Cosenza is a province in the Calabria region of Italy. The province, one of the very few in Italy with coastlines along two different seas, includes the beautiful Sila mountains with their 3 lakes, Cecita-Mucone, Arvo and Ampollino and the Pollino National Park, founded in 1993.
Cosenza’s roots go back to early man. The province was conquered by the Normans, Saracens, Byzantines and the Spanish. The rich history is reflected in their architecture and their culture. Roman ruins, ancient castles, Norman towers and festivals, like the Montalto Uffugo’s Saracen Festival, mesh the past with the present.
An ancient legend exists in the province dating back to 410 AD about King Alaric, King of the conquering Visigoths. The legend states that once the King conquered Rome, he headed south, conquering and collecting treasures. Once he reached where the Crati river and the Bucenta river met, he died suddenly. These rivers meet in the heart of Cosenza. It is said that his soldiers, along with the help of slaves, buried the King under the river, along with his horse and the treasures, by redirecting the river long enough to build the tomb. His troops then killed all the slaves so no one would know where the treasure was buried.
In the centuries after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, several towns in the Cosenza province refused to acknowledge the new government of the Visigoths. Instead, they built strong city walls and small garrisons to hold out for centuries as semi-independent enclaves until the invasion of the Germanic Lombards in the 560s. In 1500, in spite of resistance, Cosenza was occupied by the Spanish army. In 1707 the Austrians succeeded the Spanish in the Kingdom of Naples, followed by occupation by the Bourbons. From 1806 to 1815, Cosenza fought hard against French domination. In 1860, Calabria became part of the new Kingdom of Italy.
The province contains the Cosentian Academy, the second academy of philosophical and literary studies to be founded in the Kingdom of Naples (1511) and one of the oldest in Europe. To this day, the area remains a cultural hub with several museums, theaters, libraries and the University of Calabria.
The cuisine has been greatly influenced by past conquerors. The Arabs brought oranges, lemons, raisins, artichokes and eggplant and the Cistercian monks introduced new agricultural practices and dairy products.
Tomatoes are sun-dried, octopi are pickled, anchovies salted and peppers and eggplant are packed into jars of oil and vinegar.
The chili pepper is popular here and is crushed in oil and placed on the table with every meal to sprinkle over your food. The chili was once considered to be a cure for malaria which probably accounts for its extensive use in this region.
The cuisine is a balance between meat-based dishes (pork, lamb, goat), vegetables (especially eggplant) and fish. Pasta (as in Central Italy and the rest of Southern Italy) is also very important.
Some specialties include Caciocavallo Cheese, Cipolla rossa di Tropea (red onion), Frìttuli and Curcùci (fried pork), Liquorice, Lagane e Cicciari (a pasta dish with chickpeas), Pecorino Crotonese (Sheep’s milk cheese) and Pignolata (a soft pastry covered in chocolate and lemon flavored icing).
Recipes To Make From Cosenza
Serve with Calabrian Bread
2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into slices
1/8 cup of salt
2 roasted oil-packed Calabrian chilies, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano, minced or 1 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons of white vinegar
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Salt the cut eggplant and let it set for 1 hour.
Rinse the eggplant thoroughly under cold water.
In a large pot of boiling water, cook the eggplant for 4 to 5 minutes until tender.
Lay the slices out on a towel to dry.
In a medium size bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, chili peppers, garlic, oregano and pepper.
Place one layer of the eggplant on a plate and drizzle some of the oil mixture on top.
Place another layer on top and repeat until all the eggplant is used up.
Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hour and serve chilled.
1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast with a quarter cup of the lukewarm water. Pour into a large bowl.
Mix in the flour, sugar, salt, and remaining lukewarm water and mix in until a dough starts to form. If too sticky, add a bit more flour.
Turn out onto a flat surface and knead for 6-8 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
Put the dough into an oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with a thick towel, and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, divide in half and shape into 2 oblong loaves about a foot long each. The bread can also be shaped into a ring.
Put the loaves on cookie sheets sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise again for 40 minutes. Loaves will double in width.
In a small dish, beat the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water. Make 3 slits in the top of the risen bread, a quarter of an inch deep. Brush with the egg wash and put the cookie sheets in the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F Then lower the heat to 400 degrees F and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes, until golden and baked through.
Lagane E Cicciari
Lagane is a flat, wide, fettuccine-like fresh pasta
2 cups all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
1/2 cup of water
Add the salt to the flour and mix well.
Slowly add the water and knead the dough for about 10 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball, cover it loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
Roll the dough on a floured surface, using a rolling-pin to form a circle about 1/4 inch thick.
Continue to roll and thin the pasta. (Cutting the circle in half will make it easier to handle.)
Roll the dough to form a long log
With a sharp knife, cut the roll into 1/4 inch strips.
Unroll the strips and lay them on a clean, flat surface.
Cook as directed below.
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped
One 15 ounce can chickpeas, undrained
One 14 oz can chopped Italian tomatoes, undrained
8 ounces lagane (recipe above) or broken lasagna noodles
In a small saucepan, combine the garlic, oil, red pepper flakes and rosemary.
Over low heat, cook the garlic until it begins to brown.
Add the chickpeas with all of their liquid and the tomatoes.
Simmer gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
Boil the pasta in at least 3 quarts of water with 1 heaping tablespoon of salt for 2-3 minutes if fresh pasta or longer for dried.
Just before the pasta is done, remove about half the chickpeas to a bowl and mash them with a potato masher or with an immersion blender. Return the mashed chickpeas to the sauce
When the pasta is done. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta.
Combine the pasta with the chickpea sauce in a large serving bowl. Toss well. Add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water if the pasta is too dry. (It should not be soupy, however.)
Serve very hot with either olio santo (hot pepper oil) or extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle over the top.
Galletto alla Diavola (Devil’s Chicken)
1 whole chicken, cut up
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon mustard
1 carrot, minced
1 red onion, minced
1 3/4 oz uncooked ham (capocollo), finely chopped
1 cup white wine
1 cup dry Marsala wine
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Mix the eggs with the salt and pepper and mustard.
Dip each chicken piece into the egg mixture, then coat with breadcrumbs.
Grease a baking dish with a little olive oil and then add the chicken pieces.
Pour a little bit of olive oil over the chicken pieces and bake for 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the thickest piece reaches 165 degrees.
In a skillet cook the carrot in oil with the onion and ham.
Season with salt and pepper, then add the white wine and Marsala.
Reduce the heat and let simmer until thickened.
Let the chicken rest for a few minutes, then pour the sauce over and serve.