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Dubbed "Italy's Food Basket," Emilia-Romagna is home to many of the country's most renowned foods: Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and balsamic vinegar to name a few. Cooks in the region have a penchant for rich flavors and spectacular presentation, and are especially skilled at making all manner of stuffed pasta by hand.
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Published in The Best Pasta Sauces by Micol Negrin (Ballantine Books, October 2014):
**Bonus recipe available in exclusive companion eBook when you order The Best Pasta Sauces directly from RUSTICO COOKING.
The balsamic dressing below is quite versatile; try it with baby greens or grilled vegetables. Make a double batch and refrigerate leftovers for up to 2 weeks.
Place the shallots, tarragon, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper in jar. Close with a tight-fitting lid and shake to blend.
Pour the dressing over the fennel in a bowl. Toss, taste for salt, adjust if needed, and serve after 15 minutes. Serves 6
As the butternut squash roasts, the balsamic evaporates, leaving behind a rich flavor and color that permeates the vegetable.
Preheat the oven to 400�.
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add the cubed squash; cook 5 minutes, or until just tender when pierced with a knife. Drain.
Place the boiled squash in a roasting pan. Add the chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and sage, and toss. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano. Roast in the preheated oven 30 minutes, or until golden on top. Serve hot. Serves 8
After the scaloppine are browned in olive oil, the pan is deglazed with chicken stock and balsamic vinegar to create a luxurious sauce.
Dredge the scaloppine in the flour, shaking off excess. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over a high flame. Add the scaloppine in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook until golden on the bottom, about 2 minutes; turn. Cook on the other side until golden, about 2 minutes. Remove to a platter; cover with foil to keep warm.
Add the shallots and garlic to the skillet; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the broth and reduce over high heat for 1 minute, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Add the balsamic vinegar; cook until the sauce reduces and becomes syrupy, about 1 minute. Stir in the basil, return the chicken to the skillet, and turn a few times to coat with the sauce and to warm through. Serve hot. Serves 4
Traditional balsamic vinegar is thick, sweet, and nectar-like... nothing like the cheap substitutes found on supermarket shelves. In Italy, it is often sprinkled over freshly picked wild strawberries for dessert. Look for authentic balsamic vinegar from Modena in gourmet stores. If wild strawberries are not available, buy the tiniest, freshest, most fragrant cultivated berries around.
Place the strawberries in 6 goblets. Drizzle with the vinegar and enjoy immediately. Serves 6
This velvety soup is especially soothing on chilly winter evenings.
Melt the butter in a deep pot over medium heat. Add the squash, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and cook 10 minutes, covered. Add the chicken broth and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes, stirring once in a while.
Transfer the contents of the pot in several batches to a blender or food processor, and purée until smooth. Return to the pot and add the heavy cream. Warm gently, and serve immediately. Serves 8
This simple spinach preparation is delicious alongside poached eggs for a lazy Sunday brunch.
Melt the butter in a deep 14-inch sauté pan over a medium-high flame. Add the spinach by the handful to the hot pan, and cook until it is wilted and there is no liquid left in the pan, about 5 minutes, stirring often or tossing with metal tongs. It may seem like all the spinach won't fit at first, but as it wilts, it will shrink remarkably.
Season the spinach with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook 15 more minutes, stirring once in a while. Add the Parmigiano and stir until it is melted through. Cook 5 minutes more and serve hot. Serves 4