A Foodie’s Guide to Bologna, Italy

Bologna, the tasty culinary capital of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, boasts a rich gastronomic heritage that has delighted food enthusiasts for generations! In this in-depth exploration of Bologna’s traditional dishes, we invite you to savour the distinctive flavours, ingredients, and preparation techniques that make these culinary creations truly exceptional. So loosen your belt and prepare to embark on a mouthwatering journey through the heart of Bologna’s traditional cuisine.

Tagliatelle al Ragù

Probably the most famous dish in Bologna, Tagliatelle al ragù is understandably the crown jewel of Bolognese cuisine. This classic dish features long, fresh egg pasta ribbons, meticulously rolled and cut by hand, lovingly paired with a slow-cooked ragù alla Bolognese. The ragù is a rich, meat-based sauce crafted from finely minced beef and pork, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, and a touch of wine. The result is a harmonious marriage of tender pasta and savory, velvety sauce, showcasing the perfect balance of flavours that exemplify the essence of Bologna’s culinary tradition.

Tortellini en Brodo

Tortellini en brodo is a quintessential Bolognese comfort food, particularly beloved during festive occasions. These small, ring-shaped parcels of pasta are handcrafted with precision, each filled with a tantalising blend of finely ground meats, such as pork, beef, and veal, along with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, nutmeg, and a hint of garlic. The delicate tortellini are gently cooked until al dente and then served in a flavorful, clear broth, infusing every spoonful with warmth and satisfaction.


Mortadella, the ancestor of modern-day bologna, holds a cherished place in Bologna’s culinary heritage and my cured meat-loving heart. This iconic cured meat is crafted from finely ground pork, enhanced with aromatic spices like black pepper, coriander, and myrtle berries, resulting in a distinctive flavour profile. The meat mixture is then slow-cooked and cured, yielding a tender and moist sausage with a delicate pink hue and a mosaic of subtle marbling. Enjoy mortadella thinly sliced, either on its own or as a star ingredient in a scrumptious sandwich or charcuterie platter.

Crescentine (Tigelle) and Gnocco Fritto

Crescentine, also known as tigelle, and gnocco fritto are two traditional bread-based delicacies that complement Bologna’s savoury offerings. Crescentine are small, round flatbreads made from a dough of flour, lard, yeast, and salt. Cooked on a hot plate called a testo, they develop a crispy exterior while maintaining a soft and pillowy interior. These breads are perfect for tearing apart and savoring alongside cured meats, creamy cheeses, or flavourful spreads. Gnocco fritto, on the other hand, is a deep-fried dough that puffs up into delightful, airy pillows. Golden and crispy on the outside, yet light and tender within, gnocco fritto provides a delightful contrast of textures. Typically served warm, it pairs exceptionally well with slices of cured meats, such as prosciutto or salami, and soft, tangy cheeses, creating a harmonious balance of flavors.

Zuppa Inglese

To conclude a memorable Bolognese dining experience, indulge in zuppa inglese, a classic Italian dessert originating from the Emilia-Romagna region. Reminiscent of an English trifle, zuppa inglese is an exquisite layering of sponge cake or ladyfingers soaked in Alchermes liqueur, which infuses them with a delightful crimson hue. The cake layers are then interspersed with rich, velvety custard and chocolate cream, creating a symphony of flavors and textures. A final dusting of cocoa powder crowns this delectable masterpiece.

Bologna’s traditional dishes are a testament to the city’s culinary heritage, showcasing the dedication, artistry, and love that goes into each preparation. From the iconic tagliatelle al ragù and comforting tortellini en brodo to the savoury delight of mortadella and the flavourful bread-based treats of crescentine and gnocco fritto, Bologna’s cuisine is a feast for the senses. Buon appetito!

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Written by Lucy Kaufmann