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Bologna Food: What to eat in Bologna Italy (37 Amazing Things)

What to eat in Bologna – discover the best Bologna food and Bologna food experiences in this comprehensive roundup of Bolognese cuisine including some key foodie activities. Learn about the most important fresh pasta varieties in Bologna and the dishes they are being used to make. Plus, the famous Bologna ham: mortadella.

Bologna Italy is the gateway to the incredible cuisine of Emilia Romagna. Almost all of the dishes in this article are available in Bologna, and many originate there too, but for a true foodie experience, also take the time to visit the parts of Emilia Romagna where each dish comes from – and where you’ll find even more exciting dishes to try.

The selection of cuisine in Emilia Romagna is vast, so this article is really a highlight of the heroes of the region. Of which there are still many – 37 listed here! But for an even more extensive collection, there are some great books available.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links which pay us a commission if you choose to purchase something. You do not pay extra by using our link, so please support our blog by purchasing through our links rather than on Google.

Table Of Contents

Emilia Romagna Tourist Map (Includes every restaurant mentioned in this article)

What To Eat In Bologna Podcast

Bologna Food: The History Of Bolognese Cuisine

Bologna Food: Antipasti (Appetizers), Produce & Snacks

Bologna Food: Primi Piatti – First Course – Includes Our Guide To The Fresh Pasta Varieties Of Emilia Romagna

Bologna Food: Secondi Piatti – Second Course


Drinks (ie. Booze)

Get Our FREE Emilia Romagna Map: Interactive Google Map Overlay For Tourists

We’ve put together a google map overlay with all our top picks of attractions, restaurants, foodie experiences, accommodation, transport locations and more! Save your self a bunch of time by having our huge list of Emilia Romagna & San Marino highlights instantly at your fingertips. Get Our Emilia Romagna Map NOW – Click Here Features Bologna, Modena, Parma, San Marino, Rimini and more!

  • Works on any device over 4G or wifi – follow the map as you travel
  • Includes every restaurant mentioned in the article.
  • 100+ highlighted spots to visit
  • Super easy to use on google maps

What To Eat In Bologna: Bologna Food Podcast

In This Bologna Food Episode:
    • 4 of the superstar Ingredients of world cuisine originate in Emilia Romagna. We Discuss how these ingredients form the base for many of the best dishes in Bologna.
    • The Story Of Real Italian Tortellini
    • Why if you order spaghetti Bolognese in Bologna, it won’t be what you expect…
    • We reveal our favourite Bolognese dish, which is barely known outside of Italy.
    • Our expert guest Andrea from Taste Bologna Food tours reminisces about some of his favourite Bolognese food experiences
    • PLUS, a cake made of tagliatelle… only in Italy!

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Below is our full article on what to eat in Bologna & Emilia Romagna. This is not a transcript of the podcast. Instead it is a comprehensive companion article that should be read in addition to listening to the podcast.

History Of The Formalization Of Italian Cuisine & Bologna Food

Before we get to the dishes, a little historical background to help you understand how Bologna food fits with the region and with Italy in general.

Pellegrino Artusi and the story of Italian cuisine

Pellegrino Artusi is considered the father of modern Italian cuisine. In the late 19th century he set about collecting traditional home cooking recipes from all over Italy. By the time he published his 1891 first edition of La Scienza In Cucina – L’arte Di Mangiar Bene (The science in the kitchen and the art of eating well), he’d amassed 400 recipes. By the 15th and final edition in 1911, the book contained 900+ recipes. Even today, it’s considered the bible of Italian cuisine.

Bologna Food Experience - Visit Casa Artusi

A copy of the first edition of La Scienza In Cucina @CasaArtusi

Artusi was born in the small country town of Forlimpopoli, less than an hour from Bologna. In 2002 a new cooking school and library was opened, Casa Artusi, where the philosophy of Artusi is continued today – a focus on training regular people in the art of home cooking. This is less a school for chefs and more a school for lovers of food and cooking. Culinary traditions that are no longer being passed on by grandmothers to their families but are being kept alive here for anyone without an Italian grandmother to teach them.

We were lucky enough to take a half day cooking class and learn essential pasta making skills as well as how to make the local piadina flatbread, characteristic of this region. More on that later.

The most important take away from this section is that Italy’s culinary tradition is so well preserved because of the efforts of Pellegrino Artusi in documenting many of the countries’ most important recipes.

The Golden Tagliatelle – The Gold Standard For Pasta, Litterally

Bologna Food - The 1972 Golden Tagliatelle

The 1972 Golden Tagliatelle Is Stored in A Box At The Bologna Chamber Of commerce

In 1972 the Italian Academy of food decided to formalize the most important recipes of Bologna to preserve the food tradition of the province. One of the first to be catalogued was the recipe for Tagliatelle pasta – which must consist only of eggs and flour, 100 grams per egg. The exact size and thickness of the perfect tagliatelle was cast in gold and is now stored at the Bologna chamber of commerce.

Since 1972, a total of 27 recipes have been deposited. Some world famous, like the Tagliatelle Ragù aka Tagliatelle all Bolognese (commonly and wrongly mistaken to be the same thing as spaghetti Bolognese – more on that later).  And some of the dishes which are now almost impossible to find outside the home of a Bolognese grandmother.

The Bologna Food Recipe Book

Every recipe is held sacred and I was lucky enough to get a copy of the collected recipes in English. I can’t find this collection on Amazon – the book I have doesn’t even have an ISBN number. Suffice to say, any recipe in this book is about as close to authentic as it gets. That said, cooks and chefs, all add there own flare to most of the dishes and you’ll find some variety.

Even the gold standard of tagliatelle, while the ratio of egg and flour may always start the same, the way each Sfogline (The name of those who make the pasta) makes the pasta varies. As our pasta instructor, Monica, from Le Sfogline Bologna explained: “I’m happy to give my pasta recipe out to anyone who asks, because no two hands could ever make the pasta the same as mine”.

What is DOP? (or PDO) & IGP – The Rules Of Italian Produce

You are probably familiar with Champagne only being allowed to be called that if it is from the Champagne region. DOP – Italian for “Denominazione di Origine Protetta”, also known in English as PDO “Protected Designation of Origin”. This classification is a way to guarantee the product you purchase is produced in the specific region where it is supposed to be, that it is authentic and produced within the official guidelines that maintain a standard for the product.

Believe it or not, certain natural elements in the air, such as yeast and bacteria, can vary so much between the micro climates of different provinces, that it is impossible to replicate certain products naturally in any location other than the relevant DOP. Which is why the rules are so strict.

IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) or the “protected geografical information,” is a slightly less strict classification which guarantees that a product had at least one of it’s production phases carried out in the specific region for which the IGP label applies. Plus, that it’s production method fits within the guidelines for that specific product.

Antipasti (Appetizers), Produce & Snacks

Many of the items below are available individually as an antipasti on restaurant menus, or as a platter selection. Or you can just head to any of the local markets and delis around central Bologna and grab some to eat at your hotel, or in the park. Many are also used as ingredients in some of Bologna’s most famous dishes.

Famous Bologna food: Mortadella & Mortadella Mousse

Bologna Food - Bologna ham - Mortadella

The Real Bologna Ham: Mortadella

Mortadella is the original, authentic version of what many Americans call “baloney” or “Bologna” and it is one of Bologna’s most famous products. The American version is very different from the Bolognese product. Mortadella is a high quality pork product, the recipe was originally codified in 1661, and the specific IGP production method of Mortadella has been protected by the EU since 1998. American Baloney is a lunch meat than can be made from pork, turkey, beef, chicken etc. It’s primary regulation is simply that it is very finely ground.

Mortadella is a beautiful pink color with white spots of fat throughout. Its typically served cubed, or in paper thin slices (which have a luxurious melt in the mouth texture). It is flavored with ingredients including black pepper, olives, myrtle berries, and pistachios.

For what to eat in Bologna, authentic mortadella should be in your top 5 must tries.

You can take a private guided tour to the charcuterie museum from Bologna to get a personalised food and learning experience.

Mortadella mousse – Mortadella is used as an ingredient in many dishes, it forms the base of the stuffing for tortellini, for example. Mortadella mousse is a whisked combination of mortadella, ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano and cream. A salty, creamy pink delight to be enjoyed on crostini bread.

Parmigiano Reggiano – Parmesan Cheese

Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

The Famous Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese – 12, 24 and 36 month aged

Possibly the most famous cheese in the world. Parmigiano Reggiano is a DOP product which can only be made in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna (areas west of the river Reno), Modena and Mantua (areas south of the river Po). This cheese, or something very similar, may have been produced in this area for at least 900 years, with documentation going back to the 13th century.

It’s known for it’s intense salty and crumbly character. It’s matured for at least 12 months, and it’s from 24 months onwards where it forms it’s most unique identity, in my opinion.

The regulations for production are lengthy and complicated (I started reading the 50+ page manual and had to give up!). The most important is regarding the raw milk itself. It can only come from cows that have eaten hay grown within the specified DOP area. A unique bacteria is present in this region that is not found elsewhere in the world. It’s presence in the milk contributes to the unique development and ultimate flavor of the cheese.

We’ll be doing a full podcast on the story of Parmigiano Reggiano in Late 2018 where we’ll go in to more detail about the history and the reason this cheese is so special and internationally beloved.

Aside from the obvious use of Parmigiano Reggiano as a grated topping, it is also used as a fundamental ingredient in many of the dishes from the region, as we’ll discuss below.

Bologna Food: Grana Padano

Grana Padano is a less fatty and less intense hard cheese with some similarities to Parmigiano Reggiano. It is typically aged 14 to 16 months, has less stringent regulation as to how the cows are fed and a much larger geographic region where it can be produced. It is made through most of northern Italy, including the province of Piacenza.

Prosciutto Crudo Di Parma – Parma Ham

Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - Parma Ham

Parma Ham @ Ruliano

Another world famous export from the region, Parma ham is a raw ham, cured with salt and aged at least 12 months. This process of preserving ham has existed in Italy for at least 2000 years. Although cured ham can be made anywhere, Prosciutto di Parma DOP can only be made in the province of Parma. The unique micro climate of the region affects the way the ham ages and the flavors that develop.

It’s impossible not to find Parma Ham during a visit to Bologna but we highly recommend looking out for the Ruliano 24 or 30 month aged. One factor that each manufacturer does have control over is the amount of salt added during the salting process (within a regulated maximum and minimum). Less salt leads to a sweeter ham flavor. Ruliano use less salt and a computer controlled drying room with ventilation designed to open and close depending on ideal outside weather conditions. There ham is one of the best!

You can visit the Ruliano Parma Ham factory and do a big ham tasting with wine for 25 euros – please call to make a reservation: +39 0521 357125


Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - Culatello

A platter of meats from Polesine Parmense – including culatello

Culatello is one of the most expensive cured hams in the world. Often selling for over $100 USD per Kilo. It is only produced in the north part of Parma province near the Po river. The fog that rolls off the river leads to the creation of a very special ham that would be impossible to duplicate elsewhere.

We’ve written a longer article about our experience visiting a Culatello farm and tasting experience in Polesine Parmense

Also, check out this tour: Culatello and Parmigiano: Private half-day tour with lunch in Parma

White & Black Truffle

The hills around Bologna and Emilia Romagna region are home to that most prized ingredient, the truffle.

Black truffles are hunted from March to November. The more lucrative white truffle can only be found during October & November. Visit during October and November and join one of the events hosted by TartuFesta – the annual truffle festival.

Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - Risotto with White Truffle @ Al Sangiovese Trattoria

Bologna Food: Risotto with White Truffle @ Al Sangiovese Trattoria

We still managed to enjoy the taste of white truffle in June at Ristorante Al Sangiovese.

Piadina Romagnola Flat Bread

Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - Piadina Bread

Piadina stuffed with sausage and roasted peppers

Emilia Romagna may be famous for it’s fresh pasta varieties, but did you know that they also have an ancient flat bread which has now been given IGP status by the European Union?

Archeological evidence suggest Piadina bread was being made by the Etruscans in the region as far back as 1,200 BC. The ancient recipe would have likely been a simple ground grain mixed with water, probably salt and possibly some sort of fat. And by it’s first official mention in historical documents, in 1371, wheat, salt, water and a fat from milk or lard were the regular ingredients.

Today, the best Piadina is made with flour, lard, baking powder and salt (Though olive oil may be substituted for a vegetarian version). Its cooked on a hot clay dish. It can be eaten as a light meal or snack, wrapped around a local filling of parma ham, cheese, sausage etc. Or cut and used for dipping.

Grab a fast food Piadina at la Piadeina in the heart of Bologna.

Balsamic Vinegar

Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - Balsamic Vinegar Tradizionale

Comparing Balsamic Vinegars in Spilamberto

Balsamic vinegar originates in Emilia Romagna, specifically the DOP regions of Modena and Reggio Emilia. In fact, balsamic vinegar was barely known outside that small region until 1046 when the first reference to it was recorded when Holy Roman Emperor Henry III visited the area.

If you’ve had balsamic vinegar outside of Italy, especially if you paid less than $10 for a bottle, there is a strong chance you’ve only ever tasted imitation balsamic. This cheap version is normally just flavoured wine vinegar made through an industrial process.

The real thing is a whole new world of flavor. We visited the Balsamic of Modena museum (Museo dell’Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena) in the town of Spilamberto – about 45 minutes from Bologna. Here we could see the traditional process, where balsamic may be aged for over 25 years in oak barrels. We got to taste different ages of the vinegar and see how the colour and viscosity changes over time. That’s the true DOP balsamic vinegar.

Like a fine wine, it’s complex in flavor and explodes on your palate. A truly spectacular balsamic should not be wasted on salads. Instead, a few drops on some chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano blend perfectly to salty-sour-complex majesty.

Balsamic Vinegar might be either IGP or DOP. Only the DOP product can carry the word “tradizionale” which will mean it is wholly produced in the DOP region and only using grapes from that region and the traditional manufacturing process.

The IGP product may be aged only for 60 days, and although made from the typical grapes, those grapes can be grown anywhere. So always check the bottle for IGP or DOP.

We’ll be releasing a special podcast on the history of Balsamic vinegar in late 2018. Watch this space!

Bologna Food: Squacquerone di Romagna

Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - Squacquerone di Romagna

What To Eat In Bologna: Squacquerone di Romagna – creamy cheese

Something that is very tasty to dip your piadina bread into, is the almost impossible to pronounce “Squacquerone” cheese. In fact, an ancient dish of the region was Squacquerone served with cabbages and piadina.

It’s almost like a cross between cream cheese, yoghurt and sour cream – but with very little sourness, just a wonderful savoury creaminess. I have to admit, I fell in love with this cheese from the very first time I tasted it.

It’s another DOP product, one which can only be made in the provinces of Ravenna, Forlì-Cesena, Rimini, Bologna and part of Ferrara using whole milk from the region.


Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - The aperitivo spread at Caffè Zamboni

What to eat in Bologna – The aperitivo spread at Caffè Zamboni

This is not a dish, but an Emilia Romagna & Bologna food experience. Throughout the region, locals enjoy a pre-dinner buffet called “aperitivo”. For the cost of one drink (and occasionally a small supplement) you get unlimited access to a buffet of appetisers. From grilled vegetables and bruschetta through to full cuts of salamis, mortadella and parma ham.

For most people, it’s a fun way to start an evening of over consumption. For students and budget travelers, it’s a way to pretty much get your fill for just a few euros. Bologna is a bustling student town and the aperitivo experience has become increasingly popular throughout the city. The food is not always the highest quality, but with a glass of chilled Lambrusco in hand (the good local stuff, which I promise will be much better than any you have tried at home), you can’t go too far wrong.

WHERE TO EAT Aperitivo normally runs between around 5 or 6 to 8 0r 9pm. Some have a limited buffet. Some offer many options. It’s not hard to find walking around Bologna, so you can browse each buffet before you sit, but some places to consider: Lab 16 (modern) | Zamboni (touristy, big selection) | Marsalino  (local) | Piccolo E Sublime (studenty)

Take A Bologna Food Tour

If you want a top Bologna food experience and to get an on the ground introduction to the best Bologna food, then you can learn and taste a lot by taking a Bologna food walking tour. Our friend Andrea from Taste Bologna (Who we interviewed for our podcast on Bologna food above) is an expert foodie who grew up in Bologna. We highly recommend checking out his highly rated food tour on tripadvisor.

Book one of the Taste Bologna Food Tours.

Some other tours in Bologna:

Bologna Food: Primi Piatti – First Course

After a small appetiser, it’s time to ingest a hearty soup or pasta dish. As you may already realise, Bologna is famous for fresh egg pasta. There are a lot of different pasta styles, as well as pasta dishes, to choose from.

Fresh Pasta Varieties

The below image features some of the most popular fresh pasta varieties available in Bologna & Emilia Romagna – though not all of them were invented in the region.

What to eat in Bologna: Types of Fresh Pasta - Fresh Pasta Varieties

  1. Malfattini – “Badly Made” tiny pasta.
  2. Angel Hair Pasta
  3. Cappelletti (A variant of the “Tortellini”, the latter being famous in Bologna)
  4. Tortellini – The classic tiny stuffed pasta from Bologna
  5. Tortelli – Square stuffed pasta.
  6. Sfoja Lorda – A thin layer of ricotta paste is spread between two layer of pasta, then cut into square.
  7. Quadrucci – tiny squares used in soup
  8. Pappardelle
  9. Maltagliati (means “poorly cut” and is an off cut from left over dough)
  10. Strichetti or Farfalle
  11. Cappelletto matto (crazy cappelletto) – an alternative shaping of the cappelletti
  12. Pappardelle for broth – a thinner version of pappardelle
  13. Tagliatelle – Bologna’s most famous thin cut pasta
  14. Tagliolini – A thinner version of tagliatelle
  15. (NOT PICTURED) Garganelli – A tube pasta, see below for more info.
  16. (NOT PICTURED) Tortelloni – a large version of tortellini from Bologna, stuffed with cheese.

Bologna Food: Tagliatelle Ragù (Tagliatelle all Bolognese) – The Original Spaghetti Bolognese

Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - Tagliatelle Ragù (Tagliatelle alla Bolognese) - Fresh pasta varieties

What to eat in Bologna: Tagliatelle Ragù (Tagliatelle alla Bolognese) – NOT spaghetti Bolognese!

Although the locals have got used to tourists turning up asking for Spaghetti Bolognese, that dish was not invented in Bologna, or Italy for that matter. If you see Spaghetti Bolognese written on a menu in Bologna, run away, fast!

A traditional bolognese ragù is made with stock and tomato paste, not a big can of tomatoes or passata. All the delicious liquid sticks perfectly to the fresh made egg tagliatelle – one of the most famous Bologna pastas. If spaghetti was used, all the liquid would sink to the bottom, leaving a pile of meat on spaghetti and a soup underneath. You would lose the perfectly blended flavors that the slow cooking of the meat in stock has produced. Epic fail! This is why tagliatelle must be used.

Also note, it’s “Ragù” not “Ragout”. As Ragout is the french spelling, also a slow cooked meat stew. Some online sources claim the French dish came first. It’s hard to say. But the first record of Bolognese ragù was in the late 18th century.

For what to eat in Bologna though, Tagliatelle Ragù is a definite top 5 dish.

WHERE TO EAT: You can find Tagliatelle Ragù in pretty much every trattoria throughout Bologna. Where is the best? Most locals would say “At their grandmothers house”. If you can’t get an invite, try La Montanara (Small, Traditional decor), Cinque 50 Ristorante (Modern decor), Trattoria Belfiore (Clean & Classic).

Bologna Food: Tortellini in brodo

Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - Tortellini en brodo - One of the most famous fresh pasta varieties

What to eat in Bologna: Tortellini in brodo – One of the most famous fresh pasta varieties

Probably the most famous of the stuffed fresh pasta varieties from Bologna. The word “tortellini” is derived from the word “torta” meaning “pie” in Italian. The letters “ini” mean very little, so Tortellini is sort of like a very tiny pasta pie. The filling is made from a combo of ingredients ground into a paste: Pork loin, Prosciutto crudo (Parma ham), Mortadella, Parmigiano Reggiano, egg and nutmeg.

The most popular way to eat the tortellini is “in brodo”, meaning in broth, typically beef. This leaves you with these perfect little porky salt bombs, drowned in umami driven liquid, where every spoonful feeds the soul.

The shape of the tortellini, so legend says, was inspired by the naval of the goddess Venus. It’s said that she stayed at an Inn, close to Bologna and that the innkeeper spied on her through the keyhole. Upon seeing her perfect belly button, he was compelled to run to the kitchen and create a pasta in the same shape. Or at least that is the PG version of the story…

Undoubtedly, tortellini in brodo must make your what to eat in Bologna bucket list.

WHERE TO EAT Tortellini in brodo is also available almost everywhere. Some top suggestions would be Oltre (Their tortellini is made by Monica from Le Sfogline Bologna – more on that later) or Valerio (A 5th generation family Trattoria, opened in 1896)


Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - Tortelloni with butter and sage - fresh pasta varieties

What to eat in Bologna: Tortelloni with butter and sage

Another incredible type of fresh pasta is the big sister of tortellini – tortelloni. Not only larger, but the stuffing for tortelloni is cheese based rather than pork focused. The main ingredients are ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano along with egg, parsley, and nutmeg. Some chefs add lemon. The tortelloni is normally served in a simple butter and sage dressing – with plenty of extra Parmigiano. Or sometimes in a “salsa e burro” which is a buttery sofrito (onion, carrot, celery) with tomato and sage.

WHERE TO EAT Tortelloni – try at Oltre, Valerio, or Pasta Fresca Naldi (For a take away version in tomato sauce)


What to eat in Parma - Tortelli @ Gallo d'oro parma

Three types of Tortelli @ Gallo d’oro, Parma

Tortelli is also a stuffed fresh pasta variety, more common on the west side of Emilia Romagna in Parma, Reggio Emilia etc. Fillings typically include Pumpkin, potato or ricotta.

WHERE TO EAT: A sensational version of the pumpkin (zucca) tortelli is at Gallo d’Oro in Parma.


Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - passatelli

A less well known local favorite: Passatelli

Passatelli is an entirely different type of pasta. It’s made with breadcrumbs as a base, instead of flour. The breadcrumbs are mixed with eggs, parmesan cheese, nutmeg and lemon zest.

Passatelli is a winter favorite, originating in Emilia Romagna. It’s a rich salt-fest, heavy and hot, served in a broth (beef or sometimes chicken). For warmer seasons you can sometimes find it served with a butter and sage dressing, rather than in broth. But many restaurants do not serve it in summer at all.

WHERE TO EAT Passatelli. Ristorante Al Sangiovese generally serve passatelli en brodo or in butter all year round. It’s worth contacting them in advance to check though.

Gramigna alla Salsiccia

Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - Gramigna alla Salsiccia

Possibly my favorite Bologna food: Gramigna alla Salsiccia

Less famous internationally among the Bologna pastas, but actually quite easy to find on Bologna menus – because it’s amazing. Gramigna is a short, thin tube pasta from Emilia Romagna. “Salsiccia” means sausage. And the Bolognese salsiccia re-affirms Bologna’s love affair with pork. This is not mortadella, but a standard pork sausage style. But I tell you the sausage is anything but standard to taste. When blended with a rich Bolognese sauce in this dish, it’s mind blowing.

WHERE TO EAT – Possibly one of the best dishes we ate in the whole of Bologna was the Gramigna alla Salsiccia at La Montanara – so this has to make your what to eat in bologna list. You can also look out for this dish served with cream instead of Bolognese sauce. We had one at Marsalino – but there menu changes regularly, so it’s luck of the draw if it’s available.

Lasagne Verdi (Lasagne Al Forno)

Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna

What to eat in Bologna: Lasagne Verdi

Did Bologna invent the Lasagne? There is some strong evidence to suggest they did, which we’ll be discussing S2E1 of The Dish Podcast – Go To Episode.

Either way, the Bolognese Lasagne Verdi is an incredibly filling first course and it’s a little different from Lasagne you may have had at home. Firstly, although it utilises the traditional ragù, it’s typically not meat crazy. Second, the pasta is always green pasta made with spinach. Third, the star of the show is the Bechamel sauce with nutmeg and a generous amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano. A delicious dairy combo that makes the dish sing.

Most restaurants, at least the good ones, will bake the lasagne verdi fresh each day, and not serve you yesterday’s. This means that once it’s finished, that’s it for the day. So always ask before sitting down if they still have it available.

WHERE TO EAT the lasagne Verdi at La Montanara was first rate. Also good at Trattoria Tony.

Other Types Of Fresh Pasta

Maltagliati Speck e Spinaci

Maltagliati Speck e Spinaci - what to eat in Parma

Maltagliati Speck e Spinaci – popular in Parma

Maltagliati means “poorly cut” and is often very small pieces cut from any leftover bits of the pasta dough. But it can also be randomly poorly cut pasta of any size, like with this delicious Maltagliati speck (a type of cured pork) e spinaci (spinach), which we had at Gallo d’Oro in Parma.


Making Cappaletti @ Casa Artusi near Bologna

Making Cappaletti @ Casa Artusi near Bologna

Cappelletti – The alternative version of tortellini found in the east of Romagna towards Rimini. They use a cheese filling, rather than meat. We made ours at a pasta making class at Casa Artusi – less than an hour from Bologna.


Hand Making Fresh Garganelli pasta

Hand Making Fresh Garganelli Pasta

Garganelli – Egg pasta in a square shape rolled into a tube.

Take A Pasta Making Class in Bologna

Pasta making class @ La Sfogline Bologna

Monica – Expert Sfogline (pasta maker) @ La Sfogline Bologna

With all that tasty pasta to eat, it seemed like a great idea to learn how to make it ourselves so we could keep eating it after leaving Italy.

Monica from La Sfogline Bologna has taught the authentic pasta making methods of the region to prestigious guests such as Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein, Michael Portillo and now… us, Tommo & Megsy from FoodFunTravel.

Classes are not really promoted, as Monica already runs a full time pasta make business serving perfect fresh pastas to locals and restaurateurs. But you can contact to request a class. You might have the most luck contacting by phone.

⇒ Want more? Check out our guide to the best cooking class experiences in Bologna 

If Monica is not available, here are a few other classes to check out:

Zuppa Imperiale – Imperial Soup

Zuppa Imperiale. Photo Credit:

Finally from the list of first courses… A hearty winer soup. It’s origins are uncertain, but it’s claimed as a Bolognese dish. The classic version involves creating a baked semolina dough, with butter and parmigiano reggiano added, which is then boiled in broth with cubed mortadella. Another variation may involve adding minced mortadella to the semolina dough before baking.

WHERE TO EAT Zuppa Imperiale is very much an autumn/winter dish and is hard to find in summer. Some options in the cold season are  Trattoria Di Via Serra OR Ristorante Cesarina.

Bologna Food: Secondi Piatti – Second Course

The primi piatti is often so filling that it’s a surprise how anyone in Italy makes it to the second course. But you should try!

Cotoletta alla Bolognese – Bolognese cutlet

Cotoletta Alla Bologonese. Photo Credit:

Bologna’s most famous Secondi Piatti. A lightly breaded veal cutlet, fried in butter and covered in Parma ham and Parmigiano Reggiano. If you thought you were full after the starters, you certainly will be after this.

As Bologna’s most distinctive main course, don’t let this one slip off your what to eat in Bologna top 5 list.

WHERE TO EAT: Trattoria dal Biassanot – Reservations recommended.

Gran Fritto Misto Alla Bolognese – Bologna Mixed Fry

I hope by now you’ve stopped counting calories. This traditional Bolognese dish is a plate full of deep fried treats. Typically it should feature some of the following:

  • Apple fritters
  • Ricotta fritters
  • Fried rice balls
  • Breaded fried sticks containing a blend of cheese and mortadella
  • Potato croquettes
  • Fried custard
  • Fried meat – perhaps lamb cutlets or sweetbreads
  • Fried whole mozzarella balls
  • Fried vegetables – Cauliflower, zucchini flowers, mushrooms, green tomatoes, artichokes etc.
  • And more!

WHERE TO EAT Try Some of these items with the mixed fry at Trattoria Valerio – surprisingly, even as a secondi piatti some sweeter items may be included. At Valerio, fried custard is on the plate with fried pork and vegetables.

Veal With Truffles Bologna Style

This is almost like a baked veal pie. The traditional recipe takes a layer of potatoes, a layer of veal rump, a layer of parma ham, another layer of potatoes then top that with Parmigiano Reggiano and bake it. Shave white truffle on top just after removing from the oven so the truffle melts a little. A heavenly decadent combo!

WHERE TO EAT Try this in the Bologna Hills at Amerigo – truffle season is in the autumn (fall), so that’s the best time to expect availability. Though you may find it at other times of year too.

Now for a couple of popular but slightly less regional dishes…

Tagliata di Manzo

Tagliata di Manzo

Tagliata di Manzo

Sliced, seared beef. Tagliata refers to the fine cutting. Manzo refers to the beef. This dish may have originated in Florence, according to some internet sources. But it’s certainly available on many menus in Bologna. Although it may be found with different accompaniments, the version with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic vinegar, cherry tomatoes and arugula, certainly makes the best out of those two most famous local ingredient. Fancy balsamic on cheese and beef is a winner!


Pizza is certainly not originally from Emilia Romagna, but Bologna’s fame as a foodie city seems to have attracted some pretty amazing pizza restaurants in recent times.

Berberè Pizzeria

Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna -Pizza @ Berberè

What to eat in Bologna – Pizza @ Berberè

An incredibly airy, soft but crispy crust is turned into pizza perfection with one of the richest, unstoppable tomato sauces I’ve ever tasted. Enjoy your pizza in a modern, bare brick restaurant environment.


Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - PizzArtist cut and served by the kilo

What to eat in Bologna – PizzArtist cut and served by the kilo

A long line of customers await a continuously changing array of pizzas – served by the kilo – so you can try multiple types all at once. This hole in the wall take-away pizzeria is all about the dough: A thick but crispy, rustic base, packed with flavor. It’s a completely different texture experience from Berberè and both restaurants deserve a visit – though PizzArtist is a better choice for budget travelers.

Now, I hope you saved some space, it’s almost time for dessert…

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Bologna Food: Desserts


The historic routes of Gelato are contested. A form of gelato may have existed since ancient times. Some sources suggest the first true gelato appeared in Florence in the early 17th century and then the first gelato machine arrived in 1686, designed and constructed by a Sicilian fisherman.

But for Bologna, it’s important connection to Gelato is that it is the home to Italy’s Gelato University – yes, you can get a degree in gelato. Plus, this region manufactures the best gelato machines in the world – which are exported to gelaterias all over the planet.

PRO TIP: The best gelatos are kept in refrigerated steel pots at the counter – rather than the big glass display cabinets you regularly see on tourist streets. The steel pot with a lid maintains a more consistent temperature for each batch of gelato.

My favourite gelatos in Bologna were:

Biscotti gelato @ La Cremeria della Grada

Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - Biscotti Gelato

What to eat in Bologna – Biscotti Gelato @ La Cremeria della Grada

This creamy gelato with rich crumbled biscuit really pushed my flavor buttons.

Caramelised fig with ricotta and honey @ La Sorbetteria Castiglione

Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - Caramelised fig with ricotta and honey @ La Sorbetteria Castiglione

Caramelised fig with ricotta and honey @ La Sorbetteria Castiglione

An exciting sweet and creamy-cheesey blend. (It’s called the “Dolce Emma” on the menu)

Ricciolina – Tagliatelle Cake

Bologna Food / What to eat in Bologna: Ricciolina - Tagliatelle Cake

Bologna Food: Ricciolina – Tagliatelle Cake. Photo Credit:

A truly unexpected use of pasta… A cake mix filling, flavored with almond liqueur and candied citrus fruit, is mixed with thin tagliatelle baked in a short crust pastry shell. Look for the a Paolo Atti Bakery.

Zuppa Inglese

Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - A modern interpretation of Zuppa Anglais

A modern interpretation of Zuppa Anglais

Another dish with a surprisingly controversial history. “Zuppa Inglese” translates as “English Soup” and bares a resemblance to a trifle. Layers of sponge, soaked in booze (typically Alchermes – more on that below) and covered in custard. Artusi, the culinary scholar we mentioned above, attributes the dish to being from Tuscany and that the name refers only to the use of Creme Anglais (English style custard), and has nothing to do with the dish being copied from English trifle.

Artusi, born near Bologna, substituted creme anglais for crema pasticcera in his preferred recipe. So the modern dish does maintain a connection to the Emilia Romagna region and can be frequently found on local menus.

Tarts & Pastries

Bologna Food - What to eat in Bologna - Pesca all’alchermes - Zabaglione puff

A selection of pastries

Although most of the above (pictured) are popular throughout Italy, a couple, in particular, to look out for in local cafes and bakeries are:

Pesca all’alchermes (peach with alchermes liqueur) – This is the red pink one at the front of the image.

Zabaglione puff – Zabaglione is a north Italian dessert made from egg yolks, sugar and sweet wine. Normally served as a custard dessert, you can instead enjoy it inside a choux pastry puff.

Bologna Food: Other Deserts to look out for

These are some other typical desserts from the region we didn’t get to try during our trip that are a little harder to find on menus year round.

Certosino Cake – A typical Christmas style fruit cake

Pinza Montanara – A bready cake flavored with fruit jam, almonds, hazelnuts, rum, raisins and dried figs.

Zuccherini Bolognesi – A special sugar biscuit, shaped like a ring and often served at weddings to symbolize the wedding ring.


I hope you like wine!


Lambrusco by Ceci - What to drink in Emilia Romagna

Lambrusco by Ceci

We first visited Emilia Romagna in 2014. When we tell people from outside Italy that Lambrusco is one of our favourite wines on a hot day, the reaction is anything from laughter to shock. Surely Lambrusco is the bad fizzy wine you give teenagers at a wedding? Or you gift to someone you don’t like… Well, most tourists are missing out by skipping high quality Lambrusco. More for us I guess!

The good stuff, which can only be produced in four zones in Emilia-Romagna and one in Lombardy, should be dark, bold & fruity and always served well chilled. This is not a wine you drink with dinner. But it’s incredible on a hot evening with your aperitivo. If you see it, try Otello Nero di Lambrusco by Ceci.


Emilia Romagna produces about 60% red wine. Sangiovese is one of their most popular and can be found on menus across the state. Enjoy a bottle with your tagliatelle ragu.

Pagadebit di Romagna – Rare White Wine Of Romagna

If you are a fan of white wine, be on the look out for Pagadebit. Produced only in the region of Forlì-Cesena province – between Bologna & Rimini. The name literally translates as “pay debts”. Legend goes that this is because the grape would yield wine even during the worst weather and growing season, so you could always rely on it to help you make money.


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This red liqueur is typical of Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, and Sicily. It’s believed its original form was a variant based on an 8th century medicinal tonic. The liqueur though is a blend of neutral tasting alcohol with sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla and other herbs. The red color was traditionally derived from the addition of an insect, kermes, which is also where the drink derives its name.

Modern versions of alchermes often use a chemical dye instead, as insects are don’t seem too popular in Italy these days… Though eating crickets in Oaxaca, Mexico is a must do foodie experience ;-)

Bologna Food Conclusion

I believe it’s truly difficult to eat badly in Bologna. With some of the best and most famous raw ingredients in the world and a culinary tradition that goes back over 2000 years, the Bolognese know food.

To learn more, grab a comprehensive cook book or guide on Amazon.

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AND Get Our Emilia Romagna Map: Interactive Google Map Overlay For Tourists

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Thanks to Emilia Romagna Tourism’s #blogville program (in association with iambassador) and #bolognawelcome who helped us organize our trip around Emilia Romagna. As always, our opinions are our own. We visited all restaurants, except Ruliano Ham, on our own dime.

What did we miss? do you have a favorite Bolognese food? Leave a comment below.

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Bologna Food: What to eat in Bologna Italy | 37 Amazing Dishes + Food History. Try the best Bologna food. Learn what to eat in Bologna, Emilia Romagna, Italy. The famous Bologna Ham, fresh pasta varieties, wine and food history. Bologna Food: What to eat in Bologna Italy | 37 Amazing Dishes + Food History. Try the best Bologna food. Learn what to eat in Bologna, Emilia Romagna, Italy. The famous Bologna Ham, fresh pasta varieties, wine and food history. Bologna Food: What to eat in Bologna Italy | 37 Amazing Dishes + Food History. Try the best Bologna food. Learn what to eat in Bologna, Emilia Romagna, Italy. The famous Bologna Ham, fresh pasta varieties, wine and food history.