A tasteful garden combining elegance and simplicity
There’s no point searching around for elaborate descriptive phrases. The Parma that we know today can be summed up in one woman: Marie Louise.
Marie Louise of Austria, who was Napoleon’s second wife, created her own little kingdom at Parma, fusing Austrian and French culture with that of Parma. Her influence is everywhere, from the structure of the city, to its monuments, to its people, even affecting its very air with her elegance.
She brought the great chefs of the French and Austrian courts who passed on the secret culinary traditions of far more important cities to the local trades folk.
Thus one finds traditional folk recipes which are complex, distinctive and clearly influenced by such “high-placed” connections. The predilection of the people of Parma for prime quality ingredients like game, foie gras, champagne, oysters and stuffed pasta, also becomes clear.
There are three widely recognized products of excellence from Parma: parmesan (reggiano) cheese, prosciutto and the violets of Parma. Other famous DOP products can then be added to the list, like salamis of excellence, for example Zibello culatello, culaccia and Felino as well as Borgotaro mushrooms.
All these wonderful products have contributed to the definition of Parma as the “food valley” of Italy. Let’s look at the more typical dishes. It’s impossible to overlook “anolini in broth”, whose very name whets the appetite of anyone who delights in good food. Anolini are filled pasta parcels, a distant cousin of the “tortellini” of Bologna or the capelletti of Reggia, made with a sauce of well braised beef, bread and parmesan, served in a light beef and chicken broth. There is absolutely no need to wish anyone “buon appetito” with this dish...
Yet another version is “tortelli with herbs”. Filled with ricotta, Swiss chard, and parmesan then served with butter and a little more parmesan. They are an absolute taste sensation.
Their origins also make for an interesting story, as the shepherds who crossed the
great river (our Po) paid their way with fresh ricotta, and so this dish came into being. Tortelli were served at the summer solstice feast on the 23rd June. Tradition has it that after dinner one went into the fields to embrace the summer dew.
What more can one add? It’s clear that Parma is a marriage of history and elegance, an opulent history which at the table translates into great dishes suited
to great dinners.