Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Crostini ai funghi selvatici con pancetta croccante Wild mushroom crostini with crunchy pancetta

This morning, with the weather locally shifting from damp autumnal to Indian summer, I went foraging. Driving into town, I’d spotted a pasture two minutes from home dotted with field mushrooms, so I stopped and quickly gathered half a kilo of very fresh fungus.

Mushrooms sauted with pancetta or bacon, onion and garlic is a universal classic. What makes this version Bolognese is the finishing touches – balsamic vinegar and grated parmesan. I would serve it on crostini – griddled bread – smeared with olive oil.

Or you could use streaky bacon

One tip: fry the mushrooms hard so that they begin to caramelise. You don’t want mushy soft funghi for this dish. All the ingredients should remain distinct – this is cooking alla italiana. If you like, you could finish off the dish with a couple of tablespoons of thick cream.

Ingredients for 4

150g pancetta or bacon

4tbl olive oil

1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic

4 slices sour dough bread

350g wild mushrooms

2tbl balsamic vinegar

2tbl double or thick cream (optional)

4tbl finely chopped parsley

4tbl finely grated parmesan

salt and pepper


1. Cut the pancetta or bacon into slivers or tiny cubes and fry rapidly in half the olive oil so they become crunchy. Remove and set aside.

2. Finely chop the onion and garlic and fry it in the pancetta or bacon fat. Remove and set aside.

3. Heat a griddle or heavy frying pan, brush both sides of the bread with the remaining olive oil, and toast on both sides until crisp.

4. Clean with a damp cloth the mushrooms and coarsely slice, discarding damaged and muddy parts.

5. Quickly sauté the mushrooms until they begin to brown, then add back the onion and garlic and stir in the balsamic vinegar. Add freshly ground black pepper and salt if necessary. If you are using cream, this is the moment to stir it in.

6. Put a generous spoonful of the mushrooms onto each slice of toast, sprinkle with the crunchy bacon, the parsley and the parmesan.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Shopping in Bologna: Davide Simoni – new generation family business

Davide Simoni - champion of mortadella

Davide Simoni’s ambition is to make the best quality artisan salami. He’s spent two years learning the ropes on the factory floor at Ennio Pasquini’s mortadella laboratorio.Now he’s back at the family shop, Simoni, learning to run one of the landmark family businesses in the Quadrilatero.

A tiny part of Simoni's ham and salami repertoire

Simoni are famous for their hams, salamis and cheeses and are one of the few  outlets for the highly prized Pasquini mortadella.
Simoni - one of the shopping delights of Bologna

After completing a literature degree, Davide went to work as a journalist before trying his hand as a mortadella maker. That is what has really inspired him. In the meantime, he is planning to set up a blog. ‘I am so well placed. I have access to all the best food businesses in the city. I’m sitting on treasure.’ At Christmas, he works extra hours helping out in the family’s other business, a pasta fresca shop on via Murri. He’ll be joined there by siblings and cousins, amongst them an economist, a psychiatrist and a pharmacist. They may not share his passion for sausage making but like him they remain part of the family business, a common feature in Bologna.

See Davide Simoni's guide to the Quadrilatero at!/profile.php?id=100001878283172 (Forgive the interviewer's Italo-American)

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Atti - give us this day our daily bread

Anna Maria Bonaga - doyenne master baker
Paolo Atti e Figli - Bakers and Confectioners

via Caprairie 7 and via Drapperie 6

 By five past six, the shelves are empty – the afternoon bread is sold out. If you live or work in the city centre, Atti is the bakery to head to for bread for the evening meal.  ‘We want our customers to have fresh bread so we bake twice a day, says Francesco Bonaga, one of four siblings who now run Atti under  the friendly but firm supervision of  Anna-Maria, their octogenarian mother.  Despite the growing presence of local supermarket chains, most Bolognese still buy their daily bread from an independent baker, and of these Atti is the biggest in the city.

Francesco Bonaga - inheriting a family tradition
Francesco claims that they make over 50 different kinds of bread plus dozens of cakes and biscuits. Their crescente, a bit like focaccia but flatter and made with lard as well as oil, is delicious, especially the ones with flecks of mortadella or prosciutto. They are famed for their certosino, a  kind of  Bolognese Christmas  cake  packed with dried fruits, and equally for the design of the box it is sold in. Atti also produce a  wide range of pasta, especially tortellini, tortellone – the larger variety with ricotta and vegetable fillings -  and lasagne. Many of these can be consumed with a glass of wine in the bigger of their two shops. Or taken home in another type of beautifully designed box.
Everything hand made

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Let them eat cake

Surely too beautiful to eat - Caffe e Dolce
Cake fills the gap nicely between lunch and dinner in Bologna, a gap of six or seven hours. You will see luscious displays of chocolate and fruit cakes  as well as some over-dressed fantasies involving layers of cream and crystalised fruit  in the windows of Atti, Zanarini and Gamberini.  They and others also sell mignon – miniature French-style beauties – singly or weighed by the kilo. You can enjoy them on the premises or take them home.  Other good places to try are
The display at Pallotti

  • Caffe e Dolce on the corner of Carbonesi and  Massimo, 
  • Colazione a Bianca at the beginning of  Santo Stefano,   
  • FP    risto Pallotti, on the corner of Irnerio and  Alessandrini,  good for breakfast, and very convenient if you’re desperate for a mid-afternoon snack after a visit to the Botanical Gardens. 
  • Lo Sfizio, via Riva de Reno 100A, has a wonderful range of Bolognese cakes, pastries and biscuits  - to buy to take away only.
Zanarini - where smart babies go for their brioche con crema