Bologna Host Interview: Margherita

La dotta, la rossa, la grassa...

The streets are lined with over 38km of beautiful porticoes, which you can follow all the way up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna San Luca, if you're up for a hike. Plus there's Italy's tallest leaning tower, the Torre degli Asinelli: the view is breathtaking, well worth the 498 steps to reach it! All that walking is sure to leave you with an appetite... Lucky you're in one of Europe's food capitals! 

This is how locals describe Bologna: La dotta (the learned, from the university), la rossa, (the red, from its roofs), and of course, la grassa (the fat, from its food). This city is an absolute must-visit for foodies looking for something a little off the beaten track. It's the perfect size: big enough to keep you busy, but small enough to explore by foot, with history, secrets and fascinating details at every turn.

Ciao Margherita, let's get started! Tell us a little about yourself…

Ciao everyone! I'm a journalist and I'm proud to be Bolognese! Our family has been here for at least six generations, and I've always lived in the city center. I live in what used to be my grandparents home: an apartment that looks out over the famous Piazza Verdi.

Six generations! Wow. You must have a lot of happy family memories.

Yes, so many memories... Especially in the kitchen! When I think back to my childhood, I remember pricking holes in our ‘crescentine’ breads with a fork ready for baking, cutting long sheets of fresh yellow pasta into ‘lasagne’, huge pots and pans filled with bubbling ragù that we’d cook for hours on end… The scents and sights of those times will be in my heart forever.

How lovely! Now for a difficult question, what's your favourite Bolognese dish?

Oh, Lasagne is my very favourite. The perfect meeting of fresh pasta and rich ragù... I like my lasagne to be as soft as a down duvet, filled with plenty of ragù and béchamel sauce. That takes me back to another childhood memory, rolling out pasta with my nonna to make lasagne. I actually still have her rolling pin - It must be at least 50 years old! It’s just always been here, and it's a precious possession.

What’s your favourite season in the kitchen?

Winter is the richest season for ingredients and traditional recipes. Just think of Christmas time: the richest and most hearty traditional dishes fill our tables every day! December and January bring families around the table and it is in this period of togetherness that you appreciate your traditions the most. We always go out of our way to make the table look truly sumptuous - with generous helpings, of course!

What are 5 ingredients that you couldn’t live without?

Flour, eggs, minced meat, tomato passata and tuna. With flour and eggs, you can make a multitude of pastas and cakes. The meat and passata are key for a good ragù, and the tuna is the staple ingredient of the sauce for Spaghetti alla Bolognese.

Spaghetti alla Bolognese? With tuna?

Yes, that’s right... tuna! Spaghetti alla Bolognese as the rest of the world knows is a false myth. All over the world, Bologna’s signature dish, Tagliatelle al Ragù, is interpreted as “Spaghetti alla Bolognese”. Here in Bologna we’re very proud of our traditions, and have always done our best to serve only the real tagliatelle.

Many Italians say “Spaghetti alla Bolognese doesn’t exist!” as a response to this mistake, but they in turn are mistaken… Spaghetti alla Bolognese is actually a traditional - but little known - dish here. It’s one of my favourites. It’s traditionally served on Fridays, which traditionally are days in which you shouldn’t consume meat, or on Christmas Eve. You heard it here first!

Click to read Margherita's recipe for Spaghetti alla Bolognese.

Well, you learn a new thing every day! Any other myths to debunk while we're here?

There are so many. People often believe that spaghetti are only cooked when they stick to the wall, that Italians have three or four course lunches everyday… Also a lot of people think we use spoons to eat our spaghetti and tagliatelle - that’s another classic!

This is why I love being part of Cesarine. I think tourists should be educated about the real culture of a place and how to respect it. Films, songs and images abroad have created a false image of Italy. Most tourists don’t know just how different Italy is from region to region. Even in towns that are ‘neighbours’ there are differences in dialects, traditions, cuisine and culture. That’s something that should be celebrated, and travellers should be welcomed in!

Experience the real Bologna

"What a great experience! My husband and I learned so much from Margherita, and look forward to trying the recipes we learned once we are home. Beyond the cooking, we also had a great conversation about life in Bologna, and took away many recommendations for our visit to the city. Thank you for a wonderful course!"

- Rachel G, USA 

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