Italians take their food very seriously and each region has its own specialities and traditional dishes. Let’s zone in on the region of Emilia Romagna which has a reputation for producing some of the best food in Italy. After all the region has the European record in DOP and IGP certifications - with 44 products!
Here’s how to do it in Emilia-Romagna style if you’re wanting to impress your guests!
Warm up your guests with a glass of bubbly and some nibbles. Especially if your guests haven’t met before, prosecco is a good option to get the conversation flowing, but if you’d like to be more adventurous you could serve a Negroni cocktail. Made with one part gin, one part vermouth rosso, one part Campari bitter and garnished with orange peel.
This usually consists of charcuterie, cheeses or vegetables. The region of Emilia-Romagna has a wealth of amazing products to choose from, including cured ham from Parma and Mortadella from Bologna. Our suggestion is a savoury combination of Asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto di Parma DOP (cured Parma ham).
Much to the surprise of many a Brit, pasta is normally served as a sort of pre-main course, called the 1st course. If you’re going to serve the whole shebang, it’s advisable (and in keeping with custom) for the portion to be meat-free and to kept to a reasonable size to ensure your guests have room to enjoy what comes after. You could also serve a risotto or polenta dish but we like 'Cappellacci di zucca ferraresi' served with Parmigiano reggiano DOP - a type of pasta parcel from the Ferrara province filled with puréed pumpkin and sprinkled with melty parmesan cheese.
Traditionally the Secondo or 2nd course consists of either meat or fish. Our choice would be a succulent: Beef Fillet with balsamic
This may be served with an optional Contorno(side dish) such as ‘Fior di zucca al forno’ in other words, pumpkin flowers stuffed with a mix of cheeses including ricotta and parmesan and baked in the oven. Wow!
Next up is the Insalata which can be fairly simple affair of mixed green leaves with of course a dressing composed of olive oil and ‘aceto balsamico di Modena’ - the lovely sweet and sour taste of balsamic vinegar from Modena (DOP) will set off the fresh flavours of any salad.
You may be nearing satiation at this point but the good news is that nothing is rushed at the Italian dinner table!
Now is the time for Formaggi e frutta - a platter of cheeses and fruit of your choice. Obviously the available choice may vary depending on the season but here are some regional suggestions that you could add: Provolone valpadana, Casciotta d’Urbino, Formaggio di Fossa di Sogliano Dop, Squacquerone di Romagna Dop - quite a lot actually! And in the fruit department, you can find melon from Matova and cherries from Vignola amongst the certified produce from Emilia Romagna.
Dulcis in fundo
The saying ‘Dulcis in fundo’ is Latin for ‘the dessert comes at the end (of the meal)’, and it’s used to say ‘to save the best for last.’ Sweets being our area of expertise, we agree that this is the best part of the meal and must be worth waiting for of course!
Even if the ingredients that are used to make Lavolio confectionery are sourced from different parts of Italy, considering the fact that Lavolio’s founder comes from the Emilia Romagna region ;-), we think a box of any of our handmade Italian confectionery tins is a very acceptable way to wrap up your regional menu. We suggest our Fruit Garden collection which includes gorgeous and refreshing combinations such as ‘Cherry Romantico’ - a soft-centred amarena cherry coated in dark chocolate or our lovely ‘Lemon & Almond’ with white chocolate. And each tin is perfect for sharing around a table.
Finally, there’s Caffè - no Italian meal would be complete without a strong espresso coffee which, if desired, can be followed with a Digestivo also known as ‘Ammazzacaffè’ (or ‘coffee killer’)! You could try Nocino di Modena, a dark liquor made from walnuts with an aromatic, bittersweet flavour.