Must-Try Dishes In This Foodie Italian City, According To Giada De Laurentiis

It's a well-known fact that Italy takes the crown in several arenas — history, culture, nature, and food. Especially food. From homemade pasta and classic Neapolitan pizza to the ripest tomatoes you'll ever taste, Italy possesses a culinary scene unrivaled by any other region. Sure, you can find the best wine in Tuscany and the freshest lemons in Sorrento, but why not choose a city that has it all? Behold Bologna — the capital of Emilia-Romagna, a region in northern Italy. As the largest city in Emilia-Romagna, nestled just above Florence, Bologna is renowned for its colorful architecture, friendly atmosphere, and vibrant culture — but let's get to what's really important here: the cuisine! According to Giada De Laurentiis, an Italian-American chef and television personality, there are a few local dishes one should never miss out on when visiting Italy's culinary capital. 

Chances are, some of your favorite foods originated in the Emilia-Romagna region, including tortellini, prosciutto, Parmigiano, and balsamic vinegar. While delicious on their own, putting these ingredients into action is what really brings them to life. From blissful bowls of freshly stuffed pasta shells and sparkling glasses of wine to Bologna's more exotic dishes you may not be aware of, these are some of Emilia-Romagna's finest and most famous dishes. 

Pass the pasta, please

Pasta, pasta, pasta! It's a classic kitchen staple beloved by all. Let's start with ragù Bolognese, shall we? It's no wonder this is the dish first mentioned by Laurentiis. This traditional regional dish begins with a base of homemade tagliatelle pasta before it's topped with layers upon layers of Bolognese sauce simmered to perfection over several hours. Twirling this decadent masterpiece around your fork in a well-known Italian restaurant is always the best way to sample an authentic version of this dish, as it's a classic staple on trattoria menus. At the same time, the city of Bologna has actually shared its official ragù Bolognese recipe, extending its world-famous pasta to kitchens around the world.

Disguised as soft, puffy morsels handcrafted from heaven, who doesn't love tortellini? According to Laurentiis, locals do more with this coveted staple than consume it. Shops often place tortellinis in their windows or sell tortellini-inspired trinkets. Traditionally tossed with a hodgepodge of fillings and toppings, like mortadella, prosciutto, or Parmigiano, the possibilities are endless with this one! Locals are so obsessed with this regional delicacy that there's even an annual Tortellini Festival, held every year in October. Chefs from around the nation gather in celebration to show off their inventive pasta-making skills in a tortellini showdown. Tortellini en brodo (in broth) might be a classic way of preparing this pasta, but these creative connoisseurs tend to get crafty with flavor.

Charcuterie board, anyone?

Served by the slice, wedged between bread crusts, or savored as a snack, mortadella is practically an emblem of Bologna's heritage. It also happens to be one of Laurentiis's favorite snacks in this region, and for good reason! Sometimes called the "Pride of Bologna", this enticing cold cut is made from pork sausage and often crusted with peppercorn and pistachios. During the days of the Renaissance when this charcuterie first emerged, its value reached three times that of prosciutto, making it a coveted luxury. 

You've heard of its cousins, ciabatta and focaccia, but you may not yet know about gnocco fritto. You'll toss your sliced sandwich bread to the side when these golden crisps are around. Crafting these delicate morsels is a fine-tuned ritual, perfected over generations. Not quite like a cracker, but certainly not your typical pastry or bread loaf, they're cut into squares, saturated in olive oil, and fried. According to Laurentiis, you can find these leavened delights on nearly any street corner, often stuffed with prosciutto or mortadella.

Last but certainly not least, wine lovers can't leave Bologna without trying a glass of Lambrusco. According to Laurentiis, this age-old symphony of flavors is made from the same grapes in balsamic vinegar and offers notes of berries, watermelon, and citrus. One of the biggest cooperatives that harvest this sweet sparkling wine comprises 12,600 acres throughout the Emilia-Romagna region!