The Emilia region of Italy has long been considered the country’s gastronomic epicenter. Similar to the position Lyons occupies in French gastronomes’ hearts, Bologna is said to be Italy’s gastronomic capital. Given that such universally recognizable names like Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggianohail from the region, to say nothing of Modena’s Balsamico and that most classic of meat sauces, Bolognese, Emilia’s reputation comes naturally.
|Bologna is called “La Grassa”
meaning “Plump” or ‘Prosperous”
The last time Andrew and I were in Italy, we hurtled through Emilia on our way from Venice to Tuscany. Having gotten a late start, our plans to stop in Bologna for lunch were dashed. Due to the brilliance of Italy’s Autostradas which skirt the city centers, we never even laid eyes on the place. I’d been there as a student but on a student’s budget I have no recall of the gastronomy. In fact the only the thing I remember at all was that Bologna had a Communist mayor which, in those pre-cold war days, pretty much scared us red-blooded North Americans off the place.
The newly re-designed Bon Appetit took us there in its May issue and what a visit it was. Emilia not only has all the much-loved features of the Mediterranean diet—olive oil, fish, vegetables and pasta, it’s also home to milk, meats—including Mortadella, that close cousin to Bologna or Baloney—and cheeses and cream. Its cuisine takes the best of all that is Italian and merges it with more northern European traditions to create incredibly rich flavors and luscious dishes.
|An unlikely ingredient
in a pasta sauce? Not this one
Among Bon Appetit’s offerings was, of course, a traditional recipe for Bolognese, one for ricotta stuffed Tortolloni and one for a Frittata laden with onions. But the one that caught my eye was the one that used paper thin, postage stamp-sized pieces of cooked Prosciutto in an orange and cream sauce. According to Bon Appetit, this is something that is served in “a few country trattorias”. While I hardly profess to be an expert on Italian food, I have never tasted anything quite like it. The fruit and the meat complement each other perfectly. There’s a fresh citrus taste here which works beautifully with the salty flavor of the prosciutto. It’s creamy and luscious without being the slightest bit heavy. While Bon Appetit opted for fettuccine, I chose to use Pappardelle, specifically the lemon-pepper version from Trader Joe’s. This gave the dish a jolt of spice and reinforced its citrus flavors. This is an easy and ideal summer pasta to serve. And it’s one of those dishes that will have people asking just what is in it. Here’s the recipe:
Recipe for Pappardelle with Prosciutto and Orange:
12 oz. egg tagliatelle, pappardelle or fettuccine (preferably fresh)
2 Tbsp. (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
3 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into 1″ pieces
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup half and half
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute before al dente, about 2 minutes for fresh pasta, longer for dried. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a large heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add prosciutto; sauté until browned, about 3 minutes.
Add reserved pasta water, orange juice, half of zest, and cream; bring to a boil. Add pasta; cook, stirring, until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in cheese and divide among warm bowls. Sprinkle remaining orange zest over pasta.