While each region of Italy is proud of its particular pastas,
Emilia Romagna is known for outstanding fresh pastas. Made solely of flour and egg, there is no salt, olive oil, or water added. The egg provides a richer color and flavor, and of course a few more calories.
This tradition is a result of the soft, fine wheat grown here where the land is fertile and eggs have generally been more plentiful and affordable. Southern Italians tend to rely more on dried pasta made with durum wheat, hard wheat high in protein and gluten. This makes dough that sticks together well and holds its shape. Dried pasta is far less expensive to produce and keeps well in the hot, dry climate.
In Emilia Romagna, pasta was not a “poor mans” food. Wheat was the exclusive property of the wealthy especially during frequent poor harvests and famines. In fact, it was the food of the prosperous until the Industrial Revolution. Polenta and beans were what much of the peasantry subsisted on.
One of the most important figures of the Emilian cuisine is the tradition of the sfoglina. This is the woman who, every morning, prepares the dough and then hand rolls the sfoglia (the sheet or leaf) and makes all the pasta served that day in a restaurant. There is however waning interest in this craft and so the shops selling fresh hand made pasta for home use are beginning to supply restaurants as well.
It is extremely difficult to standardize pasta in Emilia Romagna. For thousands of years, much of the region was broken up into separate, ever-changing fiefdoms. Every province, every town has its own history and its own version of the regions pasta. For example, in Ferrara, big tortelloni become capellacci (big hats). In Romagna, the same shape becomes capelletti (little hats) although they may be large or small. Sometimes the name changes while the pasta remains the same, or the name doesn’t change but the filling or shape does. Here is a guide to the fresh pastas of Emilia Romagna.