Where to eat in Bologna (and why I gained 3 kilos in 3 days)


La Grassa, or the fat one, is the nickname of the Italian city of Bologna, lovingly named so by the rest of Italy, because of its, well fatty, cuisine. You could also call me the fat one, as I gained 3 kilos or about 6.5 pounds during my three days in Bologna recently.

So what is it that makes the cuisine of Bologna, the capital of the region of Emilia Romagna so good, that you just can’t stop eating while visiting. I’ll tell you what.

Mortadella.
The fatty sausage-meets-ham mortadella is one of Bolognas most famous foods. In Northern America, and probably in some other places too there is a similar thing called Bologna sausage, or ‘baloney‘. Mortadella is a sausage made of pork, with at least 15 percent of small fat cubes incorporated into it, which makes it remarkably delicious. Above is mortadella, salami, mozzarella, bread, cappuccino and some other breakfast stuff served at our hotel, Hotel Touring, which was pretty nice.
Hotel touring


Piadina.
These delicious quesadilla-y (sorry Italians) fried flatbreads are made out of a dough that includes lardo, which is pig’s fat. Okay, sometimes the lard is substituted with olive oil. Above is a piadina at nice wine bar Vineria Favalli, stuffed with bresaola (air cured beef), goat’s cheese and rucola/arugula.

Burrata.
A very delicious burrata cheese (sort of a runny mozzarella) served caprese style, meaning with tomatoes and basil. Maybe not that particularly Bolognese, but very, very good. This was at the same place as above, that is Vineria Favalli.
Vineria Favalli

Gelato. 
The first one is from Stefino, which makes both crazy ice cream flavours such as wasabi, as well as more traditional ones like the one above which was gianduia and raspberry respectively.
Gelateria Stefino


Gelato from Zanarini just next to Piazza Maggiore in the center of Bologna. Above are lemon and hazelnut flavours.
Caffé Zanarini


Cold cuts and tagliatelle al ragú at Trattoria Da Me Ancoranoi.
The dinner at to me highly anticipated Trattoria Da me was really something. We started with a platter of antipasti that featured an assortment of mixed cold cuts such as mortadella and salami, as well as deep-fried “crescentine” bread pockets, runny local cheese, pickles and fried onions. Mm-mm-mm.
Being a huge fan of the sacrilegious bastardisation of Bologna’s national dish, spaghetti bolognese, this was paradise to me. Tagliatelle al ragú is the original version of what is lovingly known as for instance spag bol in most other parts of the world, and the above version, which I had at Trattoria Da me is absolutely the best I’ve had. Including my own which I’m usually quite pleased with. The tagliatelle pasta was out of this world, the sauce was thick, meaty and very firm, and the parmesan cheese the natural binding-everything-together component. So. Good.
Trattoria Da Me


Pizza.
We had a fantastic pizza experience at Regina Sofia, just off Piazza Maggiore. We were seated in the back of the restaurant, which actually was in an alley, adding to the Italian experience. The pizzas were ‘Napoli style’, meaning thicker and doughier than usual thin crust pizza. Above is a capricciosa with fior di latte (mozzarella-like, made with cow’s milk) cheese, cotto (cooked ham), mushrooms, artichokes and small olives. It was so good. As everything else in Bologna.
Pizzeria Regina Sofia


Aperol Spritz.
Our hotel, Touring, had a rooftop bar called Terrazza Mattuiani where you could watch the sunset, eat some snacks, aperitivo, and drink aperol spritz. The only problem is that you need to pay €10 if you’re a hotel guest (includes a drink and snacks) or €15 if you’re a walk-in guest. Worth it in my mind, but more expensive than most other places in the city we visited. They do lack the views though.
Terrazza Mattuiani

One of the arcades for which Bologna is famous. There is actually 40 kilometers of them around the city, protecting its visitors and residents from the elements. First constructed in the late middle ages, and adding a lot of charm to the strolling which hopefully removes some of the mortadella or pasta weight gained.


Lasagne verde and tortellini in brodo.
Finally, Bologna is also famous for two dishes we had at a fantastic little restaurant called Al Sangiovese. The first one is lasagne verde which consists of green (spinach) pasta sheets, bechamel sauce and ragú (meat sauce). The other one is tortellini in brodo, or small pasta pockets filled with minced pork and served in a flavoursome and quite light broth. A sprinkling of parmesan wasn’t to be turned down either. Both dishes were delicious, especially washed down with a nice glass of Sangiovese wine.

Weekend eating

 

This weekend has been a really lazy one. And a lot about eating, of course. On Friday I had a favourite of mine, a double homemade cheeseburger with Reypenaer cheese. It was pretty similar to my best ever burger I made last year, but this time with burger dressing (click here for recipe) instead of truffle mayo. As per usual I had the burger with fries and a cold Lagunitas beer. Why change a winning concept? 🙂

 

Next up was another one of my favourites: Italian night. First above board of deliciousness. There was finnochiona (fennel) salami, pata negra salami from Gran Canaria, mozzarella cheese, coppa (cured pork shoulder), black pepper pecorino cheese, sourdough bread, olive oil and a lonely tomato for some vitamins. This was washed down with Rotari, which is a very nice Italian bubbly for those of you who haven’t tried.

Could it be my favourite dish in the entire world? Yes it might actually be. Carbonara, a dish I’ve always loved, but now even love a little bit more since our semi-recent Rome visit where I tried a proper Roman version for the first time. My sort of authentic recipe of a Roman style carbonara can be found here. Just skip the truffle if you want it cheaper, or Rome-ier.

Speaking of Rome, in a couple of days, I’m off to Paris, a city I’ve never visited despite changing planes there lots of times and visiting many other cities in the world the last 10 or so years. Anyway, if you have any Paris recommendations, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter or Instagram.

Merci!

Recipe for perfect spaghetti cacio e pepe

One of my favourite pasta dishes (okay I admit that most pasta related dishes are my favourites) is the simple yet delicious Roman dish’cacio e pepe’. Cacio e pepe means cheese and pepper, and that is pretty much the dish, with the addition of spaghetti and a splash of cooking liquid.

Despite being a quite simple dish in terms of ingredients and time comnsumption, it’s kind of hard to get that perfect silky coating of cheese ‘sauce’ around the spaghetti. My previous versions have been a bit “lumpy”. But recently I fortunately learned a great trick: mix the grated cheese with cold water before mixing with the pasta.

Ingredients

Spaghetti (I use Martelli or De Cecco)

Pecorino cheese (in emergency use parmesan, but won’t be the same)

Black pepper

Cooking water

Salt

Preparation

1. Set pasta water to boil. Add lots of salt.

2. Mix about 2/3 of the pecorino cheese with a little bit of cold water to form a thick “paste”.

3. Cook spaghetti quite al dente (will cook some more in the sauce).

4. Drain spaghetti, but save a deciliter/half a cup or so of cooking water.

5. Combine the drained cooked spaghetti, a splash (maybe half) of the cooking water, cheese mix and a proper amount of black pepper in the cooking pot. Add heat and stirr (I use a kitchen tong) until most liquid has evaporated and the spaghetti is coated by a velvety, ‘glossy’ sauce. If needed, use the back up cooking water.

6. Serve immediately topped with remaining cheese and extra black pepper.

Recipe for homemade truffled spaghetti carbonara

The other day I went to have dinner at one of my favourite restaurants in Stockholm; Urban Deli. There, I found that they sold fresh Gotlandic autumn truffles. The lady working the deli part of Urban Deli kindly allowed me to have a sniff before I decided to go ahead and buy the tiny but great smelling truffle.

When that was done, the mission was to figure out what to cook with it. I was craving carbonara, and since truffle is good with eggs, and sort of mild flavours, I’d thought I give a truffle spaghetti carbonara a try. Below recipe is my go to for a ‘normal’ carbonara. So it’s very much usable without any truffle. 🙂

What you need for the carbonara (2-3 portions)

300 grams Spaghetti (I used Martelli)

4 good quality eggs (I only use the yolks)

About 100 grams of guanciale, pancetta or bacon (preferably in quite thick slices)

Cooking water

1 deciliter of grated pecorino cheese, or parmesan cheese

Olive oil

Salt and black pepper

1 black truffle (optional)

How to cook

1. To start with, add quite a lot of salt to water in a cooking pan and set to boil.

2. Combine the four egg yolks with about 3/4 of the grated pecorino/parmesan cheese. Add a bit of salt and some black pepper (but not too much so the truffle is overpowered). If you’re not using truffle, go wild with the pepper though. 

3. Slice guanciale/pancetta/bacon in to quite thick cubes. 

4. Cook the spaghetti al dente, before draining the pasta reserve a deciliter/half cup of the cooking water in a cup or similar.

5. Put the cubed pork in a cold pan before putting on heat. This will make the fat render, which you’ll need to make the creaminess. Fry until crisp and set aside.

6. Gently combine spaghetti, egg-cheese mix, cooking water and fried pork, including the fat from the frying, over low heat, continously folding/stirring so the eggs won’t set. When the spaghetti is coated with creamy sauce and most liquid’s gone, immediately remove from heat and serve.

Top with grated or shaved truffle if using, and an extra sprinkle of the remaining cheese. Enjoy!

Risotto cacio e pepe


Got a revelation the other day to try to combine one of my favourite pasta dishes ‘cacio e pepe’ with a risotto. Turned out really well. Below is how to do this cheesy, peppery and smooth risotto cacio e pepe.

Ingredients

Arborio rice or other prefered “risotto rice”

One onion

Garlic

Chicken stock (or vegetable)

Butter 

Pecorino cheese

Chives

Cooking the risotto

The recipe is really simple. You make a standard risotto by first frying finely chopped onion and garlic in butter. When cooked till soft (but now browned), add uncooked arborio rice and “toast” for a couple of minutes. Poor in a glass of wine and let it reduce for a bit. Then just add stock (I use chicken stock) in portions (like with the wine let reduce, then add some more) until the rice is done. It should have some bite still in my mind and the risotto should be relatively runny.

Flavouring

Add finely grated pecorino cheese (you could use parmesan but it won’t really be the same), a knob of butter and lots of black pepper to the risotto. Stirr and taste. If taste’s good you’re ready to serve.

I added a layer of grated pecorino at the bottom, then the risotto on top, and then some extra pecorino, black pepper and finely chopped chives on top of the risotto. Enjoy!

A weekend of pasta in Rome

Visited Rome in November 2015 for a weekend of eating, sightseeing and general indulgence. My judgement might be slightly affected by the fact that I totally love Italian food and that the weather was 20 degrees celsius and the sun was shining. Something very important for a Swede coming from the borderline winter that is November. In short: I loved Rome, its amazing pasta, its sights, the easy walking everywhere and the friendly atmosphere in the city.

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Must visit: Colosseum.
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Must visit 2: Fontana di Trevi.

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Delicious pizza slices at Il Melograno, close to Fontana di Trevi.

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When in Rome (sorry), eat gelato! And oh how good this gelato at aptly named Wonderful Ice Cream was.

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Pantheon by night.

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Before the trip I spent considerate time researching the city’s best carbonara. One of the often-mentioned places was Armando al Pantheon. Of course I had to visit (reservations recommended), and I wasn’t disappointed. The best carbonara I’ve ever had. Creamy deliciousness with egg yolks, crunchy, fatty and salty guanciale (cured pig’s cheek) and pecorino cheese.

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A decent Saltimbocca alla Romana, not nearly as good as the carbonara, but totally edible. Pounded veal with ham and sage, cooked in a white wine reduction.

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Tasty Tiramisú. Still at Armando al Pantheon.

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Next day: The Vatican. To get into St Peter’s square itself, there’s no need to queue. To get into the museums, you can either wait in line or buy a fast track ticket. Since we had limited time we opted to buy fast track tickets from the Vatican Museums website and saved ourselves a few euros by not going through an agency. Link to where we bought our tickets, we paid roughly 20 euros a person and did not wait at all to get in.

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A decent, although not fantastic pizza diavola (spicy salami) at Il Pozzetto.

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Fast forward to dinner at Ristorante da Alessio. Bruschetta with fresh tomatoes to start.

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Truffle risotto. Not spectacular, but quite tasty nevertheless.

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Bucatini all’Amatriciana. Sort of thick spaghetti served with a very tasty tomato and guanciale sauce. Of course topped with pecorino cheese. So good!

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This was really good. A hot sizzling pan with slices of beef, potatoes, courgettes and (I know, wrong country) béarnaise sauce.

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The Vatican as seen from Castel Sant’Angelo. The Castle featured amazing views over Rome in all directions and is definitely worth a visit.

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The last meal in Rome: Tonnarelli cacio e pepe at Cotto, next door to our hotel. A delicious classic with pasta, pecorino cheese and black pepper made silky smooth combined with some of the cooking liquid. A great end to a great weekend. Pasta is, and has always been, my favorite comfort food. Usually I get disappointed when I go out and order pasta, but of course, Rome did not let me down.