Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, the critically-acclaimed six-part CNN Original Series that follows Academy Award nominee Stanley Tucci as he travels across Italy to discover the secrets and delights of the country’s regional cuisines, continues on CNN International this weekend.
The third episode, airing on Sunday 4th July, features Tucci exploring Bologna, seen by many as the food capital of Italy. Bologna is the capital of Emilia-Romagna, home to the highest number of protected food products in the whole of Italy. These products are globally renowned, strictly regulated, and of exceptional quality, and include parmigiano, proscuitto de parma and traditional balsamic vinegar.
Bologna is the capital of Emilia-Romagna, home to the highest number of protected food products in the whole of Italy, known as DOP’s. These products are globally renowned, strictly regulated and of exceptional quality – parmigiano, proscuitto de parma and traditional balsamic vinegar to name but a few.
With such a food pedigree it’s not surprisingly that one of the world’s best chefs, Massimo Bottura hails from the region. He drives Stanley to a premium parmigiano producer, who uses the milk of the white Modenese cows. They break open a fresh wheel - it smells heavenly and sends the taste buds singing.
A beautiful by-product of the parmigiano-making process is soft fresh creamy ricotta. Several dreamy spoonfuls later they order a crate and return to Massimo’s hotel-restaurant to try the ricotta baked in an outdoor wood oven with honey, elderflower vinegar and a dribble of the finest traditional balsamic vinegar. It’s a triumph.
Bologna is well known for its progressive politics so Stanley meets Mattia Santori, a young radical leader of the homegrown ‘Sardines’ movement. They buy mortadella, which is one of the earliest protected products in Italy, going back 400 years.
During the first lockdown the Sardines combined food with politics and volunteered at the People’s Kitchen, a local charity that cooks high quality food for everyone in need. On the menu today is local specialty, tortellini.
Near Modena Stanley meets Claudio Giusti, the 17th generation of his family to make high grade balsamic vinegar. Stored in wood casks in attics to expose it to extremes of heat and cold the thick luscious liquid is left to mature for decades. The result is a complex balance of sweet and sour flavours - which goes with just about everything.
In Forlimpopoli Stanley visits the Pellegrino Artusi museum. His famous cookbook, ‘Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well’ united regional specialities into a glorious national cuisine. This place is like a shrine for lovers of Italian food.
Stanley meets Artusi enthusiast Barbara Asioli. Everyone has their own version of Spaghetti Bolognese but Barbara cooks Artusi’s, which is made with ground veal and no tomatoes. It cooks in minutes and is delicious with Barbara’s tagliatelle, the perfect pasta accompaniment.
In Rimini on the Adriatic coast Stanley meets Francesca Fellini, the niece of director Federico Fellini, whose films created a romantic image of Italy that persists today. Fellini adored the simple traditional food of his birthplace. In a local pasta restaurant they sample freshly made cappelletti, shaped like the priest’s hat and twisted strands of strozzapreti, which means ‘priest-choker’. During the time of the Papal State, the locals may not have liked priests, but they loved their pasta and these are a silky sensation.
Why is the food in Emilia-Romagna so damn good? Stanley’s old friend Massimo Bottura puts it down to the unique geography, climate, passion and infinite patience. Some bold souls even whisper that this is the food capital of Italy, and now Stanley Tucci is one of them...
Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy airs on CNN International from July 4th [all times BST]:
Sundays at 02:00, 12:00, 16:00, 19:00; and Wednesdays at 12:00, 19:00 and 02:00