The Potato Varietal Protected By The Italian Government

Have you ever heard had an Italian dish that wasn't great? We haven't either. A combination of quality ingredients freshly cooked results in powerful flavors that truly speak to the knowledge and talent of Italian cuisine. However, such excellence also requires a dedication to authenticity.

According to Eataly, around the mid-1900s, when Italian cuisine started to rise in popularity around the world, food producers in Italy started to struggle with competing sellers releasing lower-quality products — cheeses, wines, and olive oils — parading as the real deal. Taking matters into their own hands, Italy worked with the European Union to create labels for products that follow a strict set of guidelines.

"Denominazione d'Origine Protetta" or DOP — translated to "Protected Designation of Origin" or PDO, in English — is one of these labels that ensures that the product is "produced, processed, and packaged in a specific geographical zone and according to tradition," as Eataly writes. From olives to cheese, prosciutto ... or even a certain potato ... the DOP label is a guarantee of flavor, quality, and authentic production.

A very special spud

After its introduction to Italy in 1657, the protected Patata di Bologna (literally "Potato of Bologna") spread across the countryside surrounding Bologna and has since become an important resource for the region, according to a website dedicated to the spud run by the Consorzio di Tutela Patata di Bologna DOP (The Consortium for the Protection of the Potato of Bologna). Carefully cultivated in the ideal soils of the area, this variety of potato called the Primura is known for its smooth skin, oval shape, beautiful yellow color, and wonderful flavor. The website also explains that the crop is cultivated in deep, well-drained fields with soil with a specific medium-clay texture and neutral to slightly acidic pH scale. Growers also take pride in a healthy crop that has a low impact on the environment. A push to protect this special potato started in 1992, and it officially gained DOP status in 2010.

The Patata di Bologna boasts a versatile nature, perfect for baking, roasting, steaming, frying, and even desserts. It is a great ingredient for many Italian recipes, like frittata, focaccia, and gnocchi, but it can really accompany anything. "As easy to cook as it is difficult to imitate," as the Consortium says. Buon Appetito!