The Province of Rieti is located in the northeast section of the Lazio region in the heart of Italy and was established in 1927. The territory is mostly mountainous and there are two artificial lakes created during the Fascist period. There are several protected areas in the province. To the south lies the Parco regionale naturale dei Monti Lucretili and to the southeast is the Riserva regionale Montagne della Duchessa. Between the two areas is the Riserva naturale Monte Navegna e Monte Cervia. These areas support a diversity of wildlife, particularly birds such as herons and grebes. Numerous castles, fortresses and Franciscan sanctuaries can be found throughout the Rieti Province.
During the Roman Empire the province was a strategic point in the early Italian road network, that was known as the “salt” track and it linked Rome to the Adriatic Sea through the Apennine Mountains. According to Roman tradition, a stone bridge was laid across the Velino river and a large viaduct was built to bring goods from the road directly to the cities. After the fall of the Roman Empire the province suffered destruction by invaders. The area was rebuilt during the 12th century and for a time it was a favorite Papal seat.
Feasts and festivals are also among the province’s highlights. A festival dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua has taken place for 600 years in the old town of Rieti, with a procession through the streets. In Antrodoco, the Sagra degli Stracci (Festival of Rags) is an occasion to taste local culinary specialties. The Festa della Madonna della Neve e del Toro Ossequioso (Festival of Our Lady of the Snow and of the Fulsome Bull) is held in Posta, in which a man rides a harnessed bull and brings it before the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, where it will be made to kneel three times. The Festa Dolce Primavera (Sweet Spring Festival) in Castel Sant’Angelo is a competition between the 10 municipalities in preparing the most delicious desserts. There are many any are carnival festivities, with floats parading through the towns of Amatrice and Magliano Sabina during the celebrations.
The presence of forests means that local produce includes chestnuts, mushrooms, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, juniper and white and black truffles. The farms produce fresh, salted or seasoned cheese, such as ricotta made with goat’s milk; the Fiore Molle from Leonessa, flavored with saffron and pecorino from Amatrice. Growing conditions for vegetables is ideal, especially for garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, artichokes, olives and grapes. Sausages come from Leonessa and Amatrice and dry sausages are made in the city of Rieti.
Local favorite dishes include stracciatelle in brodo (similar to egg-drop soup); spaghetti all’amatriciana; pollo (chicken) alla diavola; stracci di Antrodoco – thin pancakes filled with meat sauce and cheese; stufatino garofolo and spezzatino di pollo (chicken stews), agnello in guazzetto (lamb stew) and porchetta di Poggio Bustone (pork).
Sweets include: terzetti alla reatina, soft cookies made with honey and nuts; copeta are made with honey and nuts between layers of bay leaves and pizza di Pasqua (Easter pizza).
A well-known local wine is Colli della Sabina D.O.C. and it is available in white, red and rosé.
Bruschetta with Porcini Mushrooms
- 8 slices ciabatta bread
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the bread
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Chopped fresh parsley
- 4 whole cloves of garlic
- 8 oz fresh porcini mushrooms
- Sea Salt
- Black Pepper
In a hot grill pan, toast the bread on each side; then lightly rub one side with a clove of garlic and drizzle each with olive oil. Set aside.
Slice the mushrooms thickly taking care to keep the stalk and the cap intact.
Smash the garlic cloves with the flat blade of a knife.
In a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil and butter and fry the smashed garlic for a few seconds before adding the mushrooms.
Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat until they are browned and just cooked. Remove the garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the bruschetta on warm plates and top with the mushrooms and parsley leaves. Serve immediately.
- 3 (1 pound or smaller) round dark purple eggplants
- 1 medium onion
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil for the baking dish
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 3/4 pound ground veal or pork or beef
- 3 cups canned crushed Italian tomatoes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a box in the center of each eggplant half, coming about half an inch from the sides and cutting down to within half an inch of the bottom.
Using a large spoon, pry the center free. It should come out fairly easily and use the spoon to scrape any excess eggplant from the inside of the box.
Place the eggplant shells cut side down on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Cover the excess eggplant flesh with plastic wrap and set aside. Repeat, cleaning all the eggplants.
Chop the onion and combine it with one-fourth cup of the olive oil in a large skillet. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.
Add the minced garlic and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the meat to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is lightly brown, about 5 minutes.
Finely dice the reserved eggplant flesh and add it to the skillet and cook until the eggplant has softened completely, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add 1 cup of the crushed tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts and parsley and remove from the heat.
Oil a large baking dish with the remaining olive oil and pour the remaining crushed tomatoes into the dish. Arrange the eggplant halves in the baking dish. They should fit tightly.
Spoon the meat mixture into the eggplant halves, dividing evenly.
Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake 15 minutes, then remove the foil and spoon some of the tomatoes from the bottom of the baking dish over the eggplant.
Re-cover with aluminum foil and bake, spooning the tomato mixture over the eggplants once after another 15-minutes.
After 45 minutes total cooking time, scatter the grated cheese generously over the top of each eggplant. Bake uncovered until the cheese is lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
Boiled Potatoes with Celery
- 2 tender inner celery stalks, sliced diagonally 1/8″ thick
- 2 lbs boiling potatoes (about 6 medium potatoes)
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- Oil-cured black olives, for garnish
Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil.
When the water comes to a rolling boil, add salt and, then, add the celery. Blanch until it is still slightly crunchy, about 2 minutes.
Remove the celery using a slotted spoon and scatter it on a baking sheet to cool.
Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain them and place on a rimmed baking sheet to cool.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle but still warm, peel them using a paring knife. Carefully cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices.
In a large bowl, season the warm potatoes with salt and pepper. Pour the olive oil over the potatoes and mix well. Add the parsley and celery and mix well.
Let it sit for an hour. Garnish with the olives and serve at room temperature.
Roman Honey Sesame Cookies
Makes about 40 small cookies.
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature; extra melted butter for dipping the baked cookies
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine butter, honey and eggs with an electric mixer until well combined. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Cover and chill the dough about 1 hour or until firm.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Grease two baking sheets. Form chilled dough into logs and place on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown. Be sure not to overcook or they will be dry.
While warm, dip in a bowl of melted butter and then into a bowl of sesame seeds. Cool on a wire rack.