Emilia-Romagna can boast a long list of delicious desserts. Some have very ancient origins, often unwritten, and have been handed down from family to family, and from one generation to the other.
Therefore, there are several variations of the same recipe. Over the years many have become staples of regional pastry-making, such as Pampapato (or Panpepato), served on the tables of the Ferrara province since the Renaissance, that has obtained a PGI label. Others, however, have been almost forgotten or their diffusion has been limited to their cities of origin.
It is mainly thanks to the local communities that many desserts did not fall into oblivion: through festivals, baptisms, confirmations, weddings and other celebrations, they managed to keep the recipes alive.
Busslanein are delicious "necklaces" made up of donuts, typical of the municipality of Rottofreno (Piacenza). The dough is made with flour, butter, sugar and milk.
Known since 1300 throughout the Val Tidone, they were once given as gifts by godparents to children for their Confirmation.
Today they are made with or without sugar, hard or crumbly, and they are sold during market days and local festivals.
Toasted bread, amaretti, walnuts, honey, sugar, pine nuts, raisins, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, orange peel, white wine: these are the ingredients that make up the recipe for spongata, a typical Emilian dessert that has its origins in the early Middle Ages, if not even earlier.
The strange name derives from the word “sponga”, which literally means sponge, due to how spongy and irregular its surface looks.
From Piacenza to Parma, from Reggio Emilia to Modena, also crossing the regional borders (Massa-Carrara, La Spezia, Imperia and Mantua), there are many cities that claim its origin.
Made with almonds, sugar, eggs and candied fruit, the Biscione reggiano is a typical Christmas dessert produced by the ancient pastry shops in the city of Reggio Emilia.
It is usually made in the shape of a snake (hence its name), or a dragon with open jaws, entirely covered with meringue.
Zabaione is a preparation that boasts several centuries of history. There are many conflicting sources regarding its origins and name. One of these claims that it was "invented" in 1500 near Scandiano by the mercenary captain Emiliano Giovanni Baglioni, who casually mixed eggs, flour and white wine.
Regardless of its origin, zabaione is a delicious dessert based on egg yolks and sugar. It is prepared in a double boiler, using Marsala wine, and it is usually topped with amaretto crumbs.
Duchessa cake, one of the most famous desserts of the city of Parma, is a very rich and slightly alcoholic cake, made up of three discs of hazelnut paste, filled with delicious chocolate ganache and zabaione and topped with chopped hazelnuts and candied cherries.
Due to its elegant appearance, it is a good way to end a meal during large events.
Duchessa cake is sold in all the best pastry shops in Parma.
Barozzi Cake is a typical dessert from the Vignola area, in the province of Modena.
Made with flour, milk, chocolate, coffee, eggs, butter and sugar, it was invented in the late 1800s by the pastry chef Gollini who had opened a workshop right in the centre of the village.
Today the recipe is jealously guarded by the pastry shop that has registered the trademark with the name of “Torta Barozzi”.
Halfway between savoiardi and spumini, Africanetti (Africanét or Margherita biscuits) are ancient Bolognese biscuits obtained made with egg yolks and sugar. They are typical of the municipality of San Giovanni in Persiceto where it is considered a true institution.
Traditionally, africanetti are ingot-shaped, but nowadays they come in all shapes and sizes and are usually sold by weight or packed in their characteristic cardboard boxes.
Torta di riso is a typical dessert of the Emilian cuisine, with a soft and creamy texture. Its preparation is quite simple: it is made using rice, milk, without the use of flour and baking powder.
Like many regional desserts, torta di riso has an ancient origin. In Bologna, where it is called torta degli addobbi, it was already being made in the 1400s on Corpus Christi, when the streets were embellished with colored drapes. According to tradition, it was cut into diamond shapes and brushed with a liqueur such as Sassolino or Anicione.
There are several versions of this dessert: among these, that of Reggio is included in the list of traditional agri-food products of Emilia Romagna.
Tagliatelle cake is a typical holiday dessert, beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. It is usually served on special occasions such as Sunday lunch, but also Christmas and Easter.
Also known as torta ricciolona, it consists of a shortcrust pastry base filled with almonds, candied citron, sugar, liqueur and topped with real egg tagliatelle.
Due to its long tradition, there are many different versions throughout the Emilian territory. In Bologna, the recipe was patented the local Chamber of Commerce, while in the municipality of Molinella it was even registered as a De.Co product.
Tenerina cake is a chocolate cake typical of the city of Ferrara registered in the list of traditional agri-food products of Emilia Romagna.
In 1900 the cake was originally called torta Montenegrina or torta Regina del Montenegro, in honor of Elena Petrovich of Montenegro, who was the bride of the then King of Italy Vittorio Emanuele III. It was later nicknamed torta tacolenta by the people of Ferrara, due to its sticky, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Tenerina cake is a favourite among regional desserts, with its crunchy exterior and fudgy chocolate centre.
Bustrengo is a typical dessert of the Romagna hinterland, in particular in the Savio, Rubicone and Montefeltro valleys.
It was once prepared during winter by recycling and mixing ingredients already available in the pantry. Because of this, there is not one single recipe but several variations.
The dough is made with eggs, bread, milk and sugar, to which one can add many different ingredients, such as apples, pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, chestnut flour, raisins, cocoa and much more. Even today, every family in the area jealously guards its own recipe.
Ciambella romagnola, despite its name, is not actually donut-shaped. It is in fact a kind of loaf cake.
Tradition has it that it was once prepared at home in the days leading up to Easter. Today, there is no need to wait for a special occasion to make it.
Its ingredients are simple: eggs, flour, sugar, milk and butter.
Ciambella romagnola is normally served in slices, at breakfast or after meals, and goes well with a glass of sweet wines such as Albana or Cagnina.
Canterelle (cantarèli in dialect) are an ancient Romagna dessert, typical of the Rimini area, reminiscent of American pancakes in shape and cooking method.
The batter for these delicious pancakes is made with flour and water, and then cooked on a testo romagnolo (or in a pan) with oil and a pinch of sugar. There are many variants with a lot of different fillings, but the recipe for the batter is always the same.
Every year, between the last weekend of September and the first weekend of October, Gatteo Mare hosts a party dedicated to cantarelle.
This typical dessert of the Romagna tradition has a very bizarre name, but there is a very simle explanation behind it. As a matter of fact, it comes from the time of year in which it is prepared, between the end of October and the beginning of November on the occasion of the "day of the dead", a day dedicated to the commemoration of the dead.
It is a kind of semi-sweet bread, filled with dried fruit (walnuts, almonds and pine nuts) and brushed with eggs and sugar or melted honey.
There are many more desserts to enjoy in Emilia Romagna! Here is a delicious list of others desserts to try:
In Piacenza and its province
Turtlitt in Sant'Antoni
Almond cake alla bobbiese (Turt ad mandurl)
Albarola fig cake
Crunchy Bobbiese (Crucànt)
In Modena and its province
In Bologna and its province
Bolognese raviole of San Giuseppe
Zuccherino di Montagna
In Ravenna and its province