Bologna “The Fat”.
The culinary tradition of Bologna, already celebrated by Pellegrino Artusi, includes a large number of opulent dishes where the typical ingredients of the territory have been used to create incredible recipes.
Dotta, Rossa, Grassa.
Three adjectives tell, in short, the city: Dotta, for the presence of the oldest university in the western world, Rossa, before that for a recent political history the adjective describes the typical color of many facades of its buildings and roofs, Grassa, for the richness of ingredients and the abundance of dishes that can be enjoyed in the houses of the city whose skyline is defined by many medieval towers.
In addition to first courses and soups, traditional Bolognese cuisine includes a large number of roasts, sides, fried, cakes and desserts.
Among fried foods, in addition to the Fritto Bolognese which I will cook for you another time, the recipe of the Bolognese Fried Sticks, which in the city are called alla Petroniana, is among my favorites.
Fried sticks alla Bolognese.
It is not entirely clear whether the sticks were originally part of Fritto alla Bolognese, a dish that mixes sweet and salty and where meat, cream, vegetables and fruit are reduced to morsels, breaded and fried.
Today you can eat the skewers even without having to order the whole plate of Gran Fritto. But it can happen to order the complete fritto bolognese and find in the dish a couple of them (it’s always a nice surprise). Also because there are not many restaurants that still today offer this delicacy (TRAVEL TIP: if you come in Bologna and want to taste a good fritto alla bolognese take note of these two restaurants: La Cesarina and Il Pellegrino; I mentioned the first one in the blogpost dedicated to the restaurants where I go to eat tortellini).
Origins of the recipe and how it changed during the time.
Both recipes, that of the sticks and that of the Fritto, are mentioned separately in the famous Artusi’ cookbook: Recipe n. 203 mentions Fritto negli Stecchini and n. 175 Fritto alla Bolognese. This is an important information to hazard the hypothesis that the sticks were not part of Fritto alla Bolognese. Or, even if they were born in the Gran Fritto, they soon took their way.
Stecco alla Bolognese (Sticks alla Bolognese) is a descriptive name. That is, it describes the recipe for what it is: cubes of mortadella Bologna (without pistachios), one of the most iconic products of the city, stuck on a wooden stick with squares of Emmental or Gruyère cheese.
Mortadella is an ingredient that is part of the most recent tradition.
Going back in time, in the fried skewers you would have found, according to Artusi, chicken livers, cow tongue and gruyère -exceptionally truffles. In the old traditional recipes, but more recent, you would have found veal or pork, tongue, chicken livers, cheese, mortadella (and also truffles).
Artusi mentions the béchamel, where you dip the skewers already made, other sources cite the Mornay sauce. But all agree that the Petronian style sticks call the addition of a sauce like béchamel.
Sticks alla Bolognese today.
Today they are on the menu of few restaurants and are a simplified version of the original recipe. Little by little all the meat, except the mortadella, has disappeared from the stick which today is made – almost always – only with mortadella and cheese.
The sticks are very rich in flavor, do not put even the veal or pork is not a sin. And I make them as well. But you can also add cubes of veal or pork loin.
The traditional recipes, including that of the Artusi collection, speak of breadcrumbs and not flour.
Many have also omitted the béchamel.
If you want to make a fast version, and very good, it’s okay. Also in many restaurants in Bologna you can taste the stick I just described.
The sticks I cooked.
I tried for the first time with the preparation when I decided to enrich the blog with this tasty masterpiece of Bolognese cuisine. Until a few weeks ago I had only ever eaten them, never prepared.
I made some aperitif sticks with 3 pieces for each one: a cube of cheese in the middle of two of mortadella.
And if you’re asking yourself “how do you put the sauce on the stick?”, know that the question is legitimate. Béchamel sauce is a kind of coat that you put on the shoulders of Bologna and cheese. After you have composed the stick, you have to dip it in the béchamel, then gently cover it with the beaten egg, then in the bread, again in the egg and again in the bread.
If you try the version with béchamel, or the balsamella as Artusi called it, it is mandatory to make double layer of coating or you run the risk that béchamel separates from the other ingredients while frying (which obviously happened to me).
But you if you can avoid this mistake. I’ll tell you more, just to be sure it passes twice in the egg and bread even if you don’t add béchamel. I believe that the double pass helps the stick to become a single block and, more importantly, to stay together.
Skewers alla Bolognese are an aperitif/appetizer recipe but if you make them for few people – and with more pieces of mortadella and cheese and, if you want, also meat – you can serve them for dinner accompanied by a side dish.
Buona cucina bolognese
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Fried Sticks alla Bolognese Recipe
List of Ingredients
emmental, about 120 g
mortadella, about 220 g (a thickly slice)
½ l béchamel
breadcrumbs, 100 g
to make béchamel:
½ l milk
flour, 50 g
butter 50 g
salt and nutmeg to taste
In a small pan, melt the butter to make béchamel sauce and incorporate the flour with a whisk.
Add the milk by stirring so that no lumps form. Add salt and nutmeg, as desired, and bring the pan to the stove.
Brings to a boil and lower the heat, mix until you get a fairly compact béchamel, turn off and let it cool.
In the meantime put the wooden sticks in water for about ten minutes (to prevent the wood from burning while frying).
Cut mortadella and cheese into cubes of about 1.5 cm.
Put in the stick a cube of mortadella, one of cheese and another one of mortadella: the tip of the stick must come out (to avoid losing pieces while frying).
Of course, you can put two pieces of mortadella at each end, or more cheese or more of everything: you name it!
Pass the stick in the béchamel, maybe you can help yourself with a spoon), then – gently – in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs and again in the egg and bread.
With your hands adjust the coating and place it on a plate.
Heat the seed oil and when it is hot, fry the sticks 3 at a time.
If you use, as I do, a high-sided pan, the stick stays “standing” so the part of the stick you hold in your hand stays out of the oil.
Serve immediately or keep in a hot oven until it is time to serve.