Biba's Taste of Italy: Recipes from the Homes, Trattorie and Restaurants of Emilia-Romagna

Biba's Taste of Italy: Recipes from the Homes, Trattorie and Restaurants of Emilia-Romagna

by Biba Caggiano


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"There has not been one single day since I have left Bologna in 1960 that I have not yearned for and lusted after the food of Emilia-Romagna. That food is part of my heritage and culture. After twenty-five years of cooking professionally, I can truly say that the food of my region has been a constant source of inspiration in all I have done."

Join author, cooking show host, and restaurateur Biba Caggiano on her journey back to her beloved region in Biba's Taste of Italy.Located in one of Italy's most prosperous northern regions, Emilia-Romagna has given the world a cuisine that is a luscious as it is refined: succulent seafood dishes from the Adriatic waters; hearty, long-simmered ragùs; and rich pasta shaped into tortellini, anolini, and lasagna. With Biba, dicover the place that's home to so much of what we've come to love in Italian food: prosciutto di Parma, Modena's aged balsamic vinegar, mortadella, and perhaps the world's greatest cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Featuring more than 250 recipes, from antipasti to desserts, Biba introduces the vibrant food of her childhood: homestyle dishes and authentic recipes from humble trattorie and family-run restaurants. You'll learn how to make Tagliatelle with Bolognese Ragù; Eggplant Parmigiano that combines the salty-sweet flavors of Parma ham and Bolognese sausage; earthy, bread-thickened soups; Potato and Ricotta Gnocchi; and irresistible seafood risotto. Of course, the symbol Emilia-Romagna cooking — stuffed pasta — is here in all its glory with recipes for Ricotta and Goat Cheese Tortellini, Butternut Squash Tortellini, and Anolini in Broth, and so many more.

From the region's coastal towns and villages, Biba shares the simply prepared seafood dishes of the local trattoric — Clams with Garlic and Cile Pepper and Baked Halibut with Potatoes, plus the simple tastes of grilling shellfish with olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs. In the same rustic spirit, you will also find Roasted Stuffed Breast of Veal, Braised Veal Shanks, and succulent Breaded Lamb Chops.

Biba's frequent family visits to Bologna evoke childhood memories of growing up in this food-lover's paradise, and reaffirms that the kitchen remains the heart and soul of Italian homes.

Bib's Taste of Italy is more than a collection of recipes. It is also a travel guide with all the names and addresses of her favorite trattorie and restaurants where her favorite dishes can be found.

Join Biba as she returns to Emilia-Romagna in Biba's Taste of Italy. It's a trip you will take again and again in your own kitchen.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780688158156
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/20/2001
Edition description: 1ST
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 494,473
Product dimensions: 8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.18(d)

About the Author

Biba Caggiano is the author of Northern Italian Cooking, Modern Italian Cooking, and Leo Buscaglia's Love Cookbook with Biba Caggiano, From Biba's Italian Kitchen, and Italy alDente. Her cooking show, Biba's Kitchen, was seen on the Learning Channel, and she is the chef/owner of Biba's restaurant in Sacramento, California, where she lives.

Read an Excerpt

Warm Salad of Shrimp, Radicchio, Arugula, and Balsamic Vinegar

Scampi, Radicchio, e Rucola al Balsamico

Serves 4

Another antipasto from Giampaolo Ghilardotti, the talented young chef of the country hotel Locanda del Lupo in Parma's countryside, this pairs hot and cold ingredients in a delightful salad.


1/2 small head radicchio, washed, and dried
5 cups loosely packed arugula leaves, stems removed, washed, and dried
5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
16 medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, rinsed, and patted dry
Freshly ground black pepper to taste


Cut the radicchio into thin julienne and place in a bowl. Add the arugula and toss to combine. Arrange the salad on four dinner plates.

In a small bowl, combine the balsamic, wine, and a nice pinch of salt

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until they are lightly colored, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the balsamic mixture and cook, stirring, until the liquid has reduced by approximately half, about 2 minutes.

Arrange the shrimp over the salads and spoon the hot dressing over all. Serve at once, with a bit of freshly ground black pepper.

My Mother's Fried Meatballs

Polpette Fritte di Mia Mamma

Serves 6 To 8

The special craving I have for polpette is as much emotional as it is gustatory, since it is one of the nurturing dishes of my childhood. Try my mother's polpette, then try thevariation, in which they are enriched by an appetizing tomato and bean sauce.


2 slices white bread
1 cup milk
3/4 pound ground veal
1/2 pound Homemade Bolognese sausage or mild Italian pork sausage (containing no fennel seeds, chile pepper, or strong spices), casings removed and chopped
1/4 pound sliced mortadella, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large eggs
2 cups line dried bread crumbs
Olive off for frying


Remove the crusts from the bread and tear it into pieces. Put it in a small bowl, add the milk, and let soak for 5 minutes.

Drain the bread and squeeze out as much of the milk as possible. Place the bread in a large bowl and add the veal, sausage, mortadella, nutmeg, Parmigiano, and eggs. Season lightly with salt and pepper and mix until well combined.

Take a small amount of the meat mixture and shape it between the palms of your hands into a ball about the size of a very small egg. Place on a plate, then repeat until all the meat is used up.

Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl. Dip the meatballs in the beaten eggs, coat them evenly with the bread crumbs, and flatten them a little with the palms of your hands. Place the polpette in a single layer on a cookie sheet or large platter. (They can be refrigerated, tightly covered with plastic wrap, for several hours.)

Heat 1 inch of oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium-high heat. As soon as the oil is nice and hot, lower the polpette, in batches into the oil with a slotted spoon, making sure not to crowd the pan. As soon as the polpette are golden on one side, 1 to 2 minutes, turn them and brown the other side. Transfer the polpette to paper towels to drain. Pile the polpette on a warm serving platter and bring to the table.

Note: Fried polpette are delicious and versatile. They can be served as a casual appetizer, a snack, or a light lunch or dinner. In the countryside of Emilia-Romagna, they are often served with tender leaves of wild chicory or with Parmigiano-enriched mashed potatoes.


Baked Meat Loaf -- Polpettone al Forno
Serves 4 to 6

This polpettone, which comes from Trattoria Sandoni on the outskirts of Bologna, is deliciously soft inside, and crisp and crunchy on the outside. The softness comes from the bread soaked in milk, the crispness from the high cooking temperature. Keep your eye on the polpettone, however, especially during the last 10 or 15 minutes of cooking, because it will turn golden brown very quickly.

3 to 4 slices Italian bread
1 cup milk
1-1/2 pounds ground pork
1/2 pound thinly sliced mortadella, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Remove the crust from the bread and tear it into pieces. Place it in a small bowl, add the milk, and let soak for 5 minutes.
  3. Drain the bread and squeeze it to remove as much of the milk as possible. Place the bread in a large bowl, add the pork, mortadella, parsley, Parmigiano, and eggs, and season with salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands or a large wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. Put the mixture on a work surface, shape it into a rectangular loaf, and coat lightly on all sides with the bread crumbs.
  4. Pour the oil into a large baking dish. With two large metal spatulas, gently transfer the polpettone to the baking dish. Drizzle the remaining oil over the polpettone and place the dish on the center rack of the oven. Bake, basting the meat occasionally with its pan juices, until the polpettone has a nice golden color and a light crust forms on top, about 1 hour. (During the cooking, the polpettone will release some of its fat and liquid from the soaked bread, which will not look too appealing; don't worry about it.)
  5. Transfer the polpettone to a cutting board. Allow the meat to cool and settle a bit for 5 to 10 minutes, then slice it and serve.

Fennel with Prosciutto and Parmigiano -- Finocci Gratinati con Prosciutto e Parmigiano
Serves 6

Fennel is a delicious crunchy vegetable that Italians use in many preparations. In Emilia-Romagna, we dip a fennel into oil and salt, or thinly slice it and turn it into a crisp salad. When it is baked with butter and cheese, fennel becomes sweet and absolutely irresistible. This can be served as a side dish (it is great next to any type of roast), as an antipasto or as a light lunch entrée.

2 large round fennel bulbs (about 2 1/2 pounds)
16 thin slices prosciutto (about 1/2 pound)
1/3 to 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

  1. Trim off the fennel stalks. Remove any bruised or discolored outer leaves. Trim the base of each fennel bulb and cut it into 6 to 8 wedges, depending on size.
  2. Place the wedges in a large skillet, cover them with cold water, and add a nice pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat and cook, uncovered, until the fennel is tender but still a bit firm when pierced with a thin knife, 10 to 12 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the slices to paper towels to drain and cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
  4. Generously butter a baking dish.
  5. Loosely wrap a thin slice of prosciutto (or half the slice if they are large) around each fennel wedge, and arrange them in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle generously with the Parmigiano and dot with the butter. (The dish can be prepared up to this point several hours ahead or overnight. Cover tightly and refrigerate.)
  6. Place the dish on the middle rack of the oven and bake until the cheese is melted and golden, about 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Tagliatelle with Walnut, Ricotta, and Garlic Pesto -- Tagliatelle all' Agliata
Serves 6 to 8

Trattoria di Gianni, in the Apennine mountain town of Rocco dei Corvi near the Ligurian border, prepares a splendid walnut-ricotta-pesto, of obvious Ligurian origin, and pairs it with tagliatelle, the typical noodles of Emilia-Romagna. The thick, creamy sauce mixed with delicate tagliatelle makes for an incredibly satisfying dish. Because it is quite filling, it can be stretched to serve 8.

For the pasta:
3/4 cup walnuts
1 garlic clove, peeled
Salt to taste
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 pound imported dried tagliatelle
1 tablespoon coarse seasalt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving, optional

  1. To make the pesto, put the walnuts, garlic, and a pinch of salt into a good processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse the machine until the walnuts are chopped very fine but not pulverized. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add the ricotta, Parmigiano, parsley, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. (The pesto will have a firm, thick consistency; don't worry -- it will be thinned down later on.) (Makes 1 cup.) Cover the bowl and set aside. (The pesto can be prepared several hours ahead and refrigerated. Bring it to room temperature before using.)
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, over high heat. Add the coarse seasalt and tagliatelle and cook until the pasta is tender but still a bit firm to the bite. Scoop out 2 cups of the pasta cooking water and stir about 1 cup of it into the walnut pesto.
  3. Drain the pasta and place in a large heated bowl. Add the butter and pesto and toss together quickly until the pasta and sauce are well combined. Add some more of the pasta water if the tagliatelle seem a bit dry. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve with some Parmigiano if desired.
  4. Note: This is a dish that cannot be allowed to wait because the homemade pasta will absorb the creamy sauce quickly. When you are ready to drain the pasta, make sure that everyone is at the table. Drain the pasta, toss it with the sauce, and sit down to enjoy it.
Copyright © 2001 by Biba Caggiano.

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