Venetian cuisine is usually divided into three main categories that are based on geography:  the coastal areas, the plains and the mountains. Each one (especially the plains) can have many local cuisines – each city with its own dishes and preparation. The most common dish across the region is polenta, which is utilized in various ways within the local cuisines.

Coastal areas serve mainly seafood dishes.

In the plains, it is very popular to serve grilled meat (usually a mix of pork, beef and chicken) together with grilled polenta, potatoes and vegetables. Other popular dishes include risotto made with vegetables, mushrooms, pumpkin, radicchio, seafood, pork or chicken livers.

Bigoli

Bigoli (a typical Venetian fresh pasta, similar to a thick spaghetti), handmade fettuccine, ravioli and the similar tortelli (filled with meat, cheese, vegetables or pumpkin) and gnocchi (made from potatoes) are pastas that are served with meat sauce (ragù), often made from duck, and, sometimes, with added mushrooms or peas or the pasta is simply dressed with melted butter.

The mountain area cuisine consists mainly of pork or game meat served with polenta, mushrooms or vegetables and cheese. You may also find some dishes from the Austrian or Tyrolese tradition, such as canederli (potato/ bread dumpling) and sweet or savory strudel. A typical dish is casunziei, hand-made fresh pasta similar to ravioli that usually contain a roasted beet and smoked ricotta stuffing.

Italian Canederli

Italian Casunzie

Venetian cuisine is typically seasoned with butter, olive oil, sunflower oil, vinegar, white wine, mostarda or salsa verde.

Antipasto

Sweet and Sour Sardines

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 lb. sardines, cleaned
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 cups olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, sliced thin
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (pignoli)

Directions

Combine wine and raisins in a bowl. Soak for 30 minutes; drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the broiler to high. Season sardines with salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Broil, until cooked, about 2 minutes; cool.

Heat oil in a 4-qt. pan over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook until browned, 10–12 minutes. Add vinegar, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until soft, 6–8 minutes. Stir in raisins, pine nuts and salt and pepper; let cool.

Place half the sardines in the bottom of an 8″ x 8″ dish; cover with half the onion mixture. Place remaining sardines on top; cover with the remaining onion mixture.

Marinate the sardines in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

First Course

Bigoli in Salsa

Ingredients

  • 14 oz bigoli/whole wheat thick spaghetti
  • 5 anchovies
  • 2 large onions
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • ½ cup dry white wine

Directions

Chop the anchovies and set aside.

Peel the onions and slice as thinly as you possibly can. Heat oil in a skillet with a cover, then turn heat to medium low and add onions. Cover the pan and cook the onions for 10 minutes, stirring frequently until the onions are a light gold color; do not let them brown.

Turn the heat down to low and add the anchovies, breaking them into a paste with a wooden spoon.

Add the wine, a little at a time, letting the wine evaporate before adding more. Add a big pinch of black pepper. Put the lid back on and cook gently on low heat for 10 minutes, so that the onions gradually melt into a creamy caramelized sauce.

Cook the bigoli/spaghetti in salted water according to package directions, then drain and add to the skillet with the onion mix. Turn the heat up high for a minute, mixing thoroughly.

To serve: grind additional fresh black pepper over each dish.

Second Course

Pollo del Borgo (Chicken of the Village)

Ingredients

  • 3 lb chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 zucchini, sliced into rounds
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup tomato puree
  • ½ cup chicken broth, plus more if needed
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Griled Polenta, recipe below

Directions

Heat the butter and oil in a pan large enough to fit all the chicken in a single layer.

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces. Add the chicken to the skillet and brown the pieces on all sides. Remove to a plate.

Add the onions, rosemary and the garlic to the skillet and cook until the onions soften. Return the chicken to the pan.

Add the white wine and cook until it has all evaporated.

Add the tomato puree, the bay leaf, zucchini and chicken broth. Cook for another 40 minutes on a low heat, turning the chicken occasionally and adding broth when needed to keep the sauce from reducing too much. Serve with grilled polenta.

Grilled Polenta

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 2/3 cups polenta
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Put salt into 7 cups of cold water in a medium heavy pot. Add polenta and whisk. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often; add oil, then reduce heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until polenta thickens and pulls away slightly from the bottom and sides of the pot, 20–30 minutes (depending on the polenta grind).

Pour into a greased square or rectangle glass dish; cool.

Turn out onto a bread board and cut into serving pieces with a wet knife.

Grill on a very hot, dry grill or sear in a nonstick skillet until golden brown.

Dessert Course

Pincia – Veneto Bread Pudding

The Pincia is one of the oldest sweets in the Venice region. It’s traditionally served at Christmas.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (3 cups) stale bread without the crust, cut into small cubes
  • 6 cups milk
  • 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel or mace
  • 1/4 cup dry plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Soak the raisins in warm water to cover. Put the bread cubes in a bowl and pour the milk over the bread.

let both soak for half an hour. Drain the raisins.

Beat the butter, sugar and eggs in an electric mixer. Add the flour, ground fennel and the soaked raisins. Mix well.

Pour butter/egg mixture over the bread/milk mixture and mix well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with sliced almonds.

Bake for about an hour until firm or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan; remove and dust with powdered sugar.

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