Typical dishes of Romagna: what to eat in Fellini’s region!

A guide to the traditional cuisine of Romagna to make the most of your holiday.


As the name suggests, Emilia Romagna is made up of two historically and culturally different regions: Emilia, the inland area, and Romagna, located on the coast. The former, after the fall of the Roman Empire, followed the Lombards and entered the communal era; while the latter was first a possession of the Byzantines and then of the Church State.

The different historical events and the vast geography of the area have created two distinct food and wine traditions: Emilian cuisine, so rich and abundant that Bologna has been nicknamed “la grassa” (the fat one); and Romagna cuisine, lighter and created with simple but tasty ingredients.

This article reunites the specialities of Romagna which, favoured by the territory, range from land-based recipes to seafood dishes. A very rich tradition based precisely on the products of this territory: such as blue fish, extra virgin olive oil, cured meats and cheeses. It is precisely these authentic and unforgettable products that have been spread by travellers beyond the regional borders. In fact, the great tourist development has allowed more and more people to open their homes to the specialities of Romagna: piadina, Fossa cheese and the sweet salt of Cervia are just some of the unconventional souvenirs most purchased.


emilia romagna
flickr, Mauro Gardella


Finally, Romagna has always been home to unforgettable characters, perhaps a little eccentric, but certainly ingenious. Consecrated in Fellini’s films, these ambassadors of Romagna culture have contributed to the fame it has today. First and foremost: Pellegrino Artusi, the gastronome from Forlimpopoli who managed to publish the first recipe book of Italian cuisine by promising his future purchasers to invite them to dinner.

So let me invite you to the different provinces of Romagna and discover the best typical Romagna dishes -including street food– that you absolutely must try! 😋


🧳 Travel and taste Emilia Romagna, with Italia Delight!


The most famous typical dishes of Romagna

As you will read, the specialities of Romagna tell the story and traditions of this region, rich in humour and hospitality, where anyone can feel at home. Follow me among piadina shops, farms and trattorias and taste the true cuisine of Romagna. 👇


1. “La pida sé parsot la pis un po’ ma tot”

piadina romagnola
flickr, Tony Spiotta


Just like any authentic appetiser, we must start with the number one typical Romagna dish: the piadina, protected by PGI certification. This typical recipe is simply called piada by the people of Romagna, who have been preparing it since Roman times. Made from flour, lard, baking soda and water, this sort of thin flatbread must be cooked on the traditional testo, a refractory stone griddle.

Varying from area to area, it goes from thin and crispy on the coast to thicker and softer inland. Also, in the Montefeltro area, piada sfogliata is prepared, where layers of dough are divided with thin veils of lard.

In Rimini, the piadina is traditionally stuffed with sardines au gratin, a few tufts of salad and red onion; while in the interior, the excellent Mora Romagnola cold cuts and the combination of squacquerone and rocket are more popular. In spite of these differences, piada is, according to Giovanni Pascoli, the national food of Romagna’s people and, as the saying goes, everyone likes it with a bit of prosciutto.


2. Cassone or Crescione?

flickr, Non Solo Piada Bergamo


Using the same dough as piada, another typical Romagna dish is prepared: cassone. Less well known outside the region, due to its nature as a fresh product, this Romagna speciality is prepared by filling the piadina dough while still uncooked. Once the filling has been chosen and the crescent-shaped cassone sealed, it is cooked on the teggia, a long metal griddle with which all piadinerie – the typical shops scattered throughout Romagna that prepare this speciality – are equipped.

The cooking of the ingredients, which is done together with the dough, makes it possible to create tasty and cheesy fillings. The most common are: sautéed field herbs (the “Verde”), four cheeses, potatoes and sausage, sausage and onion, and the ever-present “Rosso” -tomato sauce and mozzarella-.

You should know that this Romagna food has always been a source of debate: between the Riviera, which calls it “cassone”, the hinterland, which insists on the name “crescione” and the Marecchia Valley, which only eats “cascioni”. But, in the end, in front of a good Amarcord beer they all come back peacefully. This drink, named after Fellini’s film masterpiece, is the perfect match to both piade and cassoni. With the main variants named after the protagonists of his films, Amarcord beer is an expression of the whole universe of Romagna: comic, exaggerated and tasty.


3. Fresh Romagna pasta

Among the many specialities that distinguish Romagna from Emilia, there is one that certainly unites them: fresh pasta. In fact, the art of rolling out the dough with a rolling pin unites all the azdore (housekeepers) of Romagna and Emilia. Some of the most typical shapes are garganelli, egg macaroni pasta ridged with a comb, and curzùl, rectangular spaghetti from Faenza.

And what is done with the many scraps of rolled out pasta? They are used to make different types of minestrina, a kind of pasta made especially to be cooked in broth. Whether manfrigoli (made by breaking up the pasta by hand), pasta battuta (chopped with a knife), maltagliati (diamond-shaped) or grattini (made with a grater), these pastine are typical of the Romagna cuisine: a cuisine that throws nothing away.


4. Passatelli

traditional cuisine romagna
flickr, Alfredo Liverani


Thanks again to the villagers’ willingness to use every ingredient to the end, passatelli was invented. Originating in the papal period, this typical Romagnolo dish is made from breadcrumbs, grated Parmigiano reggiano, eggs, nutmeg and lemon zest. Once mixed, the passatelli are formed with a potato masher, pressing them directly on top of the pot where an excellent meat stock must be boiling. Depending on the consistency of the dough, passatelli can also be eaten dry (if the dough is very hard), or in the “stracciatella” version, i.e. broken up (if the dough is softer). The latter is also known as “tardura romagnola” or “panata” and is the symbol of simple but genuine cooking.


5. Cappelletti romagnoli

Also made of rolled out pasta, cappelletti in broth are the first course of the festive season, especially made for Christmas. This filled pasta, in fact, has the characteristic of bringing the family together, all working to make it. Some have to roll out the pastry, some more cut out the squares of dough, others arrange the filling and someone finally close them. The closure is the most important part of all, as it is responsible for the name: cappelletti are so called precisely because they resemble small hats.

The filling, on the other hand, is what divides Romagna: it is meat-based in the Montefeltro and Imola areas, cheese-only in the Faenza and Lugo, and a mixture in the Rimini area. But in the end, the important thing is that they are served in a hot broth, strictly made with capon.


6. Ravioli romagnoli

eat romagna
flickr, murcok


Another stuffed pasta typical of traditional Romagna cuisine is ravioli. Traditionally filled with rosolacci, (the poppy leaves also known as rosole) which today have been almost completely replaced by spinach. After boiling, they are mixed with ricotta, eggs and nutmeg to create the filling. Seasoned with classic butter and sage, they are a first course “all’uso di Romagna” (“as they do in Romagna) that you absolutely must try.


7. Orecchioni romagnoli

This typical first course from the province of Ravenna, similar to ravioli, is made from discs of rolled out pasta. Once the filling has been chosen, which may vary from ricotta and rosole, soft cheeses such as stracchino and casatella, or even pumpkin and potatoes, these discs are closed in a half-moon shape, giving them the appearance of an ear. This is why they are also called “urciòn” (big ears) in dialect. They are seasoned with meat sauce or “butì e seiva” (butter and sage).


8. Polenta with clams

Typical of the coastal area, in particular Rimini and Cattolica, this typical Romagna dish is prepared with an excellent red sauce made from specially harvested clams. In fact, this recipe reflects the traditional habit of the inhabitants of going to look for clams on the beach after a sea storm. An earthy variant of this Romagna food is the sauce with freshly picked black olives and sausage. This dish is prepared during the olive harvest, when a few lucky ones are selected to be eaten that evening. Whether from land or sea, the flavour of this dish is only one: tradition.


9. Seafood Brodetto “alla romagnola”

This typical Adriatic speciality, here in Romagna, has its own variant. One of the first versions in Italy to use tomatoes, the “brodèt ad pès” must never be prepared without redfish and gurnard, the two protagonists fishes. This typical Romagna dish is deeply linked to the maritime tradition of its region of origin and is therefore characterised by a strong territoriality: in fact, it varies from area to area. “Down in the Marche” the San Pietro is used, in Fano molluscs are forbidden, and in Porto Recanati wild saffron must never be missing; while “up in the North”, brodetto alla triestina absolutely requires small fish and, above all, they must be fried. Whether down or up, one thing brings everyone together: the ever-present toasted bread.


10. Basotti

Similar to a macaroni omelette, this dish from the Romagna cuisine does not use egg at all. The noodles – home-made, of course – are first boiled in a meat stock, mixed with lard, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and breadcrumbs, and finally baked in the oven. According to Cesena tradition, they are served directly from the baking tin, crispy and freshly baked.


11. Spianata romagnola

Among the baked products of Romagna cuisine, we cannot forget the spianata. Made from flour, olive oil, water, yeast and a drop of milk, this focaccia is made in every bakery in Romagna and beyond: in fact, it even has a Sardinian sister. Despite the fact that the Sardinian one is round and the other rectangular and flattened, in Romagna, this focaccia takes its name from the procedure, which calls for it to be well spread out – “spianata” – across the baking tray. Seasoned with plenty of rosemary and coarse salt, this Romagna speciality is the snack every child dreams of. Excellent with a little Mortadella PGI from Bologna for your sandwiches to take to the seaside!


12. Rabbit in Romagna-style porchetta and stewed meat

cuisine romagna
flickr, Tom Kelly


Moving on to second courses in Romagna, rabbit in porchetta is one of the specialities most often prepared for Sunday lunches. Boneless, wrapped with garlic and wild fennel, it is roasted in the oven until golden and crispy. Its goodness certainly leaves room for its stewed variant, made “in red” in a pan, with tomato sauce.
Another meat that is very popular on feast days is guinea fowl, stewed first in a pan and then finished in the oven: a real delicacy. Finally, these meats pairs perfectly with a good glass of Sangiovese, for light meats, or with a Sangiovese Superiore, for stronger flavours.


13. Poveracce

The name of this particular type of clam goes back to the ancient belief that everything that came from the sea was to be considered “poor”, because it was within everyone’s reach. However, these molluscs are not “poor” at all. Rich in flesh, they manage to release all their flavour when cooked alla marinara: in a pan with just olive oil, garlic and parsley. They are perfect with a glass of Rebola.


14. Naked men

As inappropriate as it may sound, this is the typical name for whitebait here in Romagna. These little fishes, characterised by their transparency, appear to be “naked” and the people of Romagna could not pass up this opportunity to snatch a laugh from the rest of Italy. Lightly floured, the bianchetti are fried in plenty of hot olive oil, creating excellent fritters. A different kind of fried fish, definitely worth trying!


15. Castrato romagnolo

Castrated meats is one of the typical dishes of Romagna that best marks the distinction from its Emilian sister. While Emilia was dedicated to pig breeding under the Longobard reign, Romagna has remained faithful to the Latin tradition: sheep breeding. The most common cuts are ribs, saddle and leg, prepared grilled or roasted.

And now to desserts, the best part of Romagna cuisine!


16. Ciambella romagnola (brazadela)

When you imagine a doughnut, do you think it has to have a hole? Sorry, but this is not always the case. In fact, the Romagnola doughnut is the only one in Italy that has a completely different shape: it is similar to a loaf of bread. Made with eggs, butter (also lard in some areas), sugar, milk, flour and yeast, it is decorated with the classic sugar sprinkles and cut into slices, strictly oblique.

It can be filled with sultanas, chocolate, dried fruit and anything else, but what should never be missing is a good glass of red wine to dip the doughnut in. You can try it with classic Sangiovese, the one used for the meal, but for a truly authentic experience try it with Cagnina: a sweet DOC wine from the Forlì Cesena area.


17. Romagna Bustrengo

sweet italy
flickr, NatJLN


This spiced bread, originally from lower Romagna, has diversified so much that almost every village has its own recipe. Based on white and yellow flour, it is enriched with all the ingredients in the pantry: citrus peel, candied fruit, sultanas, breadcrumbs…
Very similar to this cake is the Miacetto, an unleavened bread made from bran, prepared in Cattolica at Christmas time.


18. Latteruolo Romagnolo

This delicious milk and vanilla flan is one of the traditional cake most in danger of disappearing. Prepared in the past only on festive occasions (such as Corpus Christi), its spread is hampered by its long baking time: about two hours. It comes in two versions: lined with the “crazy dough” (water and flour) or enriched with caramel, placed at the bottom of the mould and used to turn the cake upside down once baked.


19. Easter loaf

This typical bread proves that, for the people of Romagna, Easter Day is a serious deal. Made with lard, sultanas, sugar, flour and eggs, this loaf can be enjoyed either dipped in coffee or accompanied by blessed hard-boiled eggs: the typical Easter breakfast of Romagna. It can also be paired with wine and salami during the aperitif oh that day.


20. Cantarelle

emilia romagna
flickr, welcomecesena


It is probably the simplest treat in existence, prepared by grandmothers on days when the pantry was empty. Water and flour were mixed together until a paste was obtained, then this was spread on the greased piada pan, forming small fritters. Once cooked, the cantarelle were drizzled with olive oil -extra virgin olive oil, of course- and sprinkled with caster sugar. Today, these Romagnoli pancakes have evolved and been enriched to include eggs, milk, butter, apples and sultanas; but they still carry all the love a grandmother could want for a grandchild.


21. Sabadoni

sweet italy
flickr, Mondo Del Gusto


Theese “biscuits” typical of upper Romagna are prepared with a filling made from chestnuts and saba, a concentrated grape syrup obtained from must. Once shaped, the sweets, left slightly open to reveal the filling, are fried or baked in the oven, then sprinkled with saba and icing sugar. In short, these sweet ravioli are a must-try!


22. The piada of the dead

cuisine romagna
flickr, life60


It seems right to end as we began: with piada, but made a little differently. This typical autumn cake is prepared on the occasion of the Feast of the Dead and consists of a round, leavened focaccia enriched with plenty of dried fruit. After baking, it is sprinkled with syrup or honey and is a real treat. Every year it is always a hunt for the bakery where to buy the best “piada dei morti”!


Events to enjoy the cuisine of Romagna

Having reached the end of this abundant menu, I want to give you some advice on how best to get to know typical Romagna recipes. Here are the events, festivals and village fairs you cannot miss:

  • Al mèni“, a real food and wine circus, set up exclusively on the Rimini seafront at the beginning of June to introduce everyone to the specialities of Romagna cuisine;
  • The “fiera dei becchi”, also called “dei cornuti” (“of those who were betrayed by their partners”), is a real gathering of typical Romagna dishes and local wines, located in picturesque Santarcangelo di Romagna. Here, a pair of horns is hung under the Roman arch, which, if it moves as someone passes, should indicate the bad luck of that person in love: despite this belief, this oracle is a real attraction;
  • The Gemmano wild boar pappardella festival, organised in mid-August in the historic village;
  • The Dovadola truffle festival, held the last two weekends of October and famous for its tagliatelle.

If there is one thing that is never lacking in Romagna, it is an “excuse” to eat. In fact, these are just a few of the many events organised, and the regional calendar is full with festivals and gastronomic events throughout the year. Only one thing never changes: the love for Romagna cuisine.

And now that you know that this land is not only beach and nightlife, it only remains for me to wish you a good journey through the cuisine of Romagna. Remember that with Italia Delight you can book the holiday that suits you best, full of tastings, cookery courses and unforgettable experiences. Set off now and discover all the typical dishes of Romagna! 😎


Cover photo: kentaro-komada-unsplash

Featured photo: alessandro-moresco-unsplash

About Author

Marco Campana
Ciao! Sono Marco, un pasticcere un po’ pasticcione; attualmente laureando in Scienze e Cultura della Gastronomia a Padova. Da 21 anni cerco di portare a casa da ogni mio viaggio un piatto, un dolce o anche solo una tecnica nuova; di connettermi il più possibile con il paese in cui mi trovo. Il mondo è pieno di prodotti tipici, ricette ed ingredienti sconosciuti: non sarebbe un peccato farseli sfuggire?


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