Published on Wednesday, August 2, 2017

How culinary culture makes life good in Italy

Position, position, position - Romagna scoops the pool

Food and wine and beautiful things make life good in Italy. Why is it that Romagna gets the best?

It all started with the Romans. When they started to conquer the rest of Italy they built the roads they needed to move their armies around. Then the roads created prosperity areas of their own and generated the glorious Italy that we know today, full of art and culture, castles and palaces, food and wine.

When the Romans moved north, they built roads - one from Rome to Rimini through the hills, the via Flaminia,; from Rimini to Milan, with the mountains on one side and the fertile plain on the other the via Emilia; from Rimini to Ravenna and Venice often with sea on both sides the via Popilia and another from Rimini to Florence too.

All of these 2000+ year old roads, routes to build rich palaces on, routes for trade, above all routes for food and wine and recipes.

It's no wonder that Romagna is at the heart of this network - after all it was the retirement home for Roman soldiers (hence its name). And it's no wonder that, even now, Romagna is the best-connected area in Italy. From here it's easy to get to top places like Venice and Florence, Bologna and Milan.

Going back a couple of thousand years, returning Roman soldiers were all given a plot of very fertile land in Romagna as their retirement gift/pension plan. The more important a soldier you were the bigger the plot of land you got.

What did they use their land for? Growing great stuff! Wine and wheat and all kinds of vegetables and, above all fruit to be kissed by the warm Romagna sun. And cows and goats and chicken and ducks and sheep and pigs and more - for great meats and great cheeses and basically great everything. The beginning of one of the world's great culinary cultures!

So, in this true life Garden of Eden - Romagna - there was plenty for all. So much so that there were harvests great enough to build sublime palaces on all the cities on the Roman roads.

And great palaces house rich people who want better food! Romagna's international nature - after all Ravenna was the imperial capital of the Roman empire together with Constantinople - easily brought new ways to cook and eat and taste.

So Piadina - Romagna's centuries-old fast food - was based on a Byzantine recipe. So Pellegrino Artusi - the 'Father of Italian Cookery' hailed from Romagna. And now there is nowhere in the world that has a more inventive cuisine.

Why not try it? Here are just a few examples:

Freshly made pasta. Forget the packaged variety (or the mass-produced chilled version). In Romagna there is only one way to make pasta - flour, water, egg + a large wooden table + a big rolling pin + a knife. This is how you make tasty, firm, toothsome Tagliatelli, Cappeletti, Strozzapreti, Garganelli and other local delights!

Squacquerone. This very, very fresh local cream cheese doesn't travel. It's at its very yummiest best as a Piadina filling with Rocket and Prosciutto

Mora Romagnola. This little local much-prized free range black pig is fed on acorns, leads a long life and produces sweet, totally delicious Prosciutto, Salami, Brawn and Pig's cheek

Formaggio di Fossa. Rich goat's or cow's milk is made into a cheese in July. It is then sealed in stone pits with a covering of fresh hay. On St Cecilia's day (November 22) the cheese is uncovered and tasted! It is now known as  ÌAmber'. Eat it with a tiny teaspoon of aged Balsalic - delicious!

Savor. Every Romagna mother has an ancient recipe for this delicious relish. It's made by boiling grape juice and skins for days with autumn fruits and nuts (usually a combination of quinces, apples, pears, walnuts, hazelnuts, and secret ingredients - naturally!). Eat it with Squacquerone and Prosciutto. Mouth-tinglingly superb!

Piadina. DOP Piadina is a delicious flatbread traditionally cooked on a stone 'Telia' from one specific village. Filled with a choice of delicious ingredients from nettles to barbequed pork, it provides the base for Romagna's streetfood!

Ciambella. This is the light-as-a-feather cake if the gods. Butter, flour, vanilla, a little sugar and a lot of elbow-power make this heavenly confection. Taste with a little sweet Albana wine - you'll be in Paradise!

Sangiovese di Romagna DOC. Fabulous, rich red Sangiovese ('Blood of Jove') is Romagna's favourite wine. Full bodied, great taste. Internationally renowned, locally Deliciously inexpensive.

Albana DOCG. The first Italian wine to get the coveted DOCG appelation - Golden fruity Albana has been grown in Romagna for thousands of years. Drink it dry with a meal or for a delicious dessert, try the late-harvest sweet Passito with a piece of Ciambella!

Pagadebit DOC. A fabulous dry white wine, Pagadebit ('Pay the bills') naturally comes deliciously fizzy or still. Either way you are in for a treat!

You want more?

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