click above for Wikipedia description

(With a Vegetarian Twist)

This updates the original article below with details on the 2012 festival. Notice the comment from Dear Marcella Hazan way down below regarding our suggestion for the vegetarian twist. De gustibus . . .

Not far from our villa in Guiglia, Emilia Romagna, Italia every year in early May we look forward to the Springtime Borlengo festival.

Here is the flyer for this year’s must-be-there event. (Martha Stewart is a regular. She usually stays with us in the guest house.)

The flyer says it all as far as describing what it is. Usually, the traditional topping is a mixture of Olive Oil/Lard, Pancetta and/or smoked Bacon, Garlic, Rosemary, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (per Mario Batali: “The undisputed king of Cheeses.”).
Some of our readers are confirmed vegetarians. (If you are a Catholic and had your Confirmation, and you are a vegetarian, then you would be a Confirmed, confirmed vegetarian.) If you are all that and have papers to prove it, then you would be… well, the permutations could get as shaggy as you like.
Lest we digress. If you don’t want to have the Pancetta or Bacon, then here’s the ticket. Leave it out! Oh, I want to go the whole route, you say? You have an option.
Well, here is the secret ingredient: Tempeh. It might not be on the culinary map of even some staunch vegetarians. Yet. But, it should be. Tempeh is a rich in protein food made with fermented soybeans. It is delicious simply steamed and mixed together with vegetables and a pasta. But we have a little trick that makes it a flavorful garnish for salads; and, now, for Borlengo.
Tempeh is available at most healthy food stores. You’ll find it in the refrigerated section around where there is dairy and tofu. It comes in a rectangular loaf about 1” thick and 4”x 7”.
Do this: First, cut the Tempeh loaf in half across the middle of its length. Positioning the cut half carefully on its edge, slice it down the middle so you get a piece ½” thick. Now, sauté each side until nicely brown. While it is still hot from the pan, douse it in good soy sauce***.) Then cut it into thin strips for salads as “bacon” bits (how come all those vegetarians are always looking for stuff that tastes like meat, but isn’t?)

***Soy Sauce is not all created equal. This is a bit about Italian food so we won’t go into an encyclopedic riff on Soy Sauce/Tamari. Just let’s leave it for now that you gets what you pays for when it comes to soy sauce. Just like Mr. Batali reserves the best Olive Oil for “anointing”, get some really pricey soy sauce for the table and be amazed at the richness and complexities. Umami! (Translated into the Italian: "Mama Mia!")

For your Borlengo just crumble up the Tamaried-up Tempeh and sprinkle a small amount on with the other elements.
Now to make the Borlengo. A picture is worth a thousand words. Here is our mentor David Wronski hard at work in the kitchen with his famous Borlengo.

And now watch a master at work.

THIS JUST IN — per Marcella Hazan: "Forget about Tempeh, please." Ouch! We get the point. The suggestion of Tempeh was for only the die hard vegetarian; and, only if they must have some protein on their Borlengo. We concur, best to leave it out. The taste and texture of Tempeh are way off from what Borlengo is all about. Thank you, Ms. Hazan.

Ms. Hazan also recommends: "[Borlengo is in] the same group of Emilia's specialties that includes Tigelle and Gnocco Fritto."

Tigelle: Click to read a great article on Tigelle.

Gnocco Fritto: Click for Gnocco Fritto.