Five foods of Bologna
The stunning country of Italy isn't short of a foodie town or two. With a tradition focused on rustic cooking and the use of quality ingredients, it's known as being one of the world’s culinary capitals. What might not be so evident is that the dishes we associate with it - pizza, pasta, cheese, wine - all have different prominence in different parts.
It's an aspect that becomes evident when visiting the regions. While the breadth of restaurants means you'll find whatever your taste buds fancy, there are certain dishes or ingredients that keep cropping up in menus, suggesting it's down to tradition rather than being just a flavour of the month.
That's certainly the case in Bologna, a large town typical of the Emilia Romagna region, with stunning architecture, bustling commerce and a lively evening atmosphere. For a taste of its heritage, the Flexicover team has prepared a menu of the top five foods to enjoy.
Of course, Bologna gave its name to the delicious, meaty sauce that often defines Italy: spaghetti bolognese. The only problem is that the dish has been anglicised to enough of an extent that you won't be able to order it in Bologna. The purist's version is ragù: onions, carrots, pork and veal mince with a bit of tomato. And not even this is served with spaghetti - traditionally, you'll find it with tagliatelle, giving a little more bite to the dish. It's a step away from what we're used to, but the original version proves to be more substantial than ours, with a more flavoursome depth to the dish.
Don't be fooled by imitators: the original king of cheeses, Parmesan, is local to Bologna and its surrounds. Like Champagne, it's now a protected area under EU law, tying it closely to the Emilia Romagna region and ensuring its high quality. Understandably, the cheese counters of supermarkets and specialist shops in the city offer a number of brands and excellent prices. You'll also find it across restaurant menus; Il Tartufo Trattoria and others serve pasta and risotto dishes in a Parmesan wheel, mixing together hot food and the melting cheese which certainly makes for a decadent dish.
Along with its larger brother tortelloni, tortellini is another dish native to Bologna. Legend has it that the goddess of love, Venus, spent a night at a town in between Modena and Bologna. The innkeeper spied on Venus in her room, and was so enamoured by her navel that he rushed away to create a pasta in honour of it. We're not sure how she'd feel about that, but we're sure she wouldn't mind if she could glimpse the beautiful rows of freshly-made, flour-dusted pasta filled with scrumptious cheese and meats, as you'll see across the city.
Like most of Italy, gelato features prominently in daily diets. Somehow much more delicious than at home, it's impossible to resist, especially in the warm summer months when temperatures hit the mid to late twenties. Across the city, gelaterias can be found tucked away along side streets, but the must-visit ice cream shop is Il Gelatauro, a staple for the Bolognese since 1998. Their rich ice creams and sorbets are made using natural ingredients, organic eggs, vanilla beans and without vegetable fats. It means each of their creative seasonal flavours like pear and ricotta or watermelon and jasmine are more delicious, while all-year staples like coffee and hazelnut are a lick above the rest.
Herbs are so prominent in Italian cooking that the readymade mix is a supermarket bestseller. But there's a strong north/south variation, and in Bologna you'll be hard-pushed to come across fresh basil sprinkled over their dishes. Instead, oregano is the dominant herb with chicken, lamb and pasta left to infuse with the fragrant leaf to a mouth-watering effect. Not surprising then that the product available is top-quality. Shop in the artisan stores and food markets - try the Via Pescherie Vecchie area for a high concentration. You'll also find the herb is grown in organic fields in the nearby countryside, harvested and then left to sun-dry before being chopped and packaged within days. Perfetto.
So wherever your travels take you to this year it’s good to know that Flexicover Travel Insurance is committed to providing you with the highest level of cover to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.