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A Pasta Roll is a beautiful way to begin a Holiday dinner. It takes a little effort but serving such a lovely dish will impress your guests.
My mother made this pasta dish and I rediscovered it when I stayed in Bologna for a month. I took a cooking course during that time, but this was not one of the dishes we prepared. It was recommended that I try Bologna’s pasta rolls. I was there for exactly that to learn and experience everyday life and all the marvels of Bologna. As in many regions of Italy, Bologna is said to have the best food in Italy. The pasta rolls were about double the size of the recipe I have posted and mainly made with a Bolognese filling. I think this recipe is not only delicious but is lovely for a Holiday or celebration.
Rullo della pasta
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: Pasta Roll, 20 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings as main course, 6 servings as a first dish
1 1/2 cups flour
A pinch of salt
A pinch of baking powder
Other Items Needed
Cheesecloth, 1 large piece or if you don’t have a big enough pan, you can make the pasta roll in 2 pieces. You will then need 2 pieces of cheesecloth.
Place the dough ingredients except for the water, into a food processor with the dough attachment. Process until the mixture looks like corn meal. Add a little water and when a ball has formed, remove it and knead it for 10 minutes. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel until you are ready to roll it out.
2 packages spinach cooked and drained
4 tablespoons chopped onions
4 tablespoons Portobello mushrooms
1 tablespoon creamed butter
4 tablespoons Mortadella (an Italian cold cut that can be found in the deli section of most supermarkets)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (mix with the spinach)
Cook the spinach for just 1-2 minutes and squeeze out all of the water. It should be absolutely dry.
Sauté the onions and the Mortadella in the butter for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms at the end for an additional minute. Allow the mixture to cool.
1 lb. Ricotta
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg yoke
Salt to taste
Mix all of the cheese filling ingredients until it is well blended.
Roll the dough out to 10”x16”. Spread the cheese mixture over the dough leaving about 1” around the edges. Spread the spinach mixture over the cheese layer. Fold the side edges in and roll it length wise similar to a jellyroll.
Place the roll on the cheesecloth and roll it securing the ends with kitchen string. Leave a little room at the ends for the dough to expand. Place the pasta roll in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
In a pan large enough to hold the pasta roll, boil salted water. Turn it down to a gentle boil before placing the pasta roll into the water. Cook for 20 minutes.
Remove it from the water and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Remove the cheesecloth. Warm the plates in the plate warmer section of your oven if you have one or turn your oven on to 180 degrees. Put a layer of sauce on the plate, and cut the pasta roll into 1” slices placing them on top of the sauce.
Note: Since the pasta roll is 10”x16” you need a poaching pan. If you don’t have such a pan, you can make the pasta roll in 2 pieces. If you have a casserole dish large and deep enough you may be able to use it if it can be put on top of a stove burner.
Note: Cheesecloth can be found in your Super Market, it may be called gauze. It is usually called cheesecloth in kitchen specialty stores.
Tomato and Béchamel Sauce for Pasta Roll
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes, 4 minutes for béchamel sauce
Yield: 4 Servings as a main course, or 6 as a first dish
1/3 cup each chopped carrots, celery and onions
1 lb. can kitchen ready tomatoes
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 tablespoon sugar
Sauté the carrots, celery and onions until the onions are slightly soft. Place the remaining ingredients in the pan and cook for 1/2 hour. Salt to taste.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup warm milk
Melt the butter over medium heat and add the flour stirring constantly until it becomes a paste. Add the warm milk little at a time blending it into the paste. As the sauce becomes thick make adjustments adding more flour or milk depending on the consistency of the sauce. It should be a thick white sauce.
Mix the two sauces together when using this recipe for the pasta roll and place a layer of the sauce on a warm plate, then placing slices of the pasta roll on top.
Bologna, the capital of Emilia Romagna region is a city known for its food, culture, commerce and beauty. It always amazes me how often I meet people who bypass Bologna. It is buzzing with activity within its famous and beautiful medieval piazzas built between the 12th and 14th Centuries. Piazza Maggiore with its Fountain of Neptune (Fontana di Nettuno), Palazzo dei Banchi, Basilica di San Petronio and San Domenico form the heart of the city where in summer many concerts, art exhibitions and street entertainers fill the piazzas with locals and visitors well into the early morning hours. Shopping is an art in Bologna where street markets straddle the sidewalks side by side with exquisite boutiques. People linger in cafes drinking their many expressi of the day in deep conversation oblivious to the activity going on around them. It is all encompassing and draws you in like a magnet. How can you pass the aromas of a bar without stopping in for an espresso? The city is seductive and you quickly find yourself joining in the excitement that surrounds you day and night.
One of the most alluring attractions of Bologna is its 38 kilometers of porticoes lining the streets and a 4-kilometer-wall built in 1674. The Porticoes add shelter from the weather and are one of the main architectural features of this beautiful city, (read more about Bologna’s famous porticoes on http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5010/).
When taking an Italian language course I lived just outside of the wall and walked home each night about 1 1/2 miles under brightly lit porticos passing bars bustling with people well past midnight. The yellow light flooding the terracotta stucco buildings casts a mysterious dimension to the ancient walls leaving you with the feeling that you are living in ancient times.
There were up to 180 towers in Bologna but today only 2 still exist, the most famous being Asinelli Tower and the Garisenda Tower still stand, leaning precariously.
Il “Mercato di mezzo” is situated within ancient streets originally where the cities craftsmen conducted business. Meandering off in all directions, stalls filled with fish, fruit, cheese, salumi and just about everything else fill your senses with delicious aromas and a noisy and colorful collaboration of activity. It is all so natural to Italians, this life in il mercarto. For the tourist, it is overwhelming and a confusing interaction between vendors and their probing customers. Italians are very discriminating about their food buying nothing but the best. This is where I spent everyday before and after my Italian classes held just around the corner. I spent many hours studying the activity, the process of being Italian and interacting with the locals. Il mercarto is the center of life in an Italian city and it is where you find the real people of the city. Day after day I studied the Italian women making their selections and having rented an apartment, I had no other choice but to cook for myself. As I sat there at a café, I had a discussion with a woman about this special activity that seems to be some sort of ritual. She told me that the trick was to ask the vendor what the right product was for the dish I was making. The vendors pride and knowledge of food would prevail and taking their advice would render your dish exactly as you expected. With my newly acquired Italian language skills, I took her advice and totally became part of the scene almost to the point that I think they took me for a local, (at least I like to think so). It helped that my heritage is Italian and I look Italian. These days were some of the best memories I have of my time in Bologna. I became part of the chaotic activity and for a short time even I began to believe that I was Italian.
Bologna’s markets are crowded and be advised to prepare yourself for some serious shopping. Many clothing, textile and shoe manufacturers are situated on the outskirts of Bologna and you can find fantastic things with a little patient. This is where the locals shop and many fashion trends start right here in the market. Be sure to check everything, as there are also lesser quality items for sale especially the leather goods. Often different pieces of leather are used where it isn’t noticeable and a jacket for example may be a patch work of leather.
Mercato Coperto – Via Ugo Bassi 2, Orefici Market – Via dei Orefici, open daily. La Piazzola – Piazza VIII Agosto (clothes, kitchen goods etc. open on Saturdays and Sundays), Mamanca Market – Via Valdonica (antiques and books), Mercato di Antiquariato – Piazza Santo Stefano (antiques and art) held on the second Sunday of each month. This is one of my favorite markets where beautiful antiques and art are displayed and the most interesting collectables can be bought. I loved spending the afternoon strolling around the tables and display areas filled with unique items. Somehow being in Italy it seemed right to be surrounded with art and antiques.
Via Rizzoli and via dell’Indipendenza are the main streets for shopping. There are also many boutiques on Via Farini, including an arcade of top designer shops in Via Clavature and via d’Azeglio. Situated under the ancient portico covered streets these shops sell the elegant creations of Italian designers.
Situated in the North, in the Po Valley, Bologna’s cuisine is mainly cured pork meats such as prosciutto, mortadella and salami, as well as cheese, such as the world renowned Parmigiano Reggiano. Tagliatelle al ragù (pasta with meat sauce, i.e. the famous spaghetti alla Bolognese), tortellini served in broth, mortadella and Zampone (boned stuffed pigs foot) are among the local specialties. Tortellini (small, stuffed ring shaped pasta), Tagliatelle (ribbon shaped pasta), and the spinach pasta verde are typical pasta varieties. Wonderful small restaurants can be found everywhere and the food is outstanding. Pasta with white truffles, beautiful grilled porcini mushrooms, wild meats such as venison, mutton and bore are seasonal specialties. Don’t forget the desserts. One of my very favorite is sfogliatelle (crispy pastry layers stuffed with ricotta). I was lucky enough to have a pasticceria just across the street where I could go for my morning cappuccino and savor a warm, just out of the oven sfogliatelle. I couldn’t wait to get up and out to the pasticceria and sometimes I had to wait, as the first trays weren’t out of the oven yet. Zuccherino montanaro, biscotti flavored with anise and frosting infused with anise liqueur and Zuppa Inglese made with pan di Spagna soaked in liquor and filled with a pastry cream are famous. Dolce di San Michele, a cake in honor of the city’s patron eaten on the 29th of September, La Pinza, a pastry filled with raisins, almonds, and prune jam and Torta di riso, Bologna’s rice cake are waiting for you in every pasticceria. Crocante con mandorle can be found all along the streets in huge sheets sold by vendors. This is similar to brittle but harder and thicker using whole roasted almonds and/or hazel nuts. I love this candy, but am very careful, as it is so hard that you can easily break your teeth. (My recipe can be found on my blog).
Pignoletto dei Colli Bolognesi, Lambrusco di Modena and Sangiovese di Romagna are the wines produced in this region. Lambrusco is a slightly sweet effervescent wine and is often served as a dessert with peaches when in season. It is probably the most famous wine coming from this region.
The University quarter is northeast of the two towers, along the Via Zamboni. University of Bologna is Europe’s oldest university founded over 900 years ago it attracts students from around the world. As in any city the university adds youth and deep sense of the seriousness as well as innovation. Theaters, book stores and seminars draw in young and old and give the city a buzz of activity. I spent 2 evenings per week here taking a seminar in 17 century Italian opera. I immersed myself in Italian taking a cooking course every week at the home of a couple that made these evenings delicious fun. We learned to cook amazing Italian recipes and communicated about our cultures, politics and anything else that was happening in the world in Italian.
Museo Civico Archeologico (Archaeological Museum) located next to the Palazzo dei Banchi, occupies the building of an old hospital and is one of Italy’s most important collections of antiquities. This museum should not be missed and allow a good amount of time for your visit. Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna (National Picture Gallery) houses masterpieces worthy of an art lover’s time.
Teatro Comunale di Bologna is one of the most important opera venues in Italy. Presenting operas since the 17th century from Vivaldi, Gluck, Piccinni, Verdi, Rossini, Bellini, Wagner and conductor Arturo Toscanini. We were lucky enough to have an opera singer studying Italian in our class and a visit was arranged for us to tour the opera house including the back stage and learn about its history.
I visit Bologna for shopping or just to be there enjoying this lovely city whenever I can. Bologna is an ancient city, but in every way modern. When you visit plan on spending at least a few days.
Note: Some of the photo’s & information were provided by the Bologna Tourist Office.
The local markets are the center of life in Italian towns and villages. Usually the markets are located in the heart of the centre of the village.
A multi-sensorial experience that you cannot miss as it offers the opportunity to enjoy the local taste and the exclusive food specialties of the cuisine of the area. The most fascinating atmosphere with vendors yelling out their daily produce, “carciofi, melanzane, pomodori” and locals closely inspecting every fruit, vegetable and herb stacked perfectly on the stands. The peppers, eggplants, melons and flowers create a patchwork of color and spark your senses to want to partake in all the activity. It is where the real people are and the specific tastes and gastronomic traditions can be found.
While studying Italian in Bologna I spent everyday visiting the market and little local restaurants located within the market district. Most markets have a coffee bar where you can just sit and enjoy an espresso and people watch. Having rented an apartment, I found myself in the midst of what seems to be a lot of confusion and activity. The hustle of Italians and vendors can be intimidating and I could never seem to purchase the right thing. But one day having an espresso at a bar in the district, I met a woman who told me that the key is to let the vendor advise you on what is the best product for the dish you plan to prepare. They are proud to help you to select just the right tomato for a sauce or tell you how to prepare a vegetable or fish. I tried this and Surprise! Surprise! I never bought the wrong thing again. I have since gotten recipes and advise on restaurants from market vendors who are more then happy to help. In fact you probably will have several vendors all giving you their view and recipes at the same time.
One market that I go to about every 4 weeks is in Como.The city is famous for its charismatic street cafes and wine bars that serve antipasti, snacks and aperitifs. The lake promenade and views are what attract most visitors to Como. But I go to the market. Here I find the most beautiful artichokes, Porcini mushrooms, huge red peppers and produce from all over Italy. Here is where you will see the real people of Como. You can purchase and sample prepared foods, select fish from a large array fish from Italy and other parts of Europe. Vegetable, fruit, herbs, nuts, cheese and meats are stacked in perfectly arranged stands in 3 different halls. A large area of flowers and plants fill another hall with color and scents.
Next time you visit an Italian town, don’t miss the experience of the local atmosphere. Visit the local “Mercato”.