Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tortellini in Italy Bologna

Tortellini in Italy’s Gourmet Heart

Bologna has one of Italy’s largest food markets, which sells a huge variety of fresh pasta

The down-to-earth city of Bologna is renowned for the world’s oldest university, a lively central district, and long, elegantly porticoed streets. But the majority of visitors from Italy and beyond flock here for food, either eaten in the excellent trattorias or bought to take home from the mouthwatering gourmet shops. The simple, fresh tortellini in brodo is a firm favorite.

Bologna hums with activity. A stroll through the compact downtown in the company of fleets of bicycles reveals innovative bookshops, cafés blending chocolate and spices packed to the rafters, and time-tested restaurants that are crowded with diners every day of the week. Resting on a foundation of ancient Roman buildings, the city has grown up in a compact layout, with delightful architectural gems such as Romanesque chapels slotted between butcher shops or apartment buildings. This is a city that can easily be explored on foot, and most tourists start in the oldest part of town, the Quadrilateral, which is dominated by Bologna’s favorite church, the vast 14th-century San Petronio.
Bologna is nicknamed La Grassa (meaning “the fat one”), and it is widely regarded as the gastronomic capital of Italy. The city is located in Emilia-Romagna, a region synonymous with good food; it is home to the aromatic balsamic vinegar from Modena, parmigiano (Parmesan) cheese and prosciutto from Parma, Felino salami, Bologna’s own enormous, pistachio-studded mortadella sausage, and, last but not least, fresh egg pasta. A perfect combination of nearly all of these regional delights comes in the shape of tortellini, tiny knotted parcels of thinly rolled pasta filled with a finely minced, delicate blend of prosciutto crudo, mortadella, parmigiano cheese, and a hint of nutmeg.

Above : Bologna is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, and conforms to a medieval street plan

Tradition dictates that tortellini be both cooked and served in brodo, a delicate consommé made from beef and capon or chicken. They should be served sprinkled with more parmigiano and very much al dente – almost disconcertingly undercooked. This is because the pasta continues to cook in the hot liquid in the bowl.
There are two stories about the invention of tortellini. The first is practical yet poignant – it was a way for locals departing for the Crusades to take the tastes of home with them. The second seems somehow more Italian: during a convention of the gods that took place in mythical times, an innkeeper inadvertently glimpsed Venus naked, and was inspired by the beautiful sight to create these golden “belly buttons.”

Tortellini in brodo are dished up with nothing but their cooking broth for a classic, simple Italian dish

Three Days in and around Bologna 
This fascinating region is packed with historic churches and monuments, and fantastic food markets that spell heaven for gourmet travelers.
DAY ONE : Start in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore, the vast square edged by brick palaces and the imposing medieval church of San Petronio. Take narrow-flagged Via Orefici into the old district lined with mouthwatering gourmet delicatessens, pork butchers, and greengrocers.
DAY TWO : Make the 20-minute train trip to Modena for its priceless Romanesque art and architecture, recognized on the World Heritage list by UNESCO. The Duomo and Torre Ghirlandina are outstanding. Then head for the town’s covered market to sample the famous balsamic vinegar and sparkling Lambrusco wine.
DAY THREE : One hour away by train is prosperous Parma, where the sights are all within walking distance. Visit the graceful 11th-century cathedral and baptistry with their art treasures, then move on to Palazzo Pilotta and its gallery of works by Correggio. Don’t miss the magnificent opera house, Teatro Regia, or the birthplace of the great conductor Arturo Toscanini, but leave plenty of time for the specialty gourmet shops and restaurants.
Getting to Bologna
Bologna’s international airport is a 20-minute bus ride from the city, which is well served by trains. Take an orange city bus to get around; the best way to explore the historic center is on foot.
Where to stay in Bologna
B&B Centrale (inexpensive) offers goodvalue, light-filled accommodations handy for the station. www.bbcentrale.com
Hotel Metropolitan (moderate) is a smart, modern, Eastern-inspired hotel.
Casa Sant’Angelo (expensive) is a small, beautifully renovated 15th-century palace with a roof terrace and spa.

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