Bologna Inside

third edition
edition 2021


Bologna Specialties

If you love rich, full-flavored dishes, then you’ve come to the right place. Many dishes here are laden with butter and cream, although it is possible to eat light or vegetarian. But never let it be said that the Bolognese don’t like pork, as its appearance in virtually everything puts a different spin on the term ‘pig out’. Before you run off to your local mercato or ristorante, take a look at the following mini-food glossary.



  • Tagliatelle: long, flat egg noodles best served with ragù. If you want to be taken seriously by the locals and not invite a long lecture on Bolognese pasta history, do not ask for ‘spaghetti alla Bolognese’ but rather order ‘tagliatelle al ragù’.
  • Ragù: a good ragù must cling to the pasta. It must have the right mix of meats (veal, pork and sausage) and spices and simmer for hours. Just a touch of tomato is added as the authentic version is not a tomato sauce. To finish, add a drop of heavy cream and a dollop of fresh butter. Some recipes also call for red wine.
  • Tortellini: little pouches of egg pasta filled with pork, prosciutto, mortadella, parmesan cheese and various spices. The traditional Bolognese recipe is to serve them cooked in a meat broth with lots of parmesan cheese on top.
  • Tortelloni: shaped like tortellini only bigger and filled with ricotta and spinach or other greens. Served with ragù, a plain tomato sauce, or burro e salvia (butter and sage).
  • Lasagne: don’t expect to find ricotta, mozzarella or zucchini layered between these egg pasta sheets. Authentic Bolognese lasagna is made with ragù, white béchamel sauce and parmesan cheese.




  • Crescente: square bread usually made with lard, to which prosciutto, pancetta or ciccioli has been added. You can also find meatless versions topped with rosemary or onion. Often served in a basket in osterie.
  • Crescentine: puffy, fried bread dough, usually served hot with a selection of cold cuts and cheeses.
  • Piadina: a famous favorite from Romagna, this Italian tortilla is a thin, flat, round bread cooked on a flat iron. They are eaten folded in half and filled with prosciutto, rucola (arugula), stracchino, or squacquarone (two varieties of soft, fresh cheese).
  • Tigelle: made of the same dough as crescentine but cooked between two stone or metal discs and usually sliced in half and filled with prosciutto, other cold cuts, or cheese. If you dare, try them as they were meant to be eaten, filled with pesto modenese, which is made of lard, garlic, rosemary and parmesan cheese.




  • Cotechino: a large pork sausage seasoned with cloves, nutmeg, salt and pepper. This heavy dish is usually reserved for the winter months. A classic at Christmas or New Year’s.
  • Mortadella: this is Bologna’s most famous cold cut, which bears no resemblance to its distant American cousin known as ‘bologna’! You’ll find it at every salumeria.
  • Prosciutto: the stars of the prosciutto world are San Daniele di Friuli and Prosciutto di Parma. Prosciutto cotto is cooked ham and prosciutto crudo is cured, salted raw ham.
  • Zampone: here the sausage meat has been stuffed back inside the pig’s zampa (foot) making for quite a display.
  • Bollito misto: this traditional dish consists of boiled meats and vegetables.




  • Castagnole: a traditional carnival sweet, these soft, doughy balls made of chestnut flour are deep fried and then rolled in sugar.
  • Certosino and Panettone: these rich Christmas fruitcakes are chock-full of candied fruit, nuts and chocolate. Certosino is a Bologna specialty, while panettone originates from Milan and is probably the best known Italian cake. Around Easter, the panettone reappears with a slightly altered recipe, this time in the shape of a dove, la colomba.
  • Fave dei morti: these delicious, multi-colored chewy cookies made of almond paste appear in bakeries during the last two weeks of October. They are made for the November 1 and 2 holidays, when Italians remember their deceased loved ones.
  • Raviole: made of cookie dough filled with prune or apricot jam and folded into a half moon. The Bolognese make them especially for March 19, the saint day of San Giuseppe, which is also celebrated as Father’s Day.
  • Torta di riso: the Bolognese are very proud of this solid confection, half cake, half custard. It’s made with rice, almonds and amaretto.
  • Sfrappole: another traditional carnival sweet made of strips of sweet dough fried and then sprinkled with powdered sugar. Sfrappole change name region to region and are also known as chiacchiere.