The gastronomic excellences of Modena: what to eat during a visit

One of the Italian provinces with the largest number of D.O.P. and I.G.P. products, Modena is celebrated by all connoisseurs of traditional Italian products. The Emilian city is an important reference point for “food & wine lovers“, and proudly flies the flag of Made in Italy excellence.

In fact, this area is characterised by a high number of excellences gastronomic excellence that make the city famous not only throughout Italy, but even throughout the world. Thus, during a visit, it becomes necessary to try some of the local specialities to fully understand the high quality that defines these products.

What to eat in Modena?

Balsamic vinegar, Lambrusco, tortellini, tigelle and gnocco fritto: these are just some of the products typical of this area that must absolutely be sampled when visiting. Once you have tried them, there is no turning back: the high quality of the ingredients and the unmistakable taste of the products will compel you to return to the Emilian town to relive an unparalleled culinary experience once again.

Balsamic vinegar, an Italian gem

Balsamic vinegar is one of the most famous and recognised Italian products, one of the symbols of Modena around the world. There are two different types of balsamic vinegar: Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena D.O.P. and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena I.G.P.. The former, a a condiment with an unmistakable flavour, is the result of a long process of aging that can take up to decades, the fruit of a very careful selection of musts made from the finest grapes. After the best musts have been selected, the cooking process begins in open vessels at a temperature of 84° for a variable duration, usually between 12 and 14 hours. This is a very important phase, as it is through this step that the balsamic vinegar acquires its characteristic flavour. After ageing in oak, chestnut, cherry and juniper barrels, the balsamic is gradually transferred from one barrel to another. Once the necessary years of refinement and aging have been reached, the product is carefully evaluated by a panel of tasters. PGI Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, on the other hand, is made from a combination of cooked grape must and wine vinegar. Unlike its traditional P.D.O. counterpart, the ageing process is shorter, as the minimum period required is 60 days..

These preparation processes characterise the quality of the product and are very important for Acetaia Marchi, which thanks to its passion for its work and respect for tradition delivers an excellent result. Precisely with the aim of spreading this culture, we have organised several packages of guided tours of the vinegar cellar, to show visitors from all over the world all the steps in this extraordinary process, starting from the vineyards to the actual production of the balsamic typical of the Emilian town. If you are wondering what to see in Modena, this could be the answer you are looking for. Moreover, if you want to take a bit of this territory with you, you will also have the opportunity to buy either in Bottega or through the e-commerce our Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena P.D.O., Balsamic Vinegar of Modena P.G.I. and Balsamic Vinegar Condiments.

The sparkling character of Lambrusco

A typical symbol of Emilian conviviality, Lambrusco is a wine known and celebrated all over the world, appreciated every day by the inhabitants of this territory. It is a product with unique organoleptic characteristics that make it red and frizzing at the same time. With a fruity aroma and a moderate alcohol content, its sparkling soul reflects the character of the city, a proud for producers and one of the bases of Emilia’s economy.

Depending on the grape varieties used and the territory of origin, it is possible to obtain different D.O.C.s (controlled designation of origin) and I.G.T.s (typical geographical indications). In Modena, the D.O.C. are:

    • Sorbara: this wine is produced in about ten municipalities in the Modena area using 60% grapes from the vine in question and the remaining40% from Lambrusco Salamino grapes. Amongst the Lambruscos of the Modena area, it is the least full-bodied in terms of colour, with fruity fragrances and violet overtones.
    • Grasparossa di Castelvetro: the variety of Lambrusco modenese that grows especially in collina. A full-bodied wine that, thanks to its particularly suitable soils, proves to be very precious.
    • Salamino di Santa Croce: made from the vine of the same name in a particular area of the lowlands north of Modena, it is characterised by its brilliant ruby red colour and floral bouquet.
  •  Lambrusco di Modena: this DOC groups together the wines with specific origin in this province, including lambrusco made from all the typical vines such as, for example, Sorbara, Grasparossa, Salamino, otherwise subdivided into specific zones.


Tortellini, a ‘borderline’ dish

If you are wondering what to eat in Modena, this is a very tasty option. A typical festive dish and known throughout Italy, tortellini are a filled egg pasta eaten all year round. Tasted in meat broth, they can often be accompanied by a local lambrusco wine. This type of pasta is characterised by the ‘stuffed’ taste enclosed in a thin egg-shaped puff pastry, shaped in the characteristic shape that, in tradition, is supposed to remind one of a woman’s navel. Also consumed in ‘dry’ variants with meat sauce, tortellini remain a loved traditional Modenese dish that you absolutely must try if you happen to be in the area.

The invention of tortellini is linked to a legend that sees Modena and Bologna clashing for centuries to take the merit for the creation of this dish. Precisely to put an end to this diatribe, a humorous publication established the origins of this dish in the town of Castelfranco, right on the border of the two provinces. According to legend, in this place an innkeeper, peeking through a keyhole, glimpsed the navel of a noblewoman who was his guest. To remind himself of that vision, he created a dish that would bring that image to mind at the table.

The tigelle of Modena

The crescentine (known as “tigelle“) are a typology of bread originating in the Appennino Modenese that is the typical preparation of the moments convivial of these areas, and one that you absolutely must try when visiting Modena. Tigelle are deeply rooted in the culture of the inhabitants, and are considered a truly special dish, sanctioning moments of joy at the table. Made from a dough of flour, dry yeast, water, salt and a pinch of sugar, they come in different variants depending on family recipes.

The debate over their name derives from the way they were prepared in the past: in fact, the tigelle are the disks of fired stone or terracotta in which the dough was crushed and then baked, which in this way took on the typical round shape. Today, this dish is a staple on the traditional menus of local restaurants, and is often accompanied by fried fish.


Fried dumplings or gnocco fritto?

Last but not least, we find the gnocco fritto. Known as ‘il gnocco fritto’ in its dialectal form, in the Modena area calling it ‘lo gnocco fritto’ would sound strange. Representative of a typically Modenese lifestyle, it is the star of socialising moments at the table, both at lunch and dinner. A historical substitute for bread, gnocco fritto is a preparation spread throughout Emilia but with different names and variations: for example, in Bologna it is known as crescentina, while in Parma as torta fritta and in Ferrara as pinzino.

Usually, this dish is served with mixed sliced meats and cheeses, but even here there are various variations and reinterpretations of the original recipe, the result of family traditions handed down from generation to generation. In short, if you pass through Modena, you cannot fail to enjoy this traditional dish!