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Postcard - Eating – and Cooking! – Gluten Free in Bologna
While I had been to Italy many times, including a year that I lived in Bologna, my mother had never been. Having Celiac Disease, which means she has to stay away from anything containing gluten, made her nervous about traveling to a country so known for its pasta and pizza. However, in the summer of 2009 we decided we just had to go, and in May of 2010 we finally took off for a week in Bologna. The gluten free eating did in no way impair our fun and my mom had lots of delicious meals. Two experiences were particularly exciting – great gluten free dining at Trattoria Trebbi, and our fabulous cooking class with Bluone Tours.
When I lived in Bologna, Trattoria Trebbi (Via Solferino 40) was one of my favorite restaurants. Delicious homemade food and lots or regulars made it a friendly and fun place. I of course wanted to take my family there, so on our third night in Bologna my mom and I went. Part of their menu is always hand written, and always includes stuff I don’t know, so I asked the waiter for gluten free suggestions. The waiter then said that they had several gluten free pastas! Hooray! He went to check on the varieties and came back to tell us that one of them was tagliatelle, in case my mom would want to try the famous tagliatelle al ragu. But of course! She was delighted with her meal and it really tasted fantastic.
We went back to Trebbi Saturday night, and before we were even seated, the waiter asked if he should ask the kitchen to start boiling water for la mamma. It was so nice that he remembered us and the food was just as good the second time around.
The highlight of our trip, however, was our cooking class with Bluone Cooking Tours. Bluone is run by Marcello and Raffaella and several Slow Travelers had recommended their tours and classes. Raffaella had been extremely helpful regarding the gluten free requirement, and we were so excited for our class. The class starts with a tour of the market, including some ingredient shopping, followed by the cooking class in their home.
So Thursday morning my mom, my sister and I met Raffaella for the market tour. It was really fun and especially my mother and sister learned a lot since they didn’t know much about Bolognese cooking. We also got some samples from different places, and we planned the menu. Raffaella kept insisting that we decide what we wanted to eat but we really wanted her to decide! In the end, we decided on zucchini flowers, squacquerone cheese, mortadella, salame, tortelloni with ricotta filling, tagliatelle al ragu, involtini of pork and beef with mortadella and parmiggiano, baked tomatoes, and asparagus. Puh! (Their daughter shopped for most of the ingredients and had them ready back at their house.)
In the afternoon we went to their apartment and the fun began! We were delighted to receive our cook books and matching aprons. We just felt so welcome and my mom just loved Raffaella, they got along very well. (Although sometimes I think they found us a little quiet – but hey, we’re just Norwegians! We were so excited but maybe not showing it!) We started making ragu, preparing tortelloni fillings, prepping vegetables and prepping the involtini. We then a break with sparkling wine and appetizers – delicious! Mortadella, prosciutto, squacquerone, fried zucchini flowers, salame… Yum!
Making pasta was of course a highlight of the evening. The most amazing part was that Raffaella had thoroughly researched Celiac disease. Since gluten is what makes the pasta stick together, you have to be a little creative to find out how to best make the pasta. Raffaella had really taken the time to find out everything she needed to know, she had even made a test run the day before. The tagliatelle and tortelloni turned out great and my mom was delighted. She used a special flour mix and only kneed the dough enough to make it smooth – any more working makes it fall apart.
My sister and I made pasta with regular flour, and I loved it! It was so much fun to work the dough and it came out wonderfully. Their daughter taught us and it was just a blast. Tasted good, too!
We had a long, wonderful dinner with everything that we made. Both pastas, tortelloni with ricotta filling and tagliatelle with ragu, were awesome. The involtini were fabulous and the vegetables were delicious. For dessert, homemade gelato with strawberries and aceto balsamico. Heaven!
The whole day was just the best experience and we all loved it. It was especially cool for my mom to get to meet such a wonderful family and learn from such an awesome woman. And of course, to eat delicious, amazing, homemade Italian food – that was all gluten free.
Everything Bologna: A guide to Bologna
A Delectable Gourmet Walking Tour of Bologna: Food tour of Bologna with Cook Italy.
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