Italian cuisine is incredibly varied. Each region produces its own pasta, wine, cheese and bread for example, and has its own historical culinary traditions and dishes passed down from generation to generation. This exciting diversity between regions does not stop here because typical dishes and produce change from city to city and even from village to village.
Ferrara is no exception. It’s cuisine is rooted deep in the history of its changing landscape, the sea, farming and of course, life at court during the Estense family’s reign. Here is a guide to some of Ferrara’s most typical dishes and food which you must try during your stay.
Cappellacci – a pumpkin filled pasta served with ragù or simply tossed in butter and sage. Its name comes from the hat-shaped pasta and the recipe dates back to the Renaissance period.
Cappelletti in Brodo – a traditional Christmas dish of pasta filled with a mixture of white meat, seasoned with nutmeg and parmesan. It is served in a meat broth. Every family has its own secret recipe.
Salama da Sugo – a dish which can be traced back to the fifteenth century. It is a strong- flavoured salami made from pork, seasoned with cloves, spices and red wine, which is hung up to mature for up
to nine or ten months. It is then boiled for eight to ten hours. It is served with puré which is a very soft mashed potato.
Sausage and Pumpkin Risotto – a typical dish which again combines the saltiness of the sausage with the sweetness of the pumpkin. The Delta del Po produces excellent rice perfect for risottos.
Passatelli – is a traditional pasta dish from the Emilia Romagna region. The pasta is made from white bread and parmesan cheese and is served in broth.
Zuppa Inglese – is a typical Ferrarese desert eaten at Christmas. Translated, it is the equivalent of an English trifle, but the flavours are very different. It has been said that the English soldiers brought over tins of custard and sponge during the war and this is how it was invented, adapted and got its name.
Tagliatelle Pie – is a typical cake found all-year round. It is similar to a custard tart with a crunchy topping which looks like tagliatelle or noodles.
Pinzini Fritti – a type of fried bread served with different types of luncheon meat.
Pampapato (Pampepato) – a dry chocolate Christmas cake flavoured with spices, candid peel and nuts. Its name comes from “pan del papa” (bread of the Pope) and some sources believe it was created especially for the Pope when he came to visit Ferrara. Others say a convent of nuns in Ferrara made it and sent it to illustrious people at the time. Cocoa powder had just arrived in Europe and was a luxury at the time.
Ciambella Ferrarese (Brazadela) – a simple, flat cake flavoured with lemon, which is dipped in wine or eaten for breakfast, dipped in coffee or milk.
Pasticcio Ferrarese – a sweet, short-crust pie filled with a savoury maccheroni and a white meat ragù.
Coppia Ferrarese – a bread unique to Ferrara. It has an unusual starfish shape and one of its secret ingredients is said to come from the poppies which grow in the corn fields of the Ferrarese countryside. It is a great favourite with children and it is often served with cured meats as an antipasto or first course.
Piadina – a typical street food from Emilia Romagna which is a flat, circular bread folded in half with your favourite fillings inside.
Other typical produce from the local area:
Salami Ferrarese (Zia Ferrarese) – Dating back to Renaissance time, this pork salami is made and hung up to mature during the winter months and is eaten in spring. In Ferrara, it is often made with garlic but each family has its own recipe.
Grilled Eel (Anguilla) – a specialty from the fishing village of Comacchio and was popular with the Estense family.
Clams (Vongole) – a specialty from the fishing village of Goro.
Garlic (Aglio) – is grown in Voghiera and provides fantastic flavour for many of Ferrara’s dishes.
Water melon (Cocomero) and melon – grown in all the surrounding countryside and was served at the Estense family’s banquets.
Peaches (Pesche), Pears (Pere) and Nectarines (Nettarine) are all grown locally.
Pumpkin (Zucca) -is grown in the local area and is used a lot in Ferrarese cuisine. In autumn you can find stalls along the roadside selling ornamental as well as edible pumpkins. The shapes are incredible.
Rice(Riso) – the Delta provides an excellent, fertile area for rice cultivation. It is particularly well-known from Jolanda.
Aspargus (Asparagi) – is grown around the Basso Ferrarese regions near Mesola.
Markets and Food Fairs
All these products, along with many more, can be found at various food markets in the city centre or tasted during the months of the food fairs (Le Sagre). Look out for our news letters to see when they take place.
In Ferrara there is a Farmer’s Market on Fridays at 8 am – 1 pm
Piazzetta Donatori di Sangue (at the start of Via Bologna at Porta Paula)
TerraViva sells its own organic products
Via delle Erbe, 29 (near Piazza Ariostea)
Stellata – Every second Sunday of the month this village holds a second-hand market which also sells farmers’ produce. It is particularly good during the asparagus season in spring. It also sells freshly made pinzini with salami and apple fritters made by the locals (which I can personally recommend!) It is possible to cycle there along the river Po if you do not have a car.