Romagna’s cuisine: the simplicity that marries the pleasure of conviviality

Today, Romagna’s gastronomy is still characterized by many “kilometre 0” products and continues to satisfy local foodies and tourists. Cappelletti, strozzapreti, passatelli, stewed cockerel, mutton meat, braciole, sausages: for many people, Romagna’s gastronomy is mainly represented by dishes like these ones which are, after all, the most known and the best known. But it is more accurate to say that this is the traditional cuisine of the region’s lowland, the wide sub-hilly strip that reaches the Adriatic coast’s valleys and marshes. This cuisine is strategically based on what was “around the house”, meaning the garden, the field, the henhouse. This is not only referred to those living in the countryside, as is natural, but also to those living in the city, at least in the suburbs: many yards have been transformed into vegetable gardens and many comfortable low have been redesigned into hen houses, or even pigsties.

But in the Apennine valleys or along the Adriatic coast, where unfortunately these resources were not available and you had to live with what mother nature provided, the tipical nutrition took totally different characteristics. As a result, the cuisine of these areas is less varied and elaborated than the one of the lowland, mainly because of the external circumstances, but is equally tasty and worthy of being proposed on the tables. So, due to the unavailability of some essential products, like the meat for broth, on the tables you can find the “minestra matta“, a soup based on a sauté of tasty herbs, tomatoes and some bacon, made by cooking all these ingredients into boiling water. To this broth are then added some pieces of pasta dough and herbs such as spinach, chard and, according to the season, other tasty edible herbs harvested from fields and ditches. But among the dishes of Romagna’s Preappennines you can also find something more elaborate, like an umpteenth version of the stuffed pasta that is a distinctive sign of the whole region. We are talking about the delicious ravioli, with their filling that, instead of cheeses like ricotta and raveggiolo, is made with boiled potatoes, sometimes also enriched with bacon and lard. This dish is usually eaten during days of celebration, when is also common to sprinkle it with some flakes of truffle, to reflect the fact that the even the wood is able to offer authentic delicacies.

We can find the same simplicity also in the seafood cuisine, whose basic ingredients were essentially the ones that Neptune left in the nets, but also the few ones that remained from the commercialization of the catch. Just to name a few, the ugly but tasty cockles called “poverazze“, the particular stick-shaped molluscs called “cannelli”, that can be easily found on the seashore during summer days, and then some fishes like saraghina, sardine and sardone that, according to their size, can be grilled, fried or marinated. But we must also mention the “brodetto“, a particular fish soup, similar to the caciucco or the buridda from the Tyrrhenian coasts. Just think that the recipe of the brodetto of Cesenatico had the glory of being contained into pages of great literature: this soup, commercialized in preserves, is in fact first the great dream then the desperation of Mondo, the husband of Andreana, who is the main carachter of the homonymous novel by the great Marino Moretti.

In the end, we can reasonably call all these dishes “mangiari romagnoli”, due to the strong impact that these traditional preparations had on the sea, on the plain and on the hills. However, as a common denominator, in addition to the unmissable piadina Romagnola, we can always find a constant respect for the primary products, especially the animals:  stewed meats that do not drown in the cooking liquid, barbecues that do not squash the meat, fryings that do not destroy the connective tissues of fishes. A particular cuisine, very different from the one of Emilia, which has always privileged the substance of the product on embellishments and decorations. Perhaps because these areas ,where the great Pellegrino Artusi was born, have never been reached by the finesse of the various lordships that have lived in Emilia. For this reason some critics said that there was no Renaissance here in Romagna and that we are still celebrating the cuisine’s Middle Ages, when the pleasure of conviviality prevails, as opposed to other areas, where this is often regretted as a memory of the good times now long gone.

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