Widen your mouths, therefore, because, at Christmas, the morsels of the Romagna table become succulent.
Party cuisine is enriched with spectacular flavors and traditions: convivial dishes are favoured, those prepared in large quantities, suitable for welcoming friends and relatives visiting for Christmas.
In the past, the task of preparing the delicacies was commissioned to the azdore, a term that would be improper to translate as «housewives». The azdore were, in fact, the women in charge of running the house, real pillars of the domestic hearth (azdora literally means «ruler»): they cared for the children, waited to housework and – during the holidays – they gathered in large groups to prepare the dishes that their respective families would then consume. All our gratitude goes to them and their sacrifice. It is often thanks to the azdore that past recipes, techniques and traditions have been preserved – it is appropriate to say it – by “word of mouth” through the generations.
So, what are the typical Christmas dishes from Romagna? Let's see some of them.
It's hard to be in Romagna without starting Christmas lunch with a platter of cold cuts and cheeses. The most typical are the cold cuts of Mora Romagnola, an autochthonous breed of pig known for its savory meat, used for fine meats. Among the cheeses, the Squacquerone di Romagna, exactly the same that is used to fill piadine. During the holidays, its fresh and acidic flavor is perfect to accompany caramelized figs: a real – and unprecedented – delight!
The most traditional and most widespread first course on the tables of Romagna is undoubtedly cappelletto (caplét), served with meat broth, usually capon or chicken. Cappelletti are larger than tortellini, usually filled with ricotta, raviggiolo (soft and delicate cheese with a buttery texture) or squacquerone and parmesan. Only some areas add a little capon breast or alternatively lean pork to the filling. They are cooked in capon broth.
If they're not cappelletti, then they're passatelli. Always handmade and always in broth. A very typical Romagna pasta with an elongated shape, which resembles a large and rough short and soft spaghetti. Made of eggs, breadcrumbs and Parmesan (with a touch of nutmeg and lemon), they should be prepared with E fér, or «Iron for passatelli». It is a perforated metal cylinder with two side handles which is pressed hard over the dough to obtain pasta vermicelli, ready to be thrown into the broth. The «Ferro» is a traditional tool, almost disappeared today: if you can't get one, a simple potato masher is enough... it's not quite the same, but it fulfills its function!
After a first course in broth, it is the Romagna tradition to continue with a "dry" first course. The Swallow's Nests perform this function. These are small rectangles of egg pasta stuffed with cooked ham and béchamel, and then rolled up to create the typical 'nest' shape. Less known than lasagna, the swallow's nests represent an equally delicious and tasty alternative.
The undisputed protagonist of the main courses from Romagna is the meat which, to be fully enjoyed, is offered in different variations. Very popular is the Roast of Mora romagnola, perhaps accompanied by a sauce of shallots from Romagna: a 100% local recipe that allows you to marry two undisputed excellences of the territory. Mixed boiled meat is unlikely to be missing. Accompanied by vegetables and sauces - bagnèt verd (made with parsley, garlic and anchovies) and bagnèt ross< /em> (tomato, onion, carrot and garlic) – is the undisputed king of holidays.
On the coast, on the contrary Romagna, tradition calls for fish meat! Here we cook the wonderful Oven-baked turbot with potatoes and olives, or, in the Ravenna area, the very tasty Anguilla. Fish, however, was consumed above all on Christmas Eve, the "lean" season. It was in fact forbidden to eat meat and the azdore, especially in places near the sea, brought squid to the table , cod, mussels, clams and roasted fish, including grouper or red snapper. There is no shortage of marshmallows, redfish, cuttlefish, sole and prized canocchie served on a base of oil, garlic, onion, wine and pepper. And those who couldn't eat raw fish were content with brodetto: once poor dish of the fishermen of the Adriatic obtained by boiling the "waste" of the fish, today it is considered a real triumph of taste!