Italy arguably has some of the best food in the world. From risotto in Milan to carbonara in Rome and granitas in Sicily, the entire country is a food lover’s paradise.
For us, Italy is the ultimate food destination. When we want to go somewhere just to eat, we want to go to Italy. To be even more specific – we want to go to Bologna, Italy.
Aptly named “the fat one” for its incredible gastronomy, Bologna is often considered the food capital of Italy.
Bologna is located in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy. This region alone produces some of the most popular Italian products and most famous dishes in all of Italy. Parmesan cheese, mortadella, prosciutto, balsamic vinegar, ragù, tortellini, just to name a few.
In this article, we are sharing 6 of our favorite foods in Bologna that you have to try.
Tagliatelle al Ragù
We are starting off this list with one of Bologna’s signature dishes – Tagliatelle al Ragù.
Made with yellow egg noodles and a rich, flavorful meat sauce, this dish is a fan favorite. It seems like everyone in Bologna has their own recipe for ragù, most often coming from their grandma.
There are many variations of ragù, but it is often made with a mix of carrots, onions, and celery mixed with beef, pork, and wine and then it’s simmered for hours to create the perfect sauce.
If you only have one day in Bologna to eat, you definitely have to get a plate of tagliatelle al ragù.
Lasagna al Ragù
If you are looking to eat the best lasagna in Italy, you’ll find it in Bologna. We have yet to taste a better lasagna than the lasagna in Bologna.
Here, they layer the lasagna with green egg pasta noodles (flavored with spinach), ragù, bechamel sauce, and grated cheese.
It’s the perfect combination of richness and creaminess, and it’s our definition of comfort food.
We loved the lasagna at Le Golosita di Nonna Aurora.
Tortellini are small, egg noodle dumplings that are usually stuffed with a meat or a cheese filling.
Walking around Bologna, you’ll often see pasta shops where a sfoglina (a woman who makes pasta by hand) makes fresh, hand-made tortellini.
When you do find a shop, make sure to stop and watch the sfoglina delicately shape and stuff each dumpling one by one. It’s quite a process and will make you appreciate them even more!
One of the most popular ways to eat tortellini in Bologna is in a meat-flavored broth – kind of like a tortellini soup. This dish is called Tortellini en Brodo (tortellini in broth).
Top it off with parmesan cheese and you’ll understand why it’s one of our favorite dishes.
Tortelloni is the larger version of tortellini. This fresh pasta is often stuffed with seasonal vegetables (pumpkin in the fall is our favorite), meats, and cheeses.
Tortelloni is almost always served with a butter and parmesan cheese sauce, but sometimes you’ll find it served with sage and other herbs as well. We love ricotta-stuffed tortelloni cooked with sage and butter.
One thing to keep in mind when ordering tortelloni is to never ask to eat them with a red sauce. Tortelloni are meant to be eaten with Parmigiano Reggiano and butter. Once, at a pasta shop, a tourist once asked if they could get tortelloni with a red sauce, to which the shop owner replied, “No! Tortelloni is served only with butter and parmesan cheese – no red sauce!”
Don’t you love Italians?
Passatelli en Brodo
Passatelli en Brodo is probably one of the most unique foods in Bologna that we have tried. The pasta almost looks like a worm, but don’t worry, it tastes amazing.
Passatelli noodles are made with bread crumbs, eggs, parmesan cheese, and nutmeg, this dish is usually served in a flavorful broth and topped with parmesan cheese.
We were surprised by how much we loved this dish. It’s extremely flavorful and the touch of nutmeg in the noodle adds a nice warmth.
If you’re looking for something new to try, we would highly recommend trying passatelli en brodo.
Last, but most definitely not least, is gelato!
You might be wondering why gelato is on our “food in Bologna” list since you can find it everywhere in Italy. We put gelato on this list because Bologna has some of the best gelato we have tasted in Italy. And we have tried a lot of gelato.
The texture, flavor, creaminess, and consistency is what makes the gelato in Bologna special. Most gelaterias make the gelato fresh throughout the day and store it in special containers at just the right temperature. This helps the gelato keep its creamy, soft texture without over freezing.
The city itself has over 100 gelaterias and is the home of Gelato University, so you can imagine how much the people in Bologna care about their gelato.
There are two places that we particularly love in Bologna:
Cremeria Santo Stefano – they do the classics really well. Pistachio, crema, fior di latte – we’d recommend trying them all.
La Sorbetteria Castiglione – our personal favorite is Crema Michelangelo, but you really can’t go wrong with any of their flavors.
If you are interested, we run month-long food tours in Bologna. You can check out the Bologna itinerary here!