Modena’s unique position in the Po Valley influences the soil amid the rugged foothills of the Apennine Mountains, responsible for the diversity of meats, hams, salumi, pasta, cheeses, and treasured balsamic vinegar that you can taste during your trip to Italy. Seasonal ingredients define the flavors of the Modenese cooking tradition, from growing produce to the presence of game and fish. Many of the traditional recipes popular in the province have emerged from a heritage of the peasant kitchen or small landowners that incorporates the flavor of a wealthier lifestyle that influences contemporary life.
Modena and Bologna have an ongoing debate about the best tortellini in the Emilia-Romagna region. The original handmade pasta was crafted in the town of Castelfranco, located halfway between both cities. While Bologna is known for the eponymous Bolognese sauce with tortellini, Modenese prepare their traditional ragú with a different meat ratio for a heartier, richer flavor in the Modenese sauce due to a larger filling of cooked meat. When visiting Modena, you can sample the dish or even learn how to make it with their particular recipe and details.
Modena is known for making balsamic vinegar of Modena, which is protected by the Denomination of Origin. The DOP Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena has strict rules for production requiring grape must as the only ingredient with producers aging the vinegar for at least 12 years. The flavor of balsamic vinegar of Modena is so pure, the ingredient is used as a drizzle or dressing but never cooked, giving it the nickname “black gold.” However, the balsamic vinegar of Modena does have strict regulations on what grapes can be used and what type of bottle the end product rests in.
Modena rivals Bologna for its meaty sauce known as ragú. The dish originated in France with chefs using meat broth but not the actual protein with the pasta. While the sauce has gained notoriety across Italy, traditional ragú alla Modenese uses sweating, sautéing, and braising techniques to create layered flavors after hours of slowly cooking the ingredients. Modena typically uses more meat and less broth than other ragús served with wide, flat tagliatelle noodles.
The culinary heritage of Modena is wholly its own and yet often at odds with its more notable neighbor. A meal in Modena can introduce you to the custom of balsamic vinegar or the robust flavors of local cheese. You can find inspiration for your personalized culinary trip with our Italy Tours or learn more about how you can plan, explore, and indulge in your perfect vacation with Zicasso’s Italy Travel Guide. For help planning, speak with an Italy travel specialist by filling out a Trip Request or by calling our team at 1-888-265-9707.