Italy’s exploding(!) gastronomic heartland – Parma, Emilia Romagna

A factory of Parmigiano-Reggiano. There are tw...

Image via FWT

Emilia Romagna: authentic Parma ham and handmade pasta

In Emilia Romagna, eating well is a way of life. In even the smallest village restaurant or trattoria, from the Adriatic coast of Rimini to the inland plains and river valleys of Parma, Piacenza, Modena and Bologna, you’ll find pride is taken in using the freshest ingredients and locally sourced produce.

Right now we are experiencing a huge influx of USA tourists who have a passion for slow food and the real deal.

“It is really incredible this year so far has seen a two fold rise in tourism in Parma … and the season has only just started!” Nick Garrett of Parma Food n Walk said.  So why the sudden interest?

Parmigiano glowing in the ripening room

Parmigiano glowing in the ripening room – Parma FWT Tours

Foodies and bloggers have been taken with the local produce and the effect has gone viral – together with new waves of recommendations hitting the web-lanes the region is at last in full view of the tourists who value quality and a truly Italian regional food adventure.

Parma’s products have gained renown the world over, one of which is the culinary tour company Parma Food n Walk tours who offer the fairly priced opportunity to experience these wonders of the region, visiting the artesan food production sites, and getting in touch with the rich culinary history of Parma.

Two of the most famous culinary delights carry the name of the venerable gastronomic city of Parma and we outline them for you below.

Parmigiano Reggiano is the authentic Parmesan cheese and may only be produced in a designated area that straddles the provinces of Parma, Modena, Reggio Emilia and Bologna. It has been made to the same method for nine centuries and always matured for at least a year.

Prosciutto di Parma — Parma ham — is all natural as additives are prohibited. It is prized for its delicate, nutty flavour and cured in accordance with strict rules (pigs must be Italian). Only hams that pass inspection by the independent institute Parma Qualità can boast the PDO (protected designation of origin) label and may be marked with the ducal crown brand.

Modena and Reggio Emilia are best known for traditional balsamic vinegar. Unlike mass-produced imitations, the real article is made by hand from fermented grape must and conditioned for 12 to 25 years in wooden barrels. The result is a condiment that can add Italian zing to a great many dishes.

Emilia Romagna is the region with the highest number of European quality labels in Italy. It also produces more than 70 varieties of wine that are grown in the 20 recognised DOC and DOCG zones.

An absolute must is the delicious handmade pasta — lasagne, tortellini and tagliatelle in particular — which are easy to find everywhere in the region.

One the coast, piadina romagnola is one culinary tradition seldom seen outside the region. This flatbread, which dates back to Roman times, is Emilia Romagna’s fast food. A hot piadina from a roadside (or beachside) kiosk makes a toothsome lunchtime treat – it’s used to wrap both sweet and savoury fillings.

No meal is complete without wine. Most visitors will come across lambrusco, the lightly sparkling red wine produced in Modena, Parma and Reggio Emilia, and may find it something of a revelation. While most lambrusco on the export market is the sweet variety, the dry styles are most highly regarded at home.

The best way to get a taste of Emilia Romagna’s gastronomy is to follow one of the 15 “Roads of Wines and Flavours” routes that have been established for this purpose. The routes meander through the hills and wherever possible take in a fine collection of local vineyards, olive oil mills, farm guesthouses and craft workshops, all offering tempting local produce that is a joy to discover.

Autumn and winter are ideal times to enjoy one of the many food and wine festivals. Highlights include a two-month autumn gastronomic fair, Tartufesta in Bologna, celebrating local produce such as the prized white truffle. There are also events dedicated to porcino mushrooms, chestnuts, sangiovese wine and even the pumpkin.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s