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.

Homemade Spaghetti alla Gricia recipe

This weekend, I tried the last one of the four pastas of Rome. The four pastas of Rome is carbonara (egg, guanciale/pancetta, pecorino, black pepper), Amatriciana (guanciale/pancetta and tomatoes), Cacio e Pepe (black pepper, pecorino) and the Pasta alla Gricia, with pecorino and guanciale/pancetta.

Pasta, or spaghetti alla Gricia is sort of a cacio e pepe with added crunch from crispy fried guanciale, or pancetta. The proper pork to use is guanciale, which is air-dried pork cheek. But when not in Rome, you can substitute it with pancetta, or in worst case bacon (preferably un-smoked).

What you need for Spaghetti alla Gricia (serves approximately four):

One package of spaghetti (I use Martelli or De Ceccho)

300 grams of guanciale/pancetta/bacon, cut into cubes, strips

2,5 deciliters/one cup of pecorino cheese

1/2 deciliter (1/4ish cup) of strained pasta cooking water

Black pepper

Salt

1. Add the pork to a cold pan and put on heat. This will make the fat render and make the pork crispier. I sometimes add a garlic clove to this to slightly flavour the pork (discard when done).

2. Cook the spaghetti until almost al dente, the pasta will cook some more in the sauce. Save the cooking liquid as indicated above.

3. Grate the pecorino cheese as finely as your grater allows. Mix about half of it with a couple of tablespoons of water to a smooth ‘sauce’.

4. When pork is crispy, turn off/lower the heat and add the al dente spaghetti into the pork and fat pan (remove some of the fat if desired). Toss around and then add the pecorino mixed with water as well as the reserved cooking liquid.

5. Stirr until the liquids almost has reduced and the pasta is covered in silky cheese sauce. Add almost all the remaining pecorino, salt and black pepper and give a final toss before removing from heat.

6. Serve immediately topped with the remaining pecorino cheese.

Enjoy!

Dough – how to make the perfect homemade pizza

Pizza. One of my, and many others’ favourite dishes. I am probably never as happy as when a pizza meal is approaching. A couple of years back we decided that we wanted to be able to make as good pizzas as from pizzerias or pizza restaurants.

We started with the tomato sauce, and then the toppings, before we realized it mainly depended on the dough to get that pizzeria quality homemade pizza. After probably five years of making homemade pizzas we were getting somewhere. Here is what we found out:

My 5 tips for making great pizza at home in summary:

Use a pizza or baking stone

Use good quality flour

A very hot oven

Put the pizza high in the oven, close to oven’s heaters

Watch the pizza all the time

Use a baking stone or a pizza stone

One of the tricks is using a pizza/baking stone. We bought our at Urban Deli in Stockholm, but I think you can get it in most places around the world. It’s basically a portable stone that you put in your oven to more or less mimick the effects of cooking a pizza in a masonry oven. Importantly, you will cook the dough from below to get that perfect crust.

Use a good recipe and good quality flour

We use this recipe, from the nowadays legendary hipster pizzeria Roberta’s in Brooklyn, New York. Tipo 00 flour can be a bit hard to find, but really adds to the texture, flavour and end result in my mind. In Stockholm we buy tipo 00 flour at Cajsa Warg on Södermalm.

What you need (approximately three medium sized pizzas or two large)

153 grams Tipo 00 flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon)

153 grams all-purpose flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons)

8 grams fine sea salt or regular salt (1 teaspoon)

2 grams active dry yeast (3/4 teaspoon)

4 grams extra-virgin olive oil (1 teaspoon)

Tomato sauce

A kilo of peeled fresh good quality tomatoes (make a cut in the skin and cook in boiling water for a minute to lose the peels) or a can of a good brand crushed tomatoes

5-6 cloves of finely chopped garlic

Olive oil

Salt & oregano

1. Heat olive oil in a cooking pot. Add garlic and fry until soft. Be careful not to colour.

2. Add tomatoes, cook for 30 minutes. Add water if needed. Season with salt and oregano.

How to make the pizzas

1. Combine flours and salt in a large mixing bowl.

2. Stir together 200 grams (a little less than 1 cup) lukewarm tap water, the yeast and the olive oil in a small mixing bowl. Then pour it into the flour mixture. Knead with your hands until well combined, about 3 minutes, then let the mixture rest for 15 minutes.

3. Knead the rested dough for 3 minutes. Cut into 2 or 3 equal pieces and shape each into a ball. Place on a heavily floured surface, cover with dampened cloth, and let rest and rise for at least 1 hour, but preferably 3 to 4 hours at room temperature or for 8 to 24 hours in the refrigerator. (If you refrigerate the dough, remove it from the fridge 30 to 45 minutes before you begin to shape it for pizza.)

4. To make the pizzas, place each dough ball on a heavily floured surface and use your fingers to stretch it, then your hands to shape it into rounds or squares. You can also use a rolling pin.

How to cook the pizzas

I put my pizza stone on maximum heat in my oven for about three hours so the stone is really hot. Follow instructions for your particular stone and oven though. Take care here to not do something risky, I would not want you to burn down your house. We have our pizza stone on a regular oven tray for easy handling. The idea though, is to get both stone and oven as hot as possible to minimize the pizza cooking time. We set our oven on 275 degrees fan-heat and grill. You need to watch the pizza all the time because they cook and hence burn fast. Set an alarm if you tend to forget stuff like me. 🙂

1. When the stone is ready. Put on a pizza, smother with tomato sauce, add your toppings such as mozzarella, salami, prosciutto, vegetables or whatever you fancy.

2. Put the pizza stone as high up in your oven as (safely) possible. I use the grill/broiler to get maximum blast from above meanwhile the pizza stone does the same from below. Again, important to watch the pizza as it bakes in about 2-4 minutes and burn very fast. Remove the pizza when it starts to get deep golden spots on the edges.

3. Serve immediately, and don’t forget to put the pizza stone back in the oven if you’re making another pizza. Red wine is very recommended, or a cold beer for that matter.

Great Napoli style pizza in Stockholm at Meno Male

Recently, several Naples or Napoli style pizza restaurants have opened in Stockholm, which for me is great, since I love the chewy dough of these fast baked wonders.

The other day I tried Meno Male for a decadent office pizza lunch (via delivery). I had their pizza with spicy salami, fior di latte (sort of cow’s milk mozzarella), a sweet and delicious tomato sauce as well as basil. The pizza was actually really good, and not that far behind what I had at Da Michele, “world’s best pizza restaurant” that I visited in Naples about a year and a half ago. Not bad for a Stockholm pizza!

Website with menu

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!