Second courses to try in Emilia Romagna

Logo CC

Rich in meat and animal fats, Emilia-Romagna cuisine spares no expense when it comes to flavours and quantities. Abundance is one of its hallmarks and it defines every meal.

From appetizers to desserts, each city boasts typical dishes, which are the result of recipes often interpreted differently depending on the area and the historical tradition to which they refer.

As far as second courses are concerned, in Emilia-Romagna the connection with the territory and with the whole farming world in general is very strong.

On the one hand, in the plains, there are a lot of dishes mainly based on pork and beef, very often cooked on the grill. Mutton, sausage, pancetta and all the meats of the local cuisine are always accompanied by a side dish of vegetables, sauteed chicory, baked potatoes or, if you are in Romagna, a basket of piadina. In the Apennine and mountainous areas, on the other hand, there are many dishes based on game.

Moving along the coast, you will find many recipes that include grilled or fried blue fish (sardines, cuttlefish, anchovies and fillets of San Pietro fish) and simple, tasty broths, as well as a whole culinary world linked to the valleys and the marshland, where eel is the main ingredient.

Last but not least, Cotechino and Zampone PGI, born as poor dishes on the tables of the Modena area, are nowadays a staple of the Christmas holidays, and they are usually served with either a lentil soup, polenta or mashed potatoes.

Roast Pork in Milk

A typical second course for family feasts, Roast Pork in Milk is a traditional recipe from various areas of Emilia-Romagna, made from pork loin marinated in various flavourings (garlic, rosemary, juniper, vinegar) and then covered in milk and roasted until golden brown. The result is a tender and tasty meat, which is usually served with a side of baked potatoes.

Comacchio eel soup

From the Sargasso Sea, eels come to spend part of their life in the waters of the Parco del Delta, and finally return to the East. Because of this, eel became one of the main ingredients of the Comacchio cuisine, making the area renowned nation-wide. 

For centuries the entire economic and social context of Comacchio has revolved around eel fishing. Therefore, a strong culinary tradition has spread in this area, made up of many traditional recipes with eel as their main ingredient.

Comacchio eel soup, in dialect a bèch d'easen (donkey's beak), is certainly one of the most famous recipes, and it is still made today as it was in the past, with the same ingredients and methods of preparation.

Romagna fish soup

Romagna fish soup is a dish of ancient tradition, born on board fishing boats. It is a recipe that originates from the need to avoid throwing back lower quality fish that is difficult to sell.

Having become part of Italian cuisine, there are different versions depending on the ingredients and the fish used. The sauce is fundamental, to be eaten at the end with a slice of bread.


Casagai (or cazagai) is a classic dish of the Reggio countryside, only prepared in winter. As with any old recipe, there are different versions: some make it with pork rind, others with lard, and some even with sausage.

The pork rinds are cooked along with chopped vegetables (onion, parsley, carrot and garlic), beans and then served with polenta. It can be consumed either right away or it can be cut into slices and cooked on the grill the next day.

Cotoletta bolognese

Also known as cotoletta alla Petroniana, this dish is a true calorie bomb and it contains some of the typical ingredients of the Bolognese cuisine.

The recipe, patented by the Italian Academy of Cuisine at the Chamber of Commerce of the city, involves several steps that follow one another.

Firstly, a veal cutlet is breaded, after being dipped in a mixture of egg and cheese. Then it is fried and covered with a slice of prosciutto crudo, flakes of Parmesan cheese and lightly cooked in a pan over low heat.

There are several variants. Some serve it with tomato sauce and others prefer it with meat sauce or baked in the oven.

Snails (Il lümägh) De.Co  

Stewed snails are a typical dish of the Bobbio area, mainly cooked on Christmas Eve.

Served hot with a side of polenta on the coldest days or, for a lighter version, topped with a sprinkling of parsley, some croutons and maybe some pesto di lardo.

Chicken (or Rabbit) alla Cacciatora

Typical of the Apennine area bordering Tuscany, in particular the Modena area (where it is often found with crescentine) but also Romagna, Chicken alla cacciatora is a simple and tasty second course, which involves browning the meat together with garlic, rosemary, tomato and onion.
The same preparation can also be found with rabbit meat.

Rosa di Parma

Rosa di Parma is a classic of the Parma cuisine, especially during the Christmas holidays or on special occasions.

The recipe includes three key ingredients of the Emilian tradition: Parma Ham, Parmigiano Reggiano and Lambrusco, all wrapped inside a beef tenderloin which looks like a rose when cut.


A typical dish of Italian tradition, Scaloppine are also very popular in the restaurants of Emilia-Romagna. They can be found in many variations, both in terms of the type of meat used (beef, pork or even chicken) and the seasoning. Among the tastiest and most flavourful combinations are balsamic vinegar, mushrooms and truffles. 

The stracotto alla piacentina (Al stracòtt)

Stracotto is one of the typical dishes of the Piacenza area, and it is included in the Register of traditional Italian agri-food products.

Stracotto is usually made with beef (even though traditionally it was made with horse meat), slowly cooked for about 5/6 hours in a sauce made with tomato puree, spices and wine. The meat is served sliced, with a side of polenta or mashed potatoes.

Rustida alla romagnola

Rustida is the grilled oily fish typical of the Adriatic. Sardines and European sprats are seasoned with a breadcrumb coating, oil and parsley and then placed next to each other on the grill to cook over high heat.

Rustida is one of the symbols of conviviality and hospitality in Romagna, and can often be found at festivals and village fairs. Also try it as a filling for the traditional piadina, together with radicchio and onion, accompanied by a glass of Sangiovese wine.

Valigia and Valigini from Reggio Emilia

Valigia is a classic of Emilian cuisine, in particular that of Reggio Emilia. It consists of roast veal stuffed with cured meats and different cheeses.

There is also a smaller variant, valigini, small rolls prepared with pork tenderloin and cheese, which are included in the list of traditional agri-food products of Emilia-Romagna.

Valigini from Reggio, as well as valigia, are often served by themselves or with a tomato sauce.

The options do not end here, depending on the province you can also enjoy:

In Piacenza and its province:
The Brachettone (Ar Bragtòn) De.Co
Polenta and horse (Puleinta and piccula ad cavall)
Roast Coppa (Cupa Arost)
Burattin (Büratëin)

In Reggio Emilia and its province:
Rabbit alla reggiana

Last update 10/07/2024

You may also like...

OFFICIAL TOURIST INFORMATION SITE © 2024 Emilia-Romagna Region Tourism and Commerce Department