks up the milk and becomes congealed and sticky, take the mixture off of the heat.

Allow the rice mixture to cool and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Remove the lemon rinds, cinnamon stick, and vanilla pod from the rice pudding and add the remaining half cup of sugar and the Sassolino liquor. Combine thoroughly.

Zest a whole lemon into the rice pudding. Be careful to only zest the yellow of the rind and none of the white pith.

Using a fork, whisk 1 egg in a separate bowl and slowly mix it into the rice pudding.

Repeat this step with the remaining eggs. Do not try to add all 4 eggs at the same time or the cake won’t hold together.

Butter the interior of an 9 inch springform pan.

Sprinkle on a thin layer of 2 teaspoons brown sugar and bread crumbs on the pan as evenly as possible.

Pour the cooked rice mixture into the pan and sprinkle on a thin layer of 2 teaspoons of brown sugar on top.

Bake until the torta is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Allow the torta to cool for 20 minutes.

Using a butter knife, cut along the edges of the pan. Remove the pan ring. Turn the torta over onto a serving plate and remove the pan bottom.

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Torta di Riso is better made one day ahead.

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