The home of Parmigiano Reggiano and Balsamic Vinegar, the city of Modena sits at the very centre of Italian cuisine, both symbolically and geographically. Proof of that lies in the fact that it is the Italian province with the highest number of 'DOP' and 'IGP' seals of quality foods.
Typical Modenese cookery can boast lots and different delicacies. Some are common with the central Emilian Culture, others are rare excellences, envied throughout the whole world. Products of extraordinarily high quality, where passion and tradition join into something inimitable.
Modenese First Courses
The symbol of the Modenese table is certainly the tortellini, the delicious “navel” of pastry filled with meat (pork, cured ham, sausage; sometimes Bologna sausage: each family holds its own secret recipe!). If bigger, they are called tortelloni, usually filled with spinach and ricotta, served with butter and sage. Of the fresh handmade pasta, the tagliatelle is rough and wide depending on one’s taste, flavoured with meat or ham sauce.
Modenese Second Courses
The second dishes of Modenese cookery are dominated by sausage. The cotechino, served with lentils and mashed potatoes, boiled and filled with different types of minced meat. Similar to the cotechino, but with a stronger taste and the characteristic pig's feet, the traditional zampone is directly made with the anterior leg of the pig. Both have the IGP seal of quality.
Modenese Bakery and Salame
In this part, Modenese cookery shows its wonderful particularities: nobody in Modena can deny having eaten “gnocco e tigelle”. The gnocco fritto is exceptional greediness: a dough made of water, flour and lard is fried – preferably in the lard itself – so that it blows up and then is served with salami, lard, cheese and also jam. It is eaten even for breakfast, with milk.
It is usually coupled with the tigelle or “crescentine”, disks of a particular type of bread, baked according to the tradition between hot plates. These must be cut open and filled with whatever are fancies to eat them with (like the gnocco). These delicacies are often served with raw vegetables to degrease them.
Probably the most common sweet in Modena is the traditional Bensone, covered with sugar. Bensone is a traditional dessert that hails from Modena. It appears under various names, and it is traditionally made with flour, milk, eggs, butter, and sugar. The original bensone was made with honey instead of sugar, and it did not have any additions. Nowadays, this traditional dessert sometimes comes with various fillings such as fruit jams, savòr—a regional jam based on grape must—or even chocolate spreads. It usually has an oval shape, and it is typically sprinkled with pearl sugar. Bensone is enjoyed as a dessert, snack, or sweet breakfast, and the pieces are usually dipped in wine, coffee, or tea.
Modenese Wines and Liqueurs
The only way to eat all the Modenese delicacies is with a light, sparkling wine: the Lambrusco of Modena DOC seal of quality. Produced from the grapes cultivated in the fertile plain between the rivers Secchia and Panàro, there are three varieties: Sorbara (which is the principal area of production), Santa Croce and Grasparossa of Castelvetro. It has an intense red colour and a high froth when poured out. It is drunk while still young (wonderful when tasted only a few weeks after the grape harvest) and – though it is red wine – fresh. The Consortium Historic Seal of the Modenese Lambruschi, whose symbol is the rose window of the Duomo, guarantees the quality of the bottles which follow the rules for the production. The distillation of liqueurs is traditional in many families. In particular, the “nocino”, made from the husk of walnuts, the “sassolino”, from the star anise, the “laurino”, from laurel berries.
Source(s): La Guida di Modena, Great British Chefs, Taste Atlas, Eat Well