Bergamo is a beautiful Italian town close to the mountains and 30 miles northeast of Milan. The territory is equally divided between the mountains and the plains, neither of which is particularly fertile, so historically, Bergamo has been a rather poor area. Now, however, Bergamo belongs to the richest area of Italy, yet the typical cooking still reflects the historical poverty of the region. The staple food for families used to be polenta, which was eaten every day and was often the only food available for poorer families until about World War II. Along with polenta, the typical meal included milk, baccala’ (salted cod), and, on occasion, pork meat or anything that could be hunted in the area (mainly birds and rabbits or hares).
Just like the rest of Italy, Bergamo has its own typical products: Casoncei, Salame Bergamasco, Taleggio, and Moscato di Scanzo. Casoncei are ravioli stuffed with meat and dressed with butter, sage, and pancetta that used to be eaten during festivities. Salame Bergamasco is the typical cured meat of the area. It’s made of roughly ground pork meat and fat, and is cured only for a short period of time (as opposed to other salami, like Genoa, that are finely ground and cured longer). Taleggio is the typical cheese. It is a fatty, raw cheese, which sadly can rarely be found outside of the area as most of the exported Taleggio is cooked. Moscato di Scanzo is the wine typical of the hills around Bergamo. It is a sweet dessert wine and is only produced in extremely small quantities.
Pola is a food blogger originally from Bergamo, transplanted to the cold Midwestern plains. After years of calling Mom to check on cooking times and temperatures for family Italian recipes (and promptly forgetting them), she started writing them down in her blog: An Italian Cooking in the Midwest. As part of this process, she’s hoping to help new friends discover how to cook simple and authentic Italian food. She has prepared for us a couple of typical recipes from her home town.