Reggio Emilia is one of the areas that is in the heart of the Emilia Romagna region. It is not only home to interesting sites, the gastronomic traditions of the land play an important role in the cuisine of the province. Travelers to Reggio Emilia will encounter a cuisine that is simple in the use of ingredients and extraordinary in preparation, based on recipes that have been handed down through the generations.
The curing of meats is extensive within the province. Mortadella, coppa, salami and cotechino are all produced in Reggio Emilia, as is Culaccia, which is from the culatello cut, but cured with the rind on, creating a soft, velvety texture.
The type of wine produced in Reggio Emilia is Lambrusco, a red or a sparkling rosé, which has its origin in ancient Roman culture. Always served young, Lambrusco is best enjoyed within six to nine months following the grape harvest. Its fresh, slightly sweet taste is often enjoyed with cured meat dishes in the province.
One of the interesting beverages that you will come across in Reggio Emilia is acqua d’orcio. It is water infused with licorice roots. The roots are soaked in water, often with fennel seeds and orange peel for a day. The mixture is boiled for hours, often as long as 18-24 hours, then strained and chilled. The extracted syrupy liquid is added in a proportion of one to ten to make a refreshing summertime beverage.
A traditional rustic dish, the filling varies according to the local vegetables that are in season and every family in Reggio Emilia has their own variation. A generous amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano is always a key ingredient.
For the filling
3 lb spinach or escarole
1 bunch leeks with green stalks, chopped
a handful of parsley, finely chopped
3 oz bacon fat
4 tbsp olive oil
2 oz butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
salt and pepper to taste
For the pastry
1 cup flour
2 tbsp olive oil
a pinch of salt
1/2 tbsp lard
First, prepare the pastry by stirring together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and just enough water (about two ounces) to work the dough. Knead it into a ball. Add a little more water if the dough is sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to rest for one hour.
Parboil the spinach or escarole until tender. Once fully wilted, remove and dry by pressing into a paper towel, chop and set aside. In a skillet, melt the bacon fat over a medium-high flame. Add the olive oil and butter, swirling until the butter has melted and combined with the olive oil. Add the crushed garlic and chopped leeks. Sauté until the leeks are browned, then add the greens, plus salt and pepper to taste; sauté for two minutes. Remove from the flame and allow the ingredients to cool for 15-20 minutes. Once cooled, add the parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Mix well.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. After the dough has rested, divide it into two parts. Roll one portion with a rolling pin until thin, then place it carefully in a greased pie dish and pour in the filling. Roll the other portion of the pastry until thinner than the first. Sprinkle with flour and roll it onto a floured rolling pin and allow the pastry to slide over the filling. Amply pierce the top of the pastry with a fork to allow stream to escape.
Place the erbazzone in the oven at 400°F. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove and grease the surface with lard. Cook for an additional 5-6 minutes. Remove the erbazzone and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Green tortelli is a traditional dish of the Reggio Emilia area, with a filling of spinach or broccoli, combined with seasoning, cheese and ricotta.
For the dough
2 cups flour
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
For the filling
12 oz fresh ricotta
2-1/2 lb broccoli or spinach
4 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
pinch of salt
fresh ground pepper
3 oz butter
8-10 sage leaves
2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
To make the dough, place the flour on a work surface and form a small mound with a well in the center. Add the eggs, olive oil and salt to the well.
Mix slowly incorporating the flour a little bit at a time. Work the dough vigorously by pushing, punching and twisting. When the dough is soft and elastic, cover with a cloth and let rest for 1 hour.
Wash the broccoli or spinach, then parboil, drain and squeeze to remove all of the water, then chop.
In a medium-sized bowl, place the ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, chopped broccoli or spinach, one egg, a pinch of salt and pepper. Combine the ingredients until the mixture is well-blended and compact.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface until very thin, about 1/8 inch thick.
Cut dough in long strips about 4 inches wide. With a spoon place some filling in the center of the strip of dough every 2-1/2 inches. Fold the dough over itself. Push all around the filling to squeeze out the air.
With a cutting wheel, cut all the tortelli and seal the edges with your fingers. Cook in salted boiling water for about ten minutes.
Meanwhile, place the butter in a pan and melt it slowly over a low flame. When it begins to brown, drop in the sage leaves and remove from the heat. When the tortelli are ready, remove with a slotted spoon and toss with the melted butter. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.
Rabbit is a very popular dish in Reggio Emilia and throughout the region. Coniglio can be prepared in a variety of traditional ways.
2-1/2 lb rabbit
4 oz lard
2 oz butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 small can of crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
extra virgin olive oil
Divide the rabbit into 12 small pieces. Once cut and washed, place the pieces in a saucepan and sprinkle with salt. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes to reduce the water content of the rabbit.
Meanwhile, cut the onions into thin slices. Heat a large skillet over a medium flame. Add the olive oil butter and lard. Once the lard has melted, add the onions and cook until they begin to brown.
Add the pieces of rabbit and raise the flame to medium-high. Pour in the dry white wine and brown the rabbit pieces. Add the tomatoes and a half cup of water. Briefly stir, cover and lower the flame. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add the minced garlic and chopped parsley over the rabbit pieces. Cover and simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from the stove and serve.