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.
Cosenza is one of the most highly populated provinces of Italy and occupies about 44% of the Calabrian region, basically the whole northern and central parts of the area. The landscape is unique and characterized by mountains, hills, plains and deep valleys bounded by the Busento and the Crathis rivers. Cosenza is one of the most ancient cities in Calabria and is situated on seven hills in the valley of Crati. The area in and around Cosenza exhibits signs of historic transitions since the prehistoric period with sites in the area attesting to human presence during those prehistoric times.
Important water travel routes have existed here since the Magna Graecia and Roman periods. In 204 BC, the region was conquered by the Romans, and became an important route along the Via Popilia, connecting Rome to Sicily. In the Middle Ages this land was conquered by the Byzantines, who brought economic benefits to the territory with the introduction of new agricultural techniques and architectural design. Byzantine influences are still present in the elegant architecture of the city, as well as the influences of the Normans, the Angevins, the Aragonese and the Spaniards, who all left their traces in the centuries that followed.
Due to its cultural past, it was known as the Athens of Italy and today it houses the largest university campus of the nation. The city of Cosenza is rich in art and culture and officially recognized as a “City of Art” in the Calabria region. Cosenza is also called the capital of the Bruzi. The Bruzi were an ancient population who lived in southern Italy and they settled in the area of land that lies between the woods of the Sila plateau and the Crati Rivers. They took economic and social control of these areas following the decline of the Greek dominance and, in the 4th. century BC, they attained independence forming their capital Cosenza, formerly called Cosentia.
The old city is characterized by steep and narrow alleys and, during the few last years, this area has experienced a renewed vibrancy. This section is one of the most beautiful and ancient city centers in Italy, where one can find historical buildings, manor houses, an urban plan, and a labyrinth of streets around the old buildings and churches that have existed for centuries.
The cultural activity of the city centers around theater and opera events held in the Rendano Theater, the historical Cinemateatro Italia and the Teatro Stabile d’Innovazione of Calabria. The Accademia Cosentina promotes culture, artists and scientists.The Brettii Museum, officially opened in 2009, in the 15th. century complex of St. Agostino and is located in the center of the city. The Museum of the Rimembranze and the Open-Air Museum Bilotti can also be found there.
The variety in the landscape here makes the province of Cosenza an ideal place for long outdoor excursions. The trekking routes will lead you to the discovery of small churches and a beautiful countryside that you can admire from charming wooden bridges. The flat, hilly areas are usually used for horse riding. Photography enthusiasts will draw plenty of inspiration for their picture taking. During wintertime, organized snowshoe excursions in the mountains are popular, while ski establishments can be found in the highest areas of the Sila Mountains.
The National Park of Pollino offers opportunities to practice rafting and canoeing, especially on the river Lao, among the canyons and gorges. During recent years, Nordic walking has become more widespread, as it is a gentle sport, suitable for everybody. Water parks can be found along the coast, like Odissea 2000, in Zolfara. The area is well equipped for water sports, from windsurfing to water skiing, as well as beach volleyball.
Inland, many fairs and festivals offer opportunities to taste local dishes and discover local traditions.The culinary specialties of Cosenza are based on local, simple foods. Such specialities, as the Cuddrurieddri, are salted doughnuts prepared for the Immacolata Feast or for Christmas time. The Turididdri are fried Christmas pastries covered with figs and honey, while the Scaliddre are sugar-glazed.
First courses offer fresh fusilli pasta with potatoes, sauteed potatoes, onions and peppers, broccoli with sausages, thick tagliatelle pasta with chickpeas and fresh pasta with mushrooms. Among the fish dishes, the most famous are fried cod and spaghetti with anchovies and breadcrumbs.
Pitta ‘mpigliata, a traditional Christmas dessert pastry, Mostaccioli, pastries prepared for the Feast of Saint Joseph and focaccia bread made with honey or figs, mulled wine, flour and almonds and formed into different religious shapes are popular desserts. The area is well known for its anise liqueur.
Make Some Cosenza Inspired Recipes At Home:
Italian Peppers, Onions and Potatoes
Serve with Italian bread
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves chopped garlic
- 2 large potatoes, cubed into 1 inch pieces
- 1 large onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon. salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 lbs. sweet long Italian frying peppers or red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1 inch strips
- 1 lb. long hot Italian peppers, seeded and cut into 1 inch strips
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano or 1 tablespoon dried
- 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
Heat oil in a large skillet and add garlic, onion, potatoes, paprika, salt, and pepper.
Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Add sweet and hot peppers, crushed red pepper and oregano.
Cook until peppers and potatoes are tender, stirring often. Stir in vinegar.
Simmered Tuna Steaks
- 1 ½ lbs. fresh tuna cut into 4 even sized steaks
- 2 oz pancetta
- 1 large clove garlic, peeled
- 1 onion, peeled
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 4 tablespoons dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 4 boned anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
- 1 1/4 cups Italian canned chopped tomatoes or equivalent fresh tomatoes
- 1/2 hot dried red chili pepper, chopped or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
- Chop the pancetta finely and set aside.
- Chop the garlic and onion together and set aside.
- Pat the tuna dry with paper towels.
- Season the dry tuna steaks thoroughly on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil in a wide skillet.
- Coat the tuna lightly on either side in flour and cook the steaks for 3 minutes on either side in the hot oil.
- Sprinkle with the wine and allow the alcohol to boil off for 1 minute.
- Remove the fish to a plate.
- Put the pancetta, garlic and onion and half the parsley in the skillet.
- Saute gently for about 5 minutes, then add the anchovy fillets and mash them into the ingredients in the skillet with a fork.
- After a minute or so, add the tomatoes and stir together thoroughly.
- Add the chilli and simmer slowly for about 15 minutes, then slide in the fish. Heat through thoroughly for about 8 minutes, turning them over gently once.
- Arrange the tuna on a warmed serving dish, cover with the sauce and sprinkle with remaining parsley just before serving.
Chocolate-Dipped Figs with Almonds
Makes 2 dozen
- 1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
- 2/3 cup chopped unsalted toasted almonds
- 24 plump dried figs, such as Calimyrna
Line a large baking sheet or tray with parchment paper.
Place almonds into a wide, shallow dish.
Put chocolate into a small pot and heat over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Working with one at a time, hold a fig by the stem and carefully dip it into the chocolate, coating it about halfway up. Shake off any excess chocolate, roll the bottom in almonds and transfer to the paper lined tray.
(If chocolate becomes too stiff, reheat it briefly over medium low heat.)
Set figs aside in a cool spot until chocolate is set, about 2 hours. Alternately, chill the figs in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden, and then return them to room temperature.
- Philly-Style Stuffed Peppers (eatyourtarteout.com)
- The Cuisine Of Italy – Catanzaro (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Top 5 Tourist Destinations in Italy – Best of European Union (best-of-european-union.eu)