The taste of regional first courses

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Rich in history and flavors, the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna is a galaxy of different culinary traditions. Each of its nine provinces includes a rich parterre of recipes characterized by raw materials of the highest quality, daughters of peasant knowledge that are lost in the maze of the history of this territory.

Tortellini, green and tailed tortelli, anolini, cappelletti and cappellacci, garganelli, tagliatelle, lasagna, passatelli: stuffed or not, dry or in broth, the greatest pride of Emilia-Romagna are egg pasta, rigorously prepared but no.

A few simple ingredients, such as eggs and flour, are enough to produce a long list of tasty and delicious first courses that differ in shape and / or type of filling.

However, making everything remarkably tasty, a determining role is played by the condiments that enrich the dishes, giving them a unique taste.
Ragù reigns supreme over all, cooked using different meats and methods depending on the area in which you are located. However, there is no lack of solutions with cream or traditional broth, strictly made from hen or capon, which flavor the dishes and warm the heart of anyone who tastes them.

If in Romagna the cappelletto is the absolute protagonist with its Raviggiolo filling, in Bologna and Modena the specialties are tortellini, meat-based. 

It is different, however, if you move to the Ferrara area where the cappellacci with pumpkin filling triumph or to the Parma / Piacenza area where the tortelli with ricotta and herbs are held.

Finally, praiseworthy and unmissable are the tagliatelle, a true and only cornerstone in Emilia-Romagna when it comes to egg pasta.

Pisarei e Fasò

A symbolic dish of Piacenza cuisine, the Pisarei and Fasò are a dish of ancient peasant tradition. These are hand-made dumplings made with stale bread and flour and seasoned with a bean-based sauce, pounded with bacon, onion and tomato.

According to some, the name Pisarei derives from the distortion of the Piacenza word bissa, or snake, given the particular shape of the strips of pasta before being cut into "gnocchetti". According to others, however, the origin of the name should be linked to the Spanish term pisar, that is to crush-crush.


Anolini are a type of filled egg pasta typical of the Emilia area, whose very ancient origins date back to the 12th century.

At the center of a heated dispute for paternity between Parma and Piacenza, anolini are a dish of great anniversaries, such as Christmas. These are small round ravioli with a serrated edge, filled with a mix of overcooked beef, Parmesan cheese, seared bread and spices, and served in a tasty chicken or capon broth.

In the Piacenza variant the anolini (in dialect "anvëin") are slightly smaller than the Parma one. They have the shape of a crescent with a stuffing based on beef stew (but there are also those who use pork). In the Parma area, however, they are circular in shape, and for this jokingly nicknamed "life jackets". The filling is made with beef stew accompanied by Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Anolini in Brodo
Anolini in Brodo, Parma Ph. 2FoodTrippers

Tortelli/herb tortelloni 

Tortelli are one of the typical dishes of Emilia-Romagna, and in particular of the areas around Parma, Piacenza and Reggio Emilia. In reality, the tradition includes four versions (with herbs, potatoes, pumpkin and chestnuts), which differ according to the type of filling.

Their origin seems to date back to the medieval period to respond to a need, that of eliminating the meat of the filling during the days of lean eve.

Those with herbs (also called simply green tortelli) are still the best known and most representative of the area: an egg pasta with ricotta and spinach / chard, served with melted butter, Parmesan cheese and a few spices (pepper or nutmeg).

Among the different variants, we must also remember the tortelli con la coda, a very original and tasty variant of the “common” tortelli typical of the municipality of Vigolzone, in the province of Piacenza.

Zuppa imperiale (Imperial soup)

The Imperial soup is a typical dish of Emilia-Romagna, especially in the area around Bologna and Ravenna where it accompanies lunch or dinner on important occasions.

Made with a mixture of semolina, eggs, grated Parmesan, butter and nutmeg, after being baked in the oven, it is cut into squares and served in a capon broth that envelops them in their flavor.

Tortellini in brodo (Tortellini in broth)

Tortellini are a true delicacy of Emilian cuisine. Cooked in exquisite beef and chicken broth, these are small egg pasta wrappers filled with a sumptuous filling of meat, raw ham, mortadella and Parmigiano Reggiano.

For centuries two cities, Bologna and Modena, have fought over the authorship of this dish. This, at least, until the end of the 19th century, when it was decided that the official birthplace of the tortellino was Castelfranco Emilia, a town halfway between the two contenders, where the Festival is still held today in the second week of September. of traditional Tortellino.

In everyday life, each Emilian family keeps its own recipe, but there is also an "official" recipe deposited at the Bolognese Chamber of Commerce by the Learned Confraternity of Tortellino.

Tortellini in brodo
Tortellini in brodo | Ph. FoodFunTravels

Lasagne verdi alla bolognese (Green lasagna Bolognese)

Cooked and enjoyed all over the world, but above all known as the symbolic dish of Italy abroad, green lasagna Bolognese is a real institution.

Its origins are lost in time but it is in Bologna that the recipe has taken shape and substance.

At the base of this delicious dish there is a sheet of fresh green egg pasta, cut in the shape of rectangles. Assembled in a pan and stuffed in layers with meat sauce, béchamel and parmesan, the lasagna is baked in the oven to form a very succulent pie.

As with any traditional dish, there are also different variations for lasagna. However, the Italian Academy of Cuisine intervened to take stock of the situation and, after careful analysis, filed what can be considered the original and traditional recipe with the Chamber of Commerce of Bologna.

Tagliatelle al ragù alla bolognese (Tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce

Tagliatelle are one of the monument-dishes of Emilia-Romagna, a tout court icon of Italian cuisine.

There are countless recipes that revolve around this subtle type of egg pasta, which differ according to the type of sauce. Among these, the most famous is certainly the one with Bolognese sauce, a great classic loved especially during Sunday lunches with family or friends.

Since 1972, the traditional Emilian recipe has been registered with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce, which establishes the size of the pasta and the ingredients of the sauce, but in fact every family has its own version. On two things, however, everyone agrees: the minced meat of the Bolognese sauce must not be made from lean beef, but a mixture of pork and beef and slow cooking.

Cappellacci PGI

A pastry made with type 00 soft wheat flour and eggs wraps a filling of yellow pumpkin pulp, Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. These are the basic ingredients of the recipe for Cappellacci di Zucca PGI, a symbolic dish of Ferrara cuisine.

A recipe of noble origins, born from the mind of the cook of the court of Alfonso II d'Este in the mid-16th century and has come down to us today.
The peculiarity of the name (in caplaz dialect) recalls the straw typical ones once worn by peasants.

Cappellacci di Zucca IGP
Cappellacci di Zucca IGP, ph. Fabio Duma, Archivio APT Servizi

Spoja lorda

Also known as gross pastry, and often paraphrased in stuffed pasta, the spoja lorda is a first course, easy and tasty, typical of Emilia-Romagna

Prepared for holidays and large family lunches, they appear as small squares of egg pasta with jagged edges, filled with ricotta and raviggiolo cheese (typical cheese from the Tuscan-Romagna Apennines), eggs, Parmigiano Reggiano and a pinch of sale.

Depending on tastes and availability, the spoja is served available combined with a meat broth (capon or hen), but does not deny also different sauces, such as the white beef ragù.


In capon broth or with red meat sauce, cappelletti (also called caplèt) are one of the traditional stuffed pasta of Romagna that is difficult to give up, especially during the Christmas holidays.

Similar to a tortellino but larger in size, this egg pasta is cut into squares, filled with cheese (ricotta, raviggiolo or casatella, parmesan), and closed in order to obtain the characteristic shape of a hat.

It is not easy to disentangle the existing variations from area to area, both on the way to close the cappelletti and to stuff them. If in the Rimini area the presence of meat is almost obligatory (perhaps even more types), the version of the Ravenna-Cesena tradition is completely different, which prefers a filling of lean meat with herbs and cheeses.


Eggs, breadcrumbs and Parmesan - an addition of a lemon peel and nutmeg - are the basic ingredients of the recipe for passatelli, one of the tastiest dishes of the Emilia-Romagna gastronomic tradition, mentioned by Artusi himself.

Similar to cylinders or large short spaghetti, passatelli are a quick dish to prepare, using a tool called "iron for passatelli" or alternatively a potato masher with large holes.

It is cooked in meat and vegetable broths for a few minutes to prevent them from losing consistency.


Once tasted on the occasion of festivals, basotti (also called bazòtt) are a typical dish of the Tuscan-Romagnolo Apennine area, in particular of the Alto Savio valley and the area of Bagno di Romagna.

The recipe calls for the cooking of tagliolini in a pork bone broth, then arranged inside a pan placed on the grill with layers of lard, pecorino cheese and breadcrumbs.

Once the broth is completely absorbed by the pasta, the final result is squares of very crunchy and tasty tagliolini.

If you are passionate about first courses, know that you just have to come and visit us because there are many others to try:

In Piacenza and its province:

  • Macaroni alla bobbiese
  • Rice bomb
  • Piacenza panzerotti
  • Pine nuts

In Reggio Emilia and its province:

In Modena and its province:

In Bologna and its province:

Last update 23/11/2021

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