Parma, European food capital
Parma justly deserves its reputation as a temple to gastronomy. As the seat of the European Food Authority, Parma is a capital of culinary delights. The whole province is studded with specialities and criss-crossed by food trails. Explore the hills along the Food & Wine Routes, or visit the Food Museum to savour the history and magic of local delicacies.
Langhirano is the home of Parma ham while Felino is a byword for a superior salame. Zibello is the home of Culatello, another prestigious cured meat. The pigs live like princes, fattened on chestnuts and whey. Soragna is cheese country, renowned for its Parmigiano Reggiano museum. Look out for signs to producers on the cured meat routes (eg Strada del Culatello di Zibello and Strada del Prosciutto e dei vini dei Colli di Parma).
Prince of cheeses: Parmigiano Reggiano
Parmesan cheese is infinitely versatile and suits the simplest or most sophisticated dishes. It's been produced in its wheel-shaped form for over eight centuries. The hard and slightly gritty texture is adored by both gourmets and the health conscious. parmesan eschews additives and is simply the result of raw milk matured for up to 24 months. The cheese is rich in proteins and highly digestible so is perfect for children and the elderly. Instead, squacquerone cheese works wonderfully with rocket and piadina while formaggio di fossa, aged underground, has a strong, distinctive flavour.
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Modena or Reggio Emilia
What would a salad be without a touch of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Modena or Reggio Emilia? Forget the industrial versions: this artisanal nectar transforms a blande side salad into a delicious dish. This viscous but delicious vinegar is made from the must of top-quality grapes, and aged in barrels for at least 12 months. In recent years, it has (almost literally) come out of the attico to win glory on the international stage. Used in many recipes to add flavour, it has an irresistible sweet-and-sour aroma.
Hamming it up
Parma ham (Prsciutto di Parma) is perfect for all occasions, whether a tasty snack or a sumptuous feast. The same is true of Modena ham, also made from pork. Foodiest contrast Parma ham or Culatello with other cured meats, such as pale-pink Bolognese mortadella, studded with black peppercorns or green pistachios. Savour Parma ham with bread - possibly coppia from Ferrara. Other tasty speciality breads include tigelle and crescentine, as well as focacce from Modena and the classic piadina from Romagna.
Branding Emilia Romagna: Italy follows a quality control system along the lines of the French "appellation controlee" wine classification. Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano) must come from strictly bound area named "place of origin" Parma and be produced according to stringent requirements. Unique regional produce are classified to protect the brand, identity and quality. Top charcuterie, such as parma ham, Modena ha, Culatello, are classified DOP, ad is Parmesan cheese and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar. Coppia bread from Ferrara is IGP while certain wines are classified DOC or DOCG.
(souce: "Emilia Romagna, land with a soul")