Valtellina or the Valtelline (occasionally spelled as two words in English: Val Telline) is a valley in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, bordering Switzerland. Today, it is known for its ski center, hot spring spas, bresaola, cheeses and wines. In past centuries, it was a key alpine pass between northern Italy and Germany and control of the Valtelline was much sought after, particularly during the Thirty Years’ War.
The earliest settlements date back to prehistoric times: prior to the Roman conquest, the area was inhabited by Rhaetians and Celts.Thanks to its strategic position at a crossroads on one of the main routes connecting northern Italy with the trans alpine regions (the Via Imperiale d’Alemagna), it was already being fought over in the 10th century by various potentates, passing from one ruling power to the next (the bishops of Cosmo and Chur, the Visconti and Sforza families, France and Spain), although it maintained its municipal independence thanks to a 14th – century statute that gave its residents special rights and privileges and helped it become a commercial center.
Valtellina is also an area of great natural beauty. Nature lovers and sports enthusiasts come here to enjoy a whole range of outdoor pursuits all year round, in a valley dominated by some of the most beautiful and best-known mountains in the Alps. Its internationally renowned tourist resorts have been attracting skiers and mountaineers from Italy and abroad since the 19th century. The best skiing resorts are Bormio, Santa Caterina Valfurva, Livigno, Aprica and Madesimo, the venue of such international events as the 1985 and 2005 World Alpine Skiing Championships.
The Stelvio National Park, one of Europe’s largest protected areas covering 134.620 hectares of central Alpine territory, straddles two italian regions: Lombardy and Trentino Alto Adige. The idea to protect this area in the Italian alps was first proposed at the beginning of the 20th century, although the law creating the park was not approved until 1935, and only as recently as 1977 were its present borders defined. The scenery of the park, which ranges in altitude from 650 to 3905 meters (over 12,000 feet), includes glaciers, alpine pasture, extensive woodland, agricultural holdings with farmsteads inhabited all year round, glacial lakes and mountain streams.
Other areas of natural interest include: the Valtellina Orobian Alps Regional Park, the Acqua Fraggia Waterfalls and several nature reserves (Marmitte dei Giganti, Pian di Spagna and Lake Mezzola, the Postalesio Pyramids, the Bordighi Forest, Pian di Gembro and Paluaccio di Oga.
Valtellina’s grapes are grown on the mountain slopes in an east-west direction, which means maximum light exposure:, so the vineyards enjoy similar sunshine hours to those in Sicily. Vines are almost all planted on terraces carved into the granite and slate rock. All grape picking is by hand, as is the heavy work of hauling grapes up and down the slopes – around three-times more man-hours are required to work these vines than the gentler slopes of Piedmont. A few growers have invested in funicular transporters and even helicopters to aid in this back-breaking work. Nebbiolo has always been the only grape variety bottled in the region’s red wines, though recently some experimental plantings of Merlot and Pinot Noir are being watched with interest.
A number of ingredients make up pizzocheri; a local pasta made with a grain known as grano saraceno. This is a medium-width pasta much like fettuccine that is cooked with casera, a local cow’s milk cheese and a cabbage known as verza, which has a blend of sweet and slightly bitter flavors.
Other famous foods of Valtellina include bresaola, a cured meat served in an antipasti. This is usually made from beef, but sometimes a restaurant will serve bresaola made from deer, written on the menu as cerva. The most famous food from here is Bitto, a D.O.P. cheese that is aged for various periods ranging from 70 days to 10 years. Primarily a cow’s milk cheese (up to 10 percent goat’s milk may be added) and is made only during the summer in the area’s mountain dairies.
Original recipe of the Pizzocchero Teglio ®
Coded and registered by the Academy of Pizzocchero Teglio
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 400 g of buckwheat flour
- 100 g white flour
- 200 g of butter
- 250 g of cheese Valtellina Casera DOP (protected origin den.ne)
- 150 g of grated parmesan cheese in
- 200 g of cabbage
- 250 g of potatoes
- a clove of garlic, pepper
Mix the two flours, mix with water and work for about 5 minutes.
With a rolling-pin roll the dough to a thickness of 2-3 mm which are derived from the bands 7 -8 cm. Overlap the strips and cut widthwise, tagliatelle getting about 5 millimeters wide. Bake the vegetables in salted water, the cabbage into small pieces and potatoes into chunks, add the pizzocheri after 5 minutes ( the potatoes are always present, while cabbage can be replaced, according to the seasons, with ribbed or green beans.)After about ten minutes to collect pizzocheri with a slotted spoon and pour a part in a very hot pan, sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and Valtellina Casera dop flakes Continue alternating pizzocheri and cheese. Fry the butter with the garlic color leaving for good, before pouring it on pizzocheri. pizzocheri. Without stirring serve hot with a sprinkling of pepper.
The Cuisine of Valtellina
Insalata Della Valtellina (Bresaola salad)
Bresaola is cured, air-dried beef typically made in the Valtellina area of Lombardy. Lean and tender with a little added salt, it is perfect in salads. It is readily available in Italian delis and larger supermarkets.
- 3 slices bread
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4-5 Romaine lettuce leaves, separated
- A small handful arugula
- 4 oz radishes, sliced
- 20 black olives
- 2 eggs, hard-boiled and quartered
- 3 oz bresaola, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons finely shaved fresh
- Parmesan, shaved
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 garlic clove, left whole
Remove the crusts from the bread and slice into small triangles. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the bread and fry on both sides until golden. Remove and place on a plate.
Combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk together until the dressing is creamy. Remove the garlic clove from the dressing.
Arrange the lettuce leaves, arugula, radishes and olives on a serving dish, drizzle with the dressing and toss well. Arrange the eggs, bresaola and fried bread on top and scatter the Parmesan shavings over all.
Polenta Taragna alla Valtellinese
It is generally served with salami and pickles.
- 2 cups polenta mixed with 1 cup buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup butter plus 3 tablespoons
- 1/4 pound casera cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter an oven proof dish with 3 tablespoons butter and set aside. In a 6 quart sauce pan, heat 8 cups water to a boil. Whisking furiously, slowly drizzle in mixed flours until all are incorporated. Switch to a wooden spoon.and cook until the texture is thickened. Add the butter and cheese. Stir through and pour into baking dish. Place in the oven for 10 minutes, remove and serve immediately.
Italian Pork and Vegetable Saute
- 1 pound boneless sirloin pork chops, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 red bell peppers, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add red pepper and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in scallions and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.
Season pork with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to skillet and heat. Add pork and cook, turning occasionally, until browned and meat is slightly pink when pierced in the center with the tip of a sharp knife, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and stir with a wooden spoon to coat the pork.
Add wine and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits in pan with wooden spoon. Return the vegetables to the pan and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve.
Makes 4 servings
- 1/2 cup golden raisins, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup Grappa, Port or Marsala (dessert wine)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of whole milk
- 2 ¼ teaspoons or 1 packet (¼-ounce) active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup spelt, rye or whole wheat flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- A pinch of kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
- 3/4 cup (about 15) dried figs, roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts, pistachios or hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- 1 egg yolk plus 1 teaspoon water, for brushing dough top
Combine raisins and grappa or dessert wine in a bowl. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat milk over medium until just warm. Transfer to a mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over the milk. Let mixture stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
While yeast is foaming, put flour, salt and sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine. With mixer at medium-low, add half of the flour mixture to the yeast mixture.
Mix until well blended, then add the remaining flour mixture along with the butter and egg yolk. Mix for five minutes on low.
Drain raisins, discarding the liquid. Add raisins, figs and all the nuts to the dough. Mix on low until just incorporated.
Remove the bowl from mixer and knead dough with your hands to finish incorporating ingredients and forming a stiff, wet dough.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn dough out on the prepared pan and form the dough into an 8-inch oval loaf. Cover with plastic wrap or a lightly dampened towel.
Let rest at room temperature until double in size, about 2 hours.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F with a rack in the middle of oven.
In a small bowl, beat 1 egg yolk with a teaspoon of water. Brush dough with the egg mixture then bake, rotating pan halfway through, until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove and cool on wire rack. Will last 4 to 5 days wrapped in plastic.