A tour of the territory of Ferrara, where the beauty of nature is matched by the fascination of villages and towns rich in history and culture, gives tourists the opportunity to become familiar with local gastronomic traditions. The great variety of local typical products is enhanced by recipes both ancient and new, some originated by the agricultural tradition of simple, natural tastes, some created by the refined chefs of the Court of the Estes. From bread to fruit, from vegetables to fish, from ham to wines, each taste is a new experience.
The local cuisine is famous for its rich variety of carefully prepared typical products. Some famous traditional dishes of the gastronomy of Ferrara are the "capellacci di zucca" (ringlets of pasta filled with a pumpkin and Parmesan) and the "pasticcio di macheroni" (macaroni pie), king of the Este tradition, it is a pastry pie with a filling of macaronis with Béchamel sauce and white sauce bolognaise, enriched with mushrooms and truffle. Delicious of Romagna is homemade pasta, for example "tagliatelle" and "lasagne", with the classic "ragù" (meat sauce), the exquisitely refined "cappelletti" (shape as tortellini) with cheese filling, cooked in capon broth. Equally famous, the "passatelli" are made of a mixture of bread crumbs, eggs, parmesan cheese and muscatel nut pressed through a pierced mould to obtain the tasty little "worms" to be boiled in meat broth for just a couple of minutes.
The undisputed symbol of Ferrara's gastronomy is the tasty "salama da sugo", (salami to sauce) though a dish to be served at Christmas, is always present on the table of gourmets, is served steaming accompanied by a delicate potato puree.
The first records on the "salama da sugo" date from the 15th century, with a letter by Lorenzo the Magnificent to Ercole II d'Este.
The salami is an unusual mixture of pork meat with spices and red wine, sometimes enriched with Marsala wine or Brandy, which acquires its unmistakable taste after a long seasoning period, during which it remains either hanging from the ceiling or resting under the ashes in a cool, airy and above all dark room.
The salami is still produced according to the tradition and can be bought in many butcher's shops that guarantee the quality of their products.
To prepare a salami you first have to put it to soak in lukewarm water for a whole night, than wrap it in a thin cloth and hang it to a wooden stick in a pot of water, where it will boil gently for at least five hours without touching the walls or the bottom of the pot.
Inhabitants from Po Delta area have made a fine art of barbecuing meat and the various types of fish that the sea and lagoons supplies in abundance. These are often served with the traditional "piadina" of Romagna or bread of Ferrara, called couple, because of its contorted shape. The famous couple has a central body called knot or ribbon with two twisted pointed breadsticks attached. Either crusty or soft, with or without olive oil, the bread of Ferrara is a great pride for Italian gastronomy.
The table here is rich in traditions and tastes, where the eel, the true queen of the local gastronomy, however continue to be a typical dish of Comacchio and can be prepared with thousand different recipes during the Christmas period, from the delicate risotto, to the soup called donkey's beak, accompanied with toasted slices of "polenta" (maize puree). The 48 recipes used in the region include also some very refined versions, as the small eel steaks with bitter-sweet sauce, a recipe worthy of nouvelle cuisine. But there is nothing like the tempting smell of grilled eel. Its delicate taste turns this dish in an irresistible gastronomic temptation.
Many local recipes revolve around the pleasant tastes of mussels, clams, scallops, sea-bass and grey mullet, as well as the ancient tastes of mushrooms and truffle.
From the Northern part of the territory, with the Panfilia Wood, a very important area for truffles, to the beautiful oases of the Po Delta Park, these itineraries wind through a wide area where truffle is easily found owing to the alluvial soil and the absence of trees. Many restaurants located along the itineraries have joined the initiative "Ferrara, terra, acqua e tartufo" (Ferrara, land, water and truffle) and are there for those tourists who want to join together tourism and gastronomy.
From September to January, when the famous hypogean fungus is ripe, the itineraries "Le vie ferraresi del tartufo" attract tourists to the Province of Ferrara, giving them the opportunity to discover the local gastronomic tradition and those truffle recipes, new and old, which satisfy even the most demanding gourmet.
Pumpkins with a bright orange-colour flesh, sweet and firm, grow in a soil with unique organoleptic characteristics granting an excellent quality. This product has a notable economic and gastronomic importance. One of the most popular local dishes, "cappellacci di zucca", has pumpkin as its main ingredient. Pumpkins are also used to make sauces for pasta dishes, or in almond cakes and soups, or deep-fired, sliced and roasted in the oven, baked and sprinkled with sugar, in risottos, gnocchi, as a puree or to add a tasty touch to minestrone (vegetable soup).
Rice cultivation in the area has started relatively recently. It is a very good way to "rinse" high salinity and high acidity fields that cannot be used for other cultures. The most popular rice varieties produced in the area are: Carnaroli, Arborio, Originario, Baldo and Vialone Nano.
The most famous sweet of Ferrara is the typical "pampepato", invented centuries ago by the nuns of the Convent of the Corpus Domini. This spiced chocolate bread with almonds and candied fruit, covered by a thick chocolate icing, used to be prepared at home at Christmas time. Desserts of Romagna include "ciambella" (ring-shaped cake) and "zuppa inglese", a kind of trifle made with custard and cordial-soaked biscuits.
Ferrara ranks among the first fruit producers in Italy and Europe. Pears cultivated in the area are particularly famous for their high organoleptic quality. Part of the locally-produced fruit is sold fresh, part is transformed in preserves and other products. It is a triumph of colours and tastes: peaches, pears, apples, strawberries, cherries, apricots, melons and water melons are a touch of colour on every table.
Internationally famous quality wines such as dry of Ferrara by Bosco Eliceo DOC: Fortara, Sauvignon and Merlot und of Romagna Sangiovese, Albana and Trebbiano complete the gastronomic picture for the gourmet visitor's pleasure.