They say that there are more pigs and Ferraris in Emilia than in any other place in the world.
And it’s probably true. After all, between Prosciutto di Parma and the countless types of salumi that are produced there, you need a lot of pigs. And when it comes to Ferraris, you’ll never see as many of them on the road as on a Sunday afternoon along the via Emilia (when the weather’s nice). Emilia’s often referred to as the “land of motors where Ferrari is born” thanks to the many motor works that are scattered across the region (Ferrari’s headquarters is just east of Bologna).
But as famous as Prosciutto di Parma and Ferrari may be across the globe, few know that the humble pork chop is one of Emilia’s favorite dishes. Anyone who’s ever spent any significant time on the ground in Emilia knows that it’s not considered a week-night “I’m not eating steak” entrée. The braciola di maiale as it’s known (not to be confused with the braciola or stuffed beef roulade served in southern Italy) is held to be one of region’s supreme dishes.
But in Emilia the pork chop is never (or at least rarely) marinated or braised before cooking.
No, no, no. The pork chop is prepared de rigueur on the grill (or at home, on the griddle) and it’s always served with just a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a wedge of lemon (optional) like in the photo above.
So what’s the secret?
In the land where pork plays a sine qua non role in the local cuisine, the pork chop is only butchered from the best of pigs. And that’s where the difference lies. In the U.S., most super market pork chops come from commercially farmed pigs. In Emilia, they nearly always come from heirloom breeds of pigs that have been raised on a much smaller scale. Just think of what they do with the rest of the pigs that they use for prosciutto (the thigh) and culatello (the butt).
And that’s why the pork chop is something that you really need to experience when you visit Emilia. Paired with Lambrusco, of course! The Emilians wouldn’t have it any other way!