Emilia-Romagna, also known as the food valley, is undoubtedly one of the richest and finest regional cuisines in Italy. Its collection of PDO's (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI's (Protected Geographical Indication) products like Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano, Aceto Balsamico di Modena, and even Culatello di Zibello says it all. Emilia-Romagna is located in Northern Italy, neighboring Liguria, a bit of Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, and the Adriatic sea.
Our first study trip with the University of Gastronomic Sciences was here, and oh my, was it the best week of my life. If I thought I was already passionate about food, I came back after this trip obsessed with this region's food culture. Coming from Colombia, a country extremely rich in natural resources, but with close to zero understanding of its culinary power, made me understand my duty as a food communicator in a country like Italy. Depicting the stories behind each community's food habits has its own uniqueness and value that deserves to be exposed to those who care, and are willing to support.
After visiting the local producers, hearing their stories, seeing their facilities, touching their lands, and tasting the products, I was able to understand a little bit more how important tradition is rooted to the origin, sourcing, and production of them. I knew the importance of Italian cuisine in the world, however, I was not aware of the layers in cultural richness, as well as myths that have been passed on for centuries, it has.
Here are some of my favorite food finds while in Emilia-Romagna:
✨ One of the best eats I discovered while in Emilia-Romagna were the fried and iconic gnocco fritto topped with stracchino cheese and a variety of salumi like pancetta, coppa, rresaola, or prosciutto. This traditional bread is made from flour, water, and lard. Once fried, they puff up, giving them the perfect crunch texture when taking a bite into them.
✨ On our first day, we went to visit Ziveri Claudio, a prosciutto di Parma producer who showed his facility, the process of production, and gave us a taste of freshly sliced prosciutto. Let me tell you one thing, I have had prosciutto di parma before. Was it good? Yes. However, never have I had a Prosciutto di Parma in Parma that tasted as delicate, fatty, and umami like this one.
✨ For dinner one night, we got to roll, stuff and fold hundreds of either Balanzoni, Cappelletti, Tortelloni, Tortellini, and Anoloni (I'm still not sure which ones exactly we prepared, as they all look very similar, but these are my guesses). The most important thing is that we got to prepare them make from scratch, with the help of a handful of some of the cutest Nonnas in the whole country. As soon as they came to us, and included us to partake in the cooking of that night's dinner, the ambience of that whole room changed. It felt like guardian angels had come to feed us with some of the most precious treats of heaven.
✨ Last but not least, visiting the facilities of one of the best guest speakers during the masters, the artisanal producer of some of the best vinegars and Balsamico Tradizionale I have put my hands on. Andrea's passion for what he does and produces, surpasses language barriers and ignorance towards the corrupted world of balsamic vinegar. Never had I though of adding a drop of the purest and naturally thickest balsamic vinegar onto Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, there is no going back after this.
Now... I had to leave a full section of this for last. The one, the only, Parmigiano Reggiano. It is such a complex and delicious product, knowing about it, as a food, is almost mandatory. Here are some interesting facts:
Parmigiano Reggiano needs to be produced in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and some parts of Bologna and Mantua. You might be asking, why so? Well, they are monitored breeding farms that into the rules of the consorzio.
Now, the production. It takes about 550 litters of milk to produce a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano. All the milk is poured in copper vats, where it naturally creates this curd from the added rennet and whey starter. As you can see in my videos, the curd is broken down with force, heat and speed. As you can see in the pictures the products is wrapped in a special linen cloth and placed into molds, giving it its final shape.
Once they are marked with numbered stamps, almost like identity numbers, showing the month and year of production, they are soaked in salted water to obtain osmosis. This last stage will then welcome the most important period of Parmigiano Reggiano, the maturation or aging. In fact, its aging must last a minimum of 12 months, one of the longest PDO cheeses that exist. The cheese experts working for the Consortium will analyze the quality of the cheese wheel by tapping with a tiny hammer and sensing defects from the sounds it produces.
I keep asking people: If you were a cheese, which cheese would you be?
I also had a hard time deciding an answer to this question, simply because I enjoy all cheeses. However, I think I might have to be a 36 month ages Parmigiano Reggiano.
Almost a year after this trip, I am ready to embark my next adventure in Bologna, the historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region. Stay tuned for more!
If you are planning to visit Bologna and are looking for a unique dinning experience with me, let me know in the comments below!
Thank you very much for include us in your Emilia-Romagna's trip! <3 Congratulations and all the best for your next steps!!! brava!