Grandi: “The first tortellini had chicken, the lasagna is not Emilian and the cream can be added to the sauce”

Grandi: “The first tortellini had chicken, the lasagna is not Emilian and the cream can be added to the sauce”


Alberto Grandi, professor at the University of Parma

Carbonara, Parmigiano-Reggiano, balsamic vinegar and even traditional Bolognese tortellini were not originally as we know them today.. tortellini? The 19th century recipe called for the use of chicken meat, not pork. the rag? Cream was not considered a crime in the 1980s. It is antihistorical to think of gastronomic tradition as something crystallized. Making statements considered blasphemous by the purists of Emilian cuisine Alberto Grandi, rector of the Economics and Management course at the University of Parma. Professor of food history, author of a successful Podcast and a book (Invented appellation of origin, educate) in which he dismantles the false myths about typical Italian productsthe. The professor reports sources and data, but his studies often cause a sensation and return to him like a boomerang in the form of indignation.. Especially when he questions the origins of certain emblematic Italian dishes.


Professor Grandi, you maintain that traditional Bolognese tortellini in the past were made with chicken. Just think that in Bologna the Curia’s choice to prepare, on the occasion of the city’s patron saint’s day, a chicken-stuffed variant for those who could not eat pork for religious reasons caused a sensation.
Until the late 1800s, tortellino was made exclusively with chicken or capon meat, as studies by Luca Cesari also report. As early as 1600, chef Bartolomeo Stefani contributed a tortellini recipe that included these two ingredients. Pork loin began to make its way only in the last years of the XIX century. In 1974, the Chamber of Commerce registered the recipe for “real tortellino di Bologna”, made with pork loin, ham and mortadella. it is an invention to say that tortellini have always been made with pork.

And why did this change occur?
Mainly for reasons of availability of the raw material. Another reason, however, is industrial: when tortellini began to be produced for sale, there was a need for a more flavorful filling, so it was decided to substitute chicken for pork.

In his book, a chapter titled The Real Parmesan They Do It in Wisconsin. What do you mean?
I do not doubt the Italian origins of Parmigiano, a product highly appreciated in our country since the time of Boccaccio. However, from my research, I discovered that the much-criticized American Parmesan was originally produced by Italian cheesemakers who immigrated to the United States. therefore a cheese with centuries of history, made following the ancient Parmigiano tradition. With the difference that Parmesan evolved and changed, while the Wisconsin Parmesan recipe stayed true to the original.

Other marketing stories about the Italian gastronomic tradition that you have dismantled?
Lasagna is a very transversal preparation, not Emilian. the rag? Today whoever puts the cream is condemned to ostracism, but in the 80s it was normal to pour it. And then there is the question of the paternity of the pumpkin tortelli, disputed between Mantua and Ferrara (in Eastern lands called cappellacci, educate). According to tradition, its origin dates back to the time of Isabella d’Este. Too bad the pumpkin did not yet exist in Italy in those years.

It overthrows all certainty.
Ours is a domestic kitchen, transmitted orally. therefore antihistorical to think of gastronomic tradition as something crystallized. Until the 1970s, more freedom was allowed. Recipes existed, but they weren’t as codified as they are today. It is not fair to say that Italians have always eaten well and a lot. If millions of our fellow citizens emigrated because they were starving in Italy, it certainly cannot be said that the cuisine of our country was rich and elaborate.

Is there an Italian dish or preparation that has been carved in marble and has never changed?
Polenta made with flours other than corn considered a dinosaur of Italian cuisine, intact survival of ancient culinary traditions.

You teach in Parma, in the UNESCO creative city for gastronomy. Have you received any displaced reaction to statements made in recent years?
At a conference in Ankara, Turkey, I was asked not to say anything about Parmesan cheese that could be misunderstood (laughs, educate). But also from the rest of Italy there have been mixed reactions to my studies. In 2018 all hell broke loose because in my book I wrote that carbonara was born in the United States. Today I see that this information has been processed and shared by many.

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April 13, 2022 (change April 14, 2022 | 10:30 am)

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