Ferrara – September/October

Pumpkin for gnocchi, risotto, ravioli, tortelloni, cappellacci and tortellacci
September and October are months during which Italians from the Northern regions celebrate great foods and superb wines and beverages. The season of pumpkins is especially celebrated in September and October and pumpkins as well as zucchini are used in a great variety of specialties such as ravioli, risotto, gnocchi, tortellacci, capellacci, tortelloni, frittate and grigliate vegetali.
Ravioli are square shaped pasta pockets which during pumpkin season are stuffed with pumpkin meat; risotto is plump short grain rice cooked in liquid that is added gradually in order to obtain a “creamy” type of savory rice which, during pumpkin season, has pumpkin meat added; gnocchi are small dumplings that sometimes are ripple shaped, prepared with potato and pumpkin dough during pumpkin season and tortellacci, capellacci and tortelloni are navel or hat shaped pasta pockets which during pumpkin season are stuffed with pumpkin meat, nutmeg, and sometimes crumbled cookies or sugar.

Ragu (meat sauce) or sage infused butter with grated aged cheese (usually either Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano) are the most popular toppings for stuffed pasta specialties with pumpkin meat.

Tortellacci as served at the Trattoria Al Sgnadur (the rolling pin), Chiesuol del Fosso, Ferrara

Tortellacci as served at the Trattoria Al Sgnadur (the rolling pin), Chiesuol del Fosso, Ferrara

Trattoria – Pizzeria  “AL SGNADUR”- ” AL MATTARELLO”
Closed on Monday and Tuesday
Tel Europe + Italy + 0532 + 978396-7
Via Coronella, 78
Chiesuol del Fosso (FE)

Emilia Romagna’s city of Ferrara, once political center of the noble Este family, where famous Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexander VI lived for 21 years, has several places where to enjoy wonderful regional specialties.

The city, which has today about 140,000 inhabitants, was once also the culinary test kitchen of Messisbugo, one of the most prominent food writers, chefs, nobility stewards of the Renaissance (15th and 16th century).

Cristofaro Messibugo (Ferrara, 15th-16th century)

Cristofaro Messibugo (Ferrara, 15th-16th century)


Besides knowing that he contributed greatly to the impetus to a great Northern Italian “nouvelle cuisine” using also American ingredients, little is known of this famous household administrator and “scalco” (Italian Renaissance term describing a chef) of Flemish and Northern Italian background. After entering the service of Ferrara’s Este family at a very young age in 1515 (Bradford p. 338), Cristoforo Messibugo, sometimes also called Messi Sbugo or Messi detto Sbugo, was an apprentice and later head household director to several members of the Este and Gonzaga family and especially to Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, brother to Ferrara’s Lord Alfonso d’Este and Isabella d’Este Gonzaga, wife of the Lord of Mantova.
Elevated to the status of Count by Emperor Charles V in 1533, Cristoforo Messibugo dedicated his life efforts especially in putting together: Libro Novo nel qual s’insegna a far d’ogni sorte di vivande secondo la diversita’dei tempi cosi’di carne come di pesce. Et il modod d’ordinar banchetti, apparecchiar tavole, fornir palazzo e ornar camere per ogni gran principe. Opera assi bella e molto bisognevole a’Maestri di casa, a Scalchi, a Credenzieri e a Cuochi. The treatise explained how to cater to important power brokers of the time and how to prepare regional specialties that could impress his employer’s guests as well as dishes with new ingredients, such as beans and zucchini that were unknown in Europe before the discovery of American in 1492. His life master work, dedicated to his Cardinal employer, was first published in Ferrara in 1549 and later in 1557 in Venice. With the authorship of his cookbook, Messibugo became a beacon for many Italian chefs who followed in his foot steps and prepared food for the powerful and wealthy. He died in 1548 in Ferrara where he is buried in the Church of Sant’Antonio in Polesine (Faccioli 285-286).


A Fare Zucche Fritte. Piglia le Zuccole tenere, che non siano molto grosse, e poi che le haverai rassate, le taglierai in fette sottili, e le distenderai, gettandoli sopra del sale, tanto, che pigliano un poco detto sale, poi frigerai in olio, o in butiro, secondo che vorrai, ma infarinandole pero prima, e poi che seranno fritte, le imbanderai, ponendoli sopra Finocchi freschi sgranati e Agresto…”

English translation from old Italian:

To Fry Zucchini. Take young zucchini, which are not too large, and after peeling the,. Slice them thin, and layer them, after seasoning them with a little salt, so that they can absorb this salt, and later fry them in oil, or butter, as you wish, however, after having them dusted with flour; when they will be fried, serve them, sprinkled with fennel and salad dressing…”

Marked by the political and cultural history of the powerful Este family with tempestuous relationships with Popes and the ancient Republic of Venice and influenced by Messimbugo’s culinary tradition, Ferrara is also a modern castle town where a balloon festival takes place every year in summer, where ice cream speckled with caramelized figs is served at an ice cream parlor called La Romana, and where Pan Papato (also called panpepato) a type of dark fruit cake is offered with espresso coffee or white Pomposa wine.
Gelateria (Ice Cream Parlor) La Romana
Tel. Europe + Italy + 0532 242303
Via Palestro 33
44121 Ferrara (FE)

Ferrara's ruler Ercole d'Este

Ferrara’s ruler Borso d’Este (1413-1471)

Ferrara's Market Square

Ferrara’s Market Square – view from the Castle

LEON D’ORO – Bar, Coffeehouse, Pastry Shop and Pan Papato Maker
Tel. Europe + Italy + 0532 209318
Piazza Cattedrale,2-4-6-8-10
44121 Ferrara (FE)

About Ferrara’s Panpapato (also called Pan Pepato):
Panpapato is a sweet type of fruit cake almost as old as Ferrara itself; the recipe a secret. According to local tradition, Panpapato was created by an Abbess in a nearby convent who wished to prepare for the Pope’s visit. Old ways to prepare it include instructions on how to make a dough with flour, grape syrup, raisins, candied orange and citron peels, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, honey, possibly local liqueurs and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and black pepper. After the local cuisine was influenced by newer exotic ingredients also cacao powder and coffee were added to the round dark specialty by some panpapato bakers. Hear say describe the local Marquis Tedaldo’s wedding (date unknown – 1012) as one occasion during which piles of panpapato were distributed to attending guests and people of the community. In the 10th century, Count-Marquis Tedaldo of Canossa had been the ruler of Brescia, Modena, Ferrara and Reggio before the Este ruled the city from the 13th century (Obizzo d’Este 1264-1293) through the 16th century (Alfonso II d’Este (1533-1597).

Located in the region of Emilia Romagna, Ferrara is 70 miles away from Venice and its islands: Murano, Burano and Torcello; 63 miles away from Modena, home of the Aceto Balsamico (balsamic vinegar); 91 miles away from Parma, home of the famous Parmesan cheese and prosciutto (Parmigiano and Prosciutto di Parma); 68 miles away from Verona, home of Romeo and Juliet’s legend; 49 and 34 miles away from Padova and Bologna, home cities of the oldest universities in Europe and of Ferrari.

prosciutto slicing machine

Prosciutto slicing machine

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