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Friday, July 9, 2010

Cuisine of Bologna, Italy: No Baloney Here!

Guest Blogger: Emily Whalen

copyright 2010 art of living,PrimaMedia,Inc

To the American public, the word “B-O-L-O-G-N-A” will conjure up pictures of sausages and hot dog commercials. But long, long before Oscar Mayer was a gleam in his mother’s eye – and even now, the word “Bologna” means something very different and bigger in regards to food than just an American sausage. It refers to a city – a city long renowned for its' cuisine, hospitality, and culinary tradition. So much is this the case that one of its nicknames is “la grassa” or Bologna the Fat. Bologna is a prosperous and ancient city in Northern Italy, nestled between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains. Even before the Romans, ancient Celtic tribes and Etruscans began to settle here, build home for their families – and grow food and cook.

The fertile valley it’s located in makes it the ideal spot for fresh delicious foods. The surrounding fields are lush with grains, vegetables, and of course grapes to make Italian wine. For centuries, visitors have remarked on the produce that has flourished here and the abundance of fowl and meat. Sausages are only one of the many foods Bologna is known for – and in fact- there is no sausage going by the name of “bologna” or “baloney.” That name is an American invention, and the sausage is a refined version of mortadella – a ground-pork sausage that originated in Bologna. Cured pork meats are an important local industry in Bologna and the surrounding area of Emilia-Romagna. In addition to mortadella, you’ll find prosciutto and salame.

Ready to hear about some mouth watering foods? Bologna recipes and culinary practices have been passed down through families through the ages, making for some delicious eats! For snacking, there’s crescentine – fried pizza dough that goes perfectly with those local sausages or some cheese. The meats are also used in the famous meat-based Bolognese sauce – which is usually just called “ragu” in the city. You’ll see spaghetti Bolognese all over Italy, but don’t be fooled! Residents of the city claim the sauce actually makes a tastier pairing with other pastas, especially tagliatele. The cooks of Bologna are expert in rolling out perfectly even, smooth dough for this rolled pasta. The pasta is a truly local dish – it’s said to have been created five hundred years ago at the wedding celebration for the Lord of Bologna’s daughter!

But what some say are the best symbols of Bologna’s cuisine are the tortellino and lasagna. With these dishes you have the flavorful fillings, the delicious pasta, and the history and the legends – tortellino is said to have been inspired by a beautiful lady’s bellybutton! In fact, these three ingredients do seem to represent what’s best about Bologna cuisine – fresh, rich, and local ingredients; skillfully rolled pasta, where that skill has been passed down through the years; and the rich history and long tradition which has kept Bolognese food as renowned today as it was five hundred years ago.

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