Abruzzi is located in the mountains along the Adriatic region of Italy and the cuisine is known for simple but hearty meals. A typical meal prepared in Abruzzi will feature diavolicchio, a combination of olive oil, tomatoes and chili peppers. Chili peppers are used often to spice up recipes, typical for much of Southern Italy. Rosemary, garlic and wine are also used extensively in Abruzzi cooking. Despite being more expensive per gram than truffles or caviar, saffron is used in many recipes and most of Italy’s saffron is produced in Abruzzi.
Abruzz’si cuisine is famous for artichokes and cardoons, legumes and potatoes and they are often enjoyed in soups. Cacio e Uova is a soup made from vegetables and salt pork and sometimes lamb, in a chicken base that relies on grated pecorino and eggs for a thick, creamy texture. Zuppa di cardi combines cardoons, relatives of the artichoke, with tomatoes and salt pork. The tiny mountain lentils are cooked with fresh chestnuts, pork and tomatoes with herbs to make zuppla di lenticchie. The traditional Christmas lunch begins with chicken broth, cardoons, tiny lamb meatballs and raw egg scrambled into the broth or fried chopped organ meats added to the soup just prior to serving.
Abruzzi recipes feature fresh seafood from the Adriatic, such as, Brodetto, a peppered seafood soup. Port cities also prepare fresh fish in a salty vinegar based dressing. Octopus is cooked in tomatoes and hot peppers and called “polpi in purgatorio”. Garlic, peppers and rosemary are used to season an anchovy and monkfish dish, called coda di rospo alla cacciatora. Fish and crayfish also come from inland freshwater ways.
The countryside of Abruzzi is dotted with herds of sheep and goats, making the preferred meats, lamb and kid. These meats are simmered slowly in sauces to serve over platters of polenta or pasta and served family style. Large pieces of spit roasted lamb are frequently eaten in Abruzzi, especially on special occasions. Another lamb dish of the region, agnello alle olive, is slowly cooked in a sealed clay casserole dish along with olives, lemons, hot peppers and oregano.
While beef is not as popular as in other areas of Italy, many households have their own herds of free ranging pigs. This yields meat for curing. Mortadellina, ventricina and salsicce di fegato pazzo are locally made table ready sausages that are enjoyed with bread. Abruzzi recipes such as ‘Ndocca ‘ndocca make use of the ribs and other parts of the pig that might otherwise be wasted, such as skin, ears and feet. This stew is flavored with vinegar, rosemary, bay leaf and peppers. Pork sausage is also enjoyed baked into the savory pizza rustica along with cheese and eggs.
Abruzzi cuisine begins many meals with a pasta course. Maccheroni alla chitarra, or guitar pasta, is a classic Abruzzi dish. This egg dough is cut into the classic quadrangular shape with an instrument resembling an acoustic guitar. This is traditionally served with a lamb and tomato sauce seasoned with tomatoes, hot peppers, garlic and bay leaves. Lasagne Abruzzese layers sheets of pasta with spicy meat and tomato sauce.
Abruzzi cooking often calls for a crepe called scrippelle. These crepes are filled with flavorful ingredients and then used in other dishes. With scrippelle ‘mbusse, the crepes are served in chicken stock with grated pecorino cheese. In timballo di crespe, the crepes are placed in elegant molds with vegetables, cheese and meat and baked.
Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil and Hot Pepper
Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino is a traditional recipe from the Abruzzi region of Italy.
Ingredients for 4 people
- 14 oz (400 grams) spaghetti
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 peperoncino ( hot peppers)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water.
A few minutes before draining the pasta, heat 1/4 cup of oil, add the garlic and the peperoncino and cook slowly until the garlic turns golden. Add the sauce to the drained spaghetti, toss well and serve immediately.
Chicken and Peppers Abruzzi-Style
- 3 1/2 lb chicken; cut into 8 pieces
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh hot chili peppers; chopped
- 4 whole cloves garlic; peeled
- 2 teaspoons rosemary leaves; chopped
- 24 cherry tomatoes
- 12 small black olives
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a deep ovenproof skillet with a lid that is large enough to contain all the chicken pieces in one layer without crowding, add oil, garlic and rosemary to the pan – turn the heat to high. Add the chicken and arrange the pieces with the skin side facing down in one layer. When well browned, turn the pieces and brown on the other side. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and chili peppers and transfer the chicken to a large plate, skin side up.
Add the onion and the bell peppers to the skillet and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the olives and cherry tomatoes and, once the tomatoes are hot, pour in the wine and simmer over moderately high heat for 1 minute. Return the chicken to the skillet, skin side up. Cover the pan and braise in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Transfer dish to a large warm platter and serve at once with crusty Italian bread.
Timballo di Patate
- 5 pounds potatoes
- 1 pound shredded mozzarella
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese
- Chopped parsley
- Salt, pepper to taste
Cook potatoes whole, in water, peel them. Mash potatoes mixing in mozzarella, eggs, grated cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper to taste.
Place mixture in a 12x9x2 inch (or 9 inch round) pan, of which the inside surfaces have been oiled (or buttered) and sprinkled with flour to prevent sticking. Heat at 425 degrees F. in a pre-heated oven for 20 minutes or until the top begins to brown. Serves 12.
Easter Ricotta Tarts with Saffron
During Easter time the Abruzzi people celebrate the holiday with traditional sweets called soffioni or “big puffs”. The name refers to the look these mini tarts get while baking. Their filling is made with fresh ricotta and flavored with citrus zest and saffron. The expensive spice is a local ingredient from the fields around the small town of Navelli. It takes the inner part of 150 flowers (called crocus) to yield 1 gram of dry saffron and the brief harvest occurs once a year, when the flowers bloom around mid October.
For the dough:
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus some extra for the work surface
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium eggs plus 1 egg yolk
For the filling:
- 1 pinch of saffron threads
- 4 medium eggs
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 2 cups of sheep’s milk ricotta or cow’s milk ricotta, well-drained
- Zest of 1 small lemon, finely grated
- Vegetable oil or butter for coating
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Prepare the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, olive oil, eggs plus the egg yolk and salt. Work the dough just until it comes together in a smooth and firm ball. Wrap it with plastic and let rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature while making the filling.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare the filling:
If you have an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, use it to make the filling. Remember to clean the bowl and the beater before beating the egg whites.
In a small bowl, crush the saffron threads with the back of a teaspoon.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Beat the yolks in an electric mixer with the sugar until light and pale colored. Add the saffron, ricotta and lemon zest. Continue to beat until the mixture is fluffy. Set aside.
In another bowl or in a clean electric mixer bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until light and fluffy. Gently fold the egg whites into the yolk and ricotta mixture.
Take the dough out of the wrap and roll it on a lightly floured surface into a square, about 1/8 inch thick. Using a fluted pastry cutter (or a knife), slightly trim the edges and then cut the pastry evenly into 12 squares.
Coat a 12 cup muffin baking pan with vegetable oil or butter and lightly dust with flour. Press the pastry squares into the muffin cups, making sure to leave the four corners hanging over the edges. With a spoon divide the ricotta filling among the 12 pastry cups without overfilling and then fold the corners over the center of the filling. They should not seal but remain partially separated from each other.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 320 degrees F and continue baking for another 15 minutes until the tarts are golden.
Let cool at room temperature and then carefully remove the tarts from the muffin pan. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
- The Cuisine of Italy – L’Aquila (jovinacooksitalian.com)