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Bologna is a food city, well there are many other things to do and see, but it is known for its wonderful small restaurants, markets and some of the best food in Italy. While every region in Italy boast the best food, Bologna is a serious leader. There’s a special touch, a feeling, an inner sense and understanding of cuisine that is hard to describe. They expect the best quality and they can find it in Il Mercato de Mezzo everyday of the week. Bologna is not a fish town, meat and game are their specialty.
Alimentari Tamburini in the region of IL Mercato di Mezzo is one of Italy’s most celebrated food shops. They also have a cafeteria-style lunch packed with people everyday enjoying a large array of hot freshly made dishes continuously coming out of the kitchen and a large wood burning rotisserie producing juicy flavorful meats. This is no ordinary cafeteria, it is famous and I got to eat there every afternoon when I was studying Italian just down the street. I just couldn’t wait to be part of the atmosphere at Alilmentari Tamburini. Cafeteria-style restaurants are very common in Italy and serve good local specialties at very reasonable prices. But this combination of market and cafeteria is special as you can lunch there and walk out with an arm full of cheeses, freshly made pasta, vegetables, and a large variety of salumi for later.
On of my favorite little trattoria is da Nello al Montegrappa (via Montegrappa 2). Their signature dish is Torelllone or Tortellini Montegrappa. This pasta is served in cream-and-walnut (or meat) sauce with white truffle shavings on top. The restaurant is also known for its grilled Porcini mushrooms and one of our favorites stuffed zucchini flowers (zucca fritti) that are light and crispy, absolutely delectable. The restaurant is small with a room crowded with tables on the ground level, a down stairs dinning room and a very small outdoor dining area. You feel a little packed in at times and this might be very uncomfortable to some tourists who are not use to Italian restaurants at lunch time. Italians eat out and crowded restaurant are not at all unusual. Even though the restaurant is in the center of town where there are many tourists, locals swam da Nello. Some may consider it touristy but I’ve been going there for many years and have never been disappointed. The fried zucchini flowers are among the best I’ve had in Italy and their grilled Porcini mushrooms are succulent.
As you can see in the photo below, my granddaughter is in her glory with a dish of their fried zucchini flowers.
I have tried to recreate Tortelloni Montegrappa and came up with my own version. Of course I don’t have white truffles to my dismay.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings as a first dish
2 cups all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
12 oz. ricotta
1/2 cup walnuts, crushed
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Place the flour and salt on your counter or cutting board and make a well in the middle. Place the eggs in the middle and with a fork begin to combine the flour into the egg. The dough will be a little dry, but if you are using a pasta machine, it must be dry in order to roll the dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and set it aside in a kitchen towel for 1 hour to rest.
Cut a piece of the dough and roll it through the pasta machine beginning at the widest section. Roll the dough through each section until you have rolled it through the second to the last slot. If the dough is too moist, rub a little flour into it with your hands. The dough should be somewhat dry. Lay it out on the countertop and cut 2 1/2” x 2 1/2” squares.
Mix the ingredients until it is well blended and smooth. Taste for salt, it should be a little salty.
Place a full teaspoon of the ricotta mixture in the middle of each square and dot the edges with water then fold them over into a triangle. Dot the two ends of the back of the triangle with water and fold them to the back overlapping the ends. Fold down the top of the tortelloni slightly. The water acts as a glue and seals the pasta. But do not use too much or it will become slimy.
Note: The tortelloni can be frozen for up to a month; they take about 5 minutes cooking time if frozen. Do not place them on top of each other when putting them in the freezer. Once they are frozen you can remove them and put them in a plastic freezer bag lying them flat.
Walnut and Mascarpone Sauce
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 container Mascarpone cheese
1/3 to 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, whole
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
3 tablespoons walnut oil
Slightly cook the walnuts in the walnut oil with the garlic. Remove the garlic when the walnuts have released their oils and are slightly toasted.
Place all the rest of the ingredients in a blender and pulsate just enough to blend well. Add the chopped toasted walnuts and place the sauce back into the pan and heat slightly.
Cook the pasta in a large pan of hot salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. Taste for doness.
Pour the sauce over the hot pasta and put a handful of whole walnuts over the top for decoration.
A friend asked me for a soup recipe for a Super Bowl Sunday party. Since she lives in New England and expects that it will be snowy, she wanted to make a big pot of hot soup for everyone to enjoy by the fire watching the game. I wanted to give her a really hearty soup that would satisfy everyone and yet be different.
While I was studying Italian in Bologna Italy, I took a course in cooking in the evenings. Monica was a child physiologist and taught the class with her husband who was an antiquities architect. They were serious food lovers and their kitchen had one small stove and refrigerator, with a huge country kitchen table in the middle where we rolled out dough to almost half the size of the table. It was tight trying to move between large credenzas on each side of the table and in the corner was a small table with a large basket filled with squash, artichokes and other assorted vegetables. Their home was filled with art bought at the art market held each Sunday in Bologna. We cooked and had long conversations in Italian late into the evening. I walked two miles back to my apartment after these evenings under the beautiful arched walkways of Bologna hoping to wear off the large meals that we consumed with complete satisfaction. This soup was one of the recipes we made and I have passed and have gotten rave reviews from all my friends. If you also want something warm for your guests, enjoy this recipe.
Zuppa di salsiccia e pomodoro e rosmarino con ditalini
Monica di Bologna, Italia
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
4 Italian sweet sausages cut into 1/2” sections
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup pureed tomatoes (Passata di Pomodoro)
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
6 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup of white wine
3 whole cloves garlic
1/2 lb. of Ditalini pasta or other small pasta
Sauté the garlic in olive oil. Sauté the sausage and rosemary for 10 minutes in the olive oil and butter. Add the wine, passata (pureed tomatoes) and the broth and cook for 45 minutes.
Cook the Ditalini pasta in salted boiling water. Drain and add the pasta to the soup. I like to put a scoop of pasta in the bowl and add the soup over it. Not mixing it in the soup will keep the pasta from getting too soft.
Serve with grated Parmesan Cheese sprinkled over the top and bruschetta on the side.
Yield: 4 Servings
8 slices of good quality Italian or French bread
2 large cloves of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Toast the bread and when still hot rub it thoroughly with the garlic which you have cut in half. Sprinkle olive oil over the top.