Last week’s TBT Cookbook Review was for a book, Piedmont, in the Time Life series Flavors of Italy. Suzi and I now have all four of the books in the series [two came this week], so I can post #2 of the four: Emilia Romagna. The provinces of this region cross the northern end of the Italian peninsula just before it fans out before the Alps. Above Florence, below Venice.

Here you will find the Po valley and food. And Bologna, Modena, Parma and Ravenna. It the place of palaces and popes. Cheeses and hams and vinegars. And wine.

The side notes to the book explain the history and these food focuses. And this slim book of 120 pages has the standard chapters:

  • Antipasti
  • Primi Piatti
  • Secondi Piatti
  • Verdure [Vegetables]
  • Dolci [Desserts and Cookies]

Yet another Italian cookbook you might ask. And from 1999? What can it hold for you?

I’m going to show you four good reasons you’ll want this book, four wonderful recipes. Don’t worry, there are plenty more.

Let’s start with the Erbazzzone or Savory Pie. Swiss chard, spinach or beet leaves combined with pancetta, scallion, and cheese. And all wrapped up in real crust made with real lard. Yes, lard. Nothing can match lard.

 

Many of us grew up on macaroni and cheese. And thus grew tired of macaroni. Or even told ourselves “not one more bite of that stuff.” Make a sweet pastry and fill it with macaroni, parmesan, bechamel, tomatoes, and a meat sauce of pancetta, veal, chicken livers, red wine, tomatoes, cinnamon and nutmeg. Ah, you now have Pasticcio alla Ferrarese or Macaroni Pie Ferrara-Style.

 

I am a sucker for rolled up food. Desserts, of course. That Christmas chocolate roll filled with whipped cream. But I must say Italians can do savory rolls as well. Here is the Rotolo Ripieno or Stuffed Pasta Roll. The stuffing is spinach, parmesan, mushrooms, chicken livers, sausage, and veal. Oh, you could surely sneak in raisins or pine nuts here. Capers? Sure.

 

And dessert? Torta Nera or Black Pie. This dessert is perfect if you have to pull an all-nighter. The filling is toasted almonds, sugar, cocoa powder, egg and coffee. You’ll be awake for days. Personally, I would not serve this without whipped cream. Probably flavored with Kahlua but that’s just my personal preference.

 

These four ideas are merely examples of the dramatic cuisine of the land of Emilia Romagna and the recipes in Emilia Romagna. You can find the book online, and I encourage you to indulge with no regret. Do try to make a lard crust. Life-changing experience.