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Saba from Emilia Romagna


Saba is a syrup made from sweet and ripened grape, preferably white like Trebbiano. Several aromas and spices such as cinnamon, cloves and lemon rind are then added. In the countryside it was used to sweeten many cakes as it was cheaper than honey and beet sugar. Moreover, it was very easy to prepare saba during the harvest.

Protected Geographical Indication has been required.


Legal reference:
Traditional products were established by Decree-law 173/98.

Preparation Techniques:
Mature white grape (usually Trebbiano) is selected and then crushed to obtain a liquid which is roughly filtered. Then, the must is left to boil for at least 18-20 hours, skimming it regularly until it becomes suitably dense, namely when it has lost over two thirds of the initial volume. Saba is thick, syrup-like and dark-coloured with a pleasant aroma and taste. Today it is mainly used to add flavour to desserts such as Migliaccio and Savor as well as savoury dishes (chestnut cappellacci, boiled beans or chickpeas, cooked or raw vegetables). It can also be matched with cheeses, grilled polenta, cooked fruit or boiled chestnuts. It is added to some cocktails and long-drinks too. Saba can be eaten plain to regulate digestive functions.

Production area :
Throughout the territory of the province of Bologna during grape-harvest.

Historical and Geographical Information:
Saba dell'Emilia-Romagna, also known as “sapa”, is a syrup which boasts very ancient origins. It is first mentioned in the works of several authors such as Apicio, Columella, Catone and Ovidio. In Roman times it was used as a substitute for honey, to sweeten dishes and to add flavour and aroma to food. Pliny relates that once Emperor Augustus was guest of Antonio, a wealthy veteran living in Bologna. The lunch included courses based on cooked must, that is sapa, which was a very common ingredient of Roman gastronomy. Sapa is also mentioned by Ludovico Ariosto in Satire III, written in 1518. This work is a dialogue between the Reggio Emilia-born writer and his cousin Annibale Malaguzzi. The former talks about his literary work, rejects the ecclesiastic carrier and defends his own dignity. In particular, he describes his difficult economic situation and says that he often eats a turnip dressed with sapa and vinegar. Vincenzo Tanara, an agronomist and gastronomy expert from Bologna, mentions sapa in one of his works dating back to 1644. He defines it as a tasty and cheap substitute for honey. Pellegrino Artusi, the popular chef born in Forlimpopoli, includes sapa in the chapter dedicated to syrups of his famous book “Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well” (first printed in 1891).

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Last update: 18-10-2013