Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The coasts of Sardinia are generally high and rocky with long, relatively straight stretches of coastline that contain a few deep bays, many inlets and smaller islands off the coast. The Strait of Bonifacio is directly north of Sardinia and separates Sardinia from the French island of Corsica. The region’s capital is Cagliari.
The island has a Mediterranean climate along the coasts, plains and low hills and a continental climate on the interior plateaus, valleys and mountain ranges. During the year there are approximately 135 days of sunshine, with a major concentration of rainfall in the autumn and winter.
During the Second World War, Sardinia was an important air and naval base and was heavily bombed by the Allies. In the early 1960s, an industrialization effort was begun with the initiation of major infrastructure projects on the island. These included the construction of new dams and roads, reforestation, agricultural zones on reclaimed marshland and large industrial complexes (primarily oil refineries and related petrochemical operations). With the creation of these industries, thousands of ex-farmers became industrial workers.
The Sardinian economy is constrained due to the high cost of importing goods, transportation and generating electricity, which is twice that of the continental Italian regions and triple that of the EU average. The once prosperous mining industry is still active, though restricted to coal, gold, bauxite, lead and zinc. Granite extraction represents one of the most flourishing industries in the northern part of the island. Principal industries include chemicals, petrochemicals, metalworking, cement, pharmaceutical, shipbuilding, oil rig construction, rail and food.
Agriculture has played a very important role in the economic history of the island, especially in the great plain of Campidano, where it is particularly suitable for wheat farming. Water scarcity was a major problem that was overcome with the construction of a great barrier system of dams. Now, the Campidano plain is a major Italian producer of oats, barley and durum wheat. Sardinian agriculture is linked to specific products: cheese, wine, olive oil, artichokes and tomatoes that contribute to a growing export business. Sardinia produces about 80% of Italian cork and ranks 5th among the Italian regions in rice production. The main paddy fields are located in the Arborea Plain.
Sardinia is home to one of the oldest forms of vocal music, generally known as cantu a tenore. The guttural sounds produced in this form make a remarkable sound, similar to Tuvan throat singing. Sardinia is home to professional soccer and basketball teams and auto racing. Cagliari hosted a Formula 3000 race in 2002 and 2003 around its Sant’Elia stadium.
Sardinia boasts the highest consumption of beer per capita in Italy. The discovery of jars containing hops in some archaeological sites are evidence that beer was produced in the region since the Copper Age.
The Cuisine of Sardinia
Thousands of rare species of plants and animals grow and live on the island, some entirely unique to Sardinia. An excellent example of the longevity of Sardinia’s heirloom produce is the Grenache wine grape which dates back to about 1,200 BC. The Grenache grapes grown on the island today are genetically indistinguishable from their ancestors grown thousands of years ago in the same areas.
Wild boar, lamb, pork, eggplant, artichokes, tomatoes, lobsters, sea urchins, octopus, clams, mussels and squid are plentiful. Salty flavors are preferred by Sardinians, such as, bottarga (a pressed and salted mullet roe) and salt preserved sardines.
Traditional hearty Italian pastas like culingiones (spinach and cheese ravioli) share center stage with Arabic-inspired couscous dishes. Many first-time visitors are surprised by the Sardinians’ liberal use of saffron, which grows well on the island. Saffron is a particular favorite in gnocchi dishes.
A wide variety of herbs, including myrtle (berries, flowers, leaves and stems), flourish on Sardinia and flavor the local dishes. Whether savory, sweet, used for wood smoking or instilled into digestive liqueurs, myrtle is a major part of the Sardinian palate.
Cheeses are especially important and the island’s most exported food product. Pecorino sardo, Fiore sardo, ricotta, caprino, pecorino romano and the famous casu marzu are all made within the region. Casu marzu is illegal now in Italy due to its bizarre culturing and aging process involving the introduction of live cheese fly larvae into the process to bring about a poisonous stage akin to decomposition. Though obviously a risky gastronomic health adventure and definitely not for the timid, casu marzu is nonetheless a very popular black market commodity and is considered a distinctive delicacy by many locals.
For more traditional tastes, you will find local rock lobsters topped with seasoned breadcrumbs and roasted in the oven and cassòla, a flavorful seafood soup, that can have as many as a dozen types of seafood cooked with spices and tomatoes.
Fava beans are cooked with cardoons, wild fennel, tomatoes, salt pork and sausage to create the thick stew known as favata. Farro, a locally grown grain, is simmered slowly in beef broth with cheese and mint to make su farro.
Chickens are marinated with myrtle leaves and berries, boiled and eaten chilled. Other Sardinian recipes for meat are agnello con finocchietti, a stew of lamb with wild fennel, tomatoes and onion. Not people to waste food, Sardinians stew lamb or kid intestines with peas, onions and tomatoes.
Sardinians love pasta in all forms and their cuisine features specialties found nowhere else. Plump culingiones are shaped like ravioli and stuffed with chard and pecorino cheese and served with tomato sauce. The regional dish, malloreddus, are tiny semolina gnocchi topped with a garlic, basil, pecorino and saffron flavored sausage and tomato sauce.
Every village has a unique shaped bread, either a round loaf, a long cylindrical loaf or a donut shaped loaf. Sardinian recipes also include a sweet focaccia flavored with pecorino cheese and a local bitter honey. The entire island loves flatbread and crisp carta de musica or “sheet of music”, a paper-thin crisp bread. One popular way to serve this cracker style bread is to soften it in warm water, then spread it with tomato sauce, grated cheese and poached eggs.
Sardinian cooking also offers a wide selection of cookies, pastries and cakes. These desserts are usually flavored with spices, almonds, raisins and ricotta cheese. Pabassinas are pastries filled with a raisin walnut paste.
Mirto is a liqueur unique to the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. It is made from the berries of the flowering Mirto (or Myrtle) plant, a distinctive plant that grows throughout the Mediterranean basin but is most prolific on the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. The berries are dark blue in color and look somewhat like blueberries but bear no relationship to blueberries in taste or other properties.
Sardinia’s wines have little in common with those produced in the rest of Italy. The Island’s remote Mediterranean location, as well as the historic influence from other cultures, gives the wines a unique character that might be considered to have more in common with Spanish wines rather than Italian wines. Production is extensive around the port of Cagliari in the Campidano area, where the little known Girò, Monica, Nasco and Nuragus varietals grow alongside Malvasia and Moscato, all bearing town names: Girò di Cagliari, Monica di Cagliari, Nasco di Cagliari, Nuragus di Cagliari, Malvasia di Cagliari and Moscato di Cagliari DOCs.
Traditionally, it is made with whatever is growing in the garden, but it always includes beans and fregula (or fregola) a toasted pebble-size semolina pasta that is popular in Sardinia.
- 1/2 cup dried peeled fava beans
- 1/2 cup dried cranberry beans or cannellini beans
- 1/3 cup dried chickpeas
- 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (about 2⁄3 cup)
- 2 medium celery stalks, chopped (about ½ cup)
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (about 3½ cups)
- 3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1½ cups)
- 1½ cups chopped fennel bulb
- 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
- 2⁄3 cup of Sardinian fregula, Israeli couscous, or acini di pepe pasta
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup finely grated pecorino Romano (about 2 ounces)
Soak the fava beans, cranberry beans and chickpeas in a large bowl of water for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander and rinse well.
Warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery; cook, stirring often, until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 20 seconds.
Stir in the tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, parsley and basil, as well as the drained beans and chickpeas. Add enough water (6 to 8 cups) so that everything is submerged by 1 inch.
Raise the heat to high and bring to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly, uncovered, until the beans are tender, adding more water as necessary if the mixture gets too thick, about 1½ hours.
Stir in the fregula, salt and pepper. Add up to 2 cups water if necessary. Continue simmering, uncovered, until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes.
Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into each of four serving bowls. Divide the soup among them and top each with 1 tablespoon of the grated cheese.
Notes: You can vary the beans in the minestrone: pinto beans make a good substitute for cranberry beans; great northern or cannellini beans, for the favas. Use the stalks and fronds that come off a fennel bulb for the most intense flavor. Add other fresh vegetables from the garden or market, such as zucchini, cabbage, green beans, and cauliflower or broccoli florets.
Cavatelli with Sardinian Sausage Sauce
Cavatelli pasta is shaped like a small hot dog bun with a long, rolled edge that is good for holding thick sauces.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (one 28-ounce can)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 large pinches saffron
- 1 pound fresh or frozen cavatelli pasta
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, plus more for serving
In a large deep frying pan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a fork, until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to moderately low and add the remaining oil to the pan. Stir in the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, mint, parsley, water, salt and 1 pinch of the saffron. Simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the cavatelli with the remaining pinch saffron until just done, 10 to 15 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Drain the cavatelli and toss with the meat sauce, the basil, the reserved pasta water and the cheese. Serve with additional Pecorino Romano.
Sardinian Lamb Kabobs over Couscous
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
- 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 small head cauliflower (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into small florets
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron
- 3/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, divided
- 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
- 1 3/4 cups canned chicken broth or homemade stock
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 1/2 cups couscous
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Light an outdoor grill or heat the broiler.
In a glass dish or stainless steel pan, combine the lamb, 6 tablespoons of the oil, the thyme and 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice.
In a large frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the cauliflower, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is golden, about 10 minutes. Add the saffron, 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper, the tomatoes, broth and raisins.
Simmer until the cauliflower is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the couscous and parsley. Bring back to a simmer. Cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts and the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
Put the lamb on skewers. Sprinkle the kabobs with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Grill or broil the kabobs, turning and basting with the marinade, until the lamb is cooked to your taste, 6 to 8 minutes for medium rare. Serve the skewers on the couscous.
“Torta de arrosu” Saffron rice cake
- 200 gr / 7 oz rice
- 150 gr/ 5 oz sugar
- 750 ml / 1 ½ pints of milk
- 1/2 oz butter
- 5 eggs, lightly beaten
- 100 gr/ 3 1/2 oz skinned almonds
- Grated rind of a lemon
- A pinch of saffron
- A pinch of salt
- Powdered sugar for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degree F (180 C). Grease a 9 inch (24 cm) cake pan.
Put the milk, butter, saffron, sugar, salt and lemon rind in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until all the milk has been absorbed. Let cool and then add the eggs and the almonds.
Spoon mixture into the prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for one hour. Cool on a wire rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.
Mainland Sicilia is the largest island in the Mediterranean and Italy’s southernmost region. Famous for its blue skies and mild winter climate, Sicilia is also home to Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. This fertile land was settled by the Siculi, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Spaniards and Bourbons among others and the remnants of these cultures cover the entire island, from the temples of Agrigento to the priceless mosaics of Piazza Armerina and the ancient capital of Siracusa. Smaller islands, such as the Aeolian, Aegadian and Pelagian chains, as well as Pantelleria, just 90 miles off of the African coast, are also part of Sicilia, offering superb beaches.
Sicily has long been noted for its fertile soil due to the volcanic eruptions. The local agriculture is also helped by the island’s pleasant climate. The main agricultural products are wheat, citron, oranges, lemons, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, artichokes, almonds, grapes, pistachios and wine. Cattle and sheep are raised. Cheese production includes the Ragusano DOP and the Pecorino Siciliano DOP. The area of Ragusa is known for its honey and chocolate productions.
Sicily is the third largest wine producer in Italy after Veneto and Emilia-Romagna. The region is known mainly for fortified Marsala wines. In recent decades the wine industry has improved. New winemakers are experimenting with less-known native varietals and Sicilian wines have become better known. The best known local varietal is Nero d’Avola, named for a small town not far from Syracuse. The best wines made with these grapes come from Noto, a famous old city close to Avola. Other important native varietals are Nerello Mascalese used to make the Etna Rosso DOC wine, the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG wine, the Moscato di Pantelleria used to make Pantelleria wines, Malvasia di Lipari used for the Malvasia di Lipari DOC wine and Catarratto mostly used to make the white wine Alcamo DOC. In Sicily, high quality wines are also produced using non-native varietals like Syrah, Chardonnay and Merlot.
Sicily is also known for its liqueurs, such as the Amaro Averna produced in Caltanissetta and the local limoncello.
Improvements in Sicily’s road system have helped to promote industrial development. The region has three important industrial districts:
- Catania Industrial District, where there are several food industries and one of the best European electronic’s center called Etna Valley.
- Syracuse Petrochemical District with chemical industries, oil refineries and important power stations, such as the innovative Archimede solar power plant.
- Enna Industrial District in which there are food industries.
In Palermo there are shipyards, mechanical factories, publishing and textile industries. Chemical industries are also in the Province of Messina and in the Province of Caltanissetta. There are petroleum, natural gas and asphalt fields in the Southeast (mostly near Ragusa) and massive deposits of halite in Central Sicily. The Province of Trapani is one of the largest sea salt producers. Fishing is a fundamental resource for Sicily with tuna, sardine, swordfish and anchovy fisheries located there.
Although Sicily’s cuisine has a lot in common with Italian cuisine, Sicilian food also has Greek, Spanish, French and Arab influences. The use of apricots, sugar, citrus, melon, rice, saffron, raisins, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, pine nuts, cinnamon and fried preparations are a sign of Arab influences from the Arab domination of Sicily in the 10th and 11th centuries.
Norman and Hohenstaufen influences are found in meat preparations. The Spanish introduced numerous items from the New World, including cocoa, maize, peppers, turkey and tomatoes. In Catania, initially settled by Greek colonists, fish, olives, broad beans, pistachio and fresh vegetables are preferred. Much of the island’s cuisine encourages the use of fresh vegetables, such as eggplant, peppers and tomatoes along with fish, such as tuna, sea bream, sea bass, cuttlefish and swordfish. In Trapani, in the extreme western corner of the island, North African influences are clear in the use of couscous.
Caponata is a salad made with eggplant (aubergines), olives, capers and celery that makes a great appetizer or a side to grilled meats. There is also an artichoke-based version of this traditional dish, though you’re less likely to find it in most restaurants.
Sfincione is a local form of pizza made with tomatoes, onions and anchovies. Prepared on thick bread and more likely found in a bakery than in a pizzeria, sfincione is good as a snack or appetizer. Panella is a thin paste made of crushed or powdered ceci (garbanzo) beans and then fried .
Maccu is a creamy soup made from the same ceci bean. Crocché (croquet) are fried potato dumplings made with cheese, parsley and eggs. Arancine are fried rice balls stuffed with meat or cheese.
Grilled swordfish is popular. Smaller fish, especially snapper, are sometimes prepared in a vinegar and sugar sauce. Seppia (cuttlefish) is served in its own black sauce with pasta. Another Sicilian seafood dish made with pasta is finnochio con sarde (fennel with sardines). Many meat dishes are traditionally made with lamb or goat. Chicken “alla marsala” is popular.
Sicilian desserts are world-famous. Cannoli are tubular crusts with creamy ricotta and sugar filling and may taste a little different from the ones you’ve had outside Italy because the ricotta is made from sheep’s milk. Cassata is a rich, sugary cake filled with the same cannoli filling. Frutta di Martorana (or pasta reale) are almond marzipan pastries colored and shaped to resemble real fruit.
Sicilian gelato (ice cream) flavors range from pistachio and hazelnut (nocciola) to jasmine (gelsomino) to mulberry (gelsi) to strawberry (fragala) and rum (zuppa inglese). Granita is sweetened crushed ice made in summer and flavored with lemons or oranges.
Spicy Clams with Tomatoes
The clams used in Sicily for this dish are tiny vongole veraci.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 medium plum tomatoes,peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 pounds small clams or cockles, rinsed
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes and cook over moderately high heat until they begin to break down, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil and let reduce by half.
Add the clams and cook over high heat, stirring, until they open, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with toasted Italian bread rubbed with garlic.
Pasta alla Siciliana
- 1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup dry red wine
- 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 12 ounces dried pasta, cooked and drained
- 3/4 cup shredded smoked mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)
In a large skillet, cook eggplant, onion and garlic in hot oil over medium heat about 10 minutes or until the eggplant and onion are tender, stirring occasionally.
Stir in tomatoes, wine, oregano, salt, rosemary and crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve eggplant mixture over hot cooked pasta. Sprinkle with cheese.
Steak Palermo Style (“Carne alla Palermitana”)
This is a traditional Palermo dish, consisting of breaded, thinly sliced beef, which is first marinated and then quickly broiled, grilled or cooked in a very hot uncovered heavy pan.
In Sicily, calves live in the open field, building meat and strength, at times they are used to work the fields and are butchered when they are well over a year old, resulting in a tough and muscular meat, mostly eaten boiled or chopped; hence the reason that Sicilian meat cuisine usually consists of meatloaf, meatballs and stews. The preparation of this dish makes the meat tender.
A very important part of this preparation is to soak the meat for a few hours in a marinade not only to compliment the taste of the meat with the flavor of the marinade but most importantly to tenderize the meat by breaking down its fibers.
Serves 6 – 8
- 6 boneless sirloin steaks (about 3 lb.)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup wine, white or red
- 3 whole garlic cloves, smashed
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 lemon, sliced thin
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- Pinch of oregano
- Other preferred herbs (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- Sprigs of fresh parsley and lemon quarters for garnish
- Wide container with 1 lb. of fine Italian breadcrumbs
In a plastic or stainless steel bowl that will fit in your refrigerator, whisk the olive oil and wine; add the crushed garlic cloves, bay leaves, lemon, chopped parsley, oregano, any other herb(s) and a little salt and pepper.
Trim off any fat and place each piece of meat between two sheets of plastic wrap and flatten the meat to an even thickness with a mallet . Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place steaks in the marinade and turn to coat. Make sure that the marinade covers the meat; if needed add some more wine.
Seal the container or cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least two hours and up to 12 hours or more, turning steaks occasionally to absorb the flavors.
Prepare and heat a grill or a heavy frying pan. Drain steaks and place one at a time in the container with the breadcrumbs. Press the breadcrumbs into the steaks, pushing heavily with your hands.
Set the breaded steaks onto a pan or dish until they have all been breaded. Place them on to the grill or in the dry heated pan. Cook for 7 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other side for rare or to the degree of desired doneness. Turn steaks only once.
Place in a serving dish and garnish with parsley sprigs and lemon quarters.
Orange Salad (Insalata d’Arance)
This Sicilian salad is usually served as a side dish or as a separate course leading into dessert.
- 4 large navel oranges
- 1 large fresh fennel bulb
- 1 small lemon
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 tablespoon sweet Marsala wine
- 1 head of lettuce
- Fresh peppermint leaves
Separate the mint leaves from their stalks. Clean the fennel well and remove the core, stalks and leaves. Peel the oranges and lemon.
Cut the fennel, oranges and lemon into thin slices. Toss together with almonds and mint leaves in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar, olive oil and Marsala wine and toss again.
Chill for a few hours. Toss again before serving on a bed of lettuce leaves.
Authentic Sicilian Cannoli
The cannoli should be filled right before serving. If they are filled several hours before serving, they tend to become soft and lose the crunchiness which is the main feature of this dessert’s attraction.
Makes 10 cannoli
For the Shells
- 7 oz all-purpose flour
- 1 oz cocoa powder
- 1 oz sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 oz butter, melted
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon Marsala wine
- Lard or olive oil for frying
For the Filling
- 2 lb ricotta cheese, (preferably from sheep)
- 1 lb sugar (2 cups)
- Milk to taste
- Vanilla to taste
- Cinnamon to taste
- 3 ½ oz mixed candied fruit (citron), diced
- 3 ½ oz dark chocolate, chopped
For the Garnish
- Pistachio nuts, finely ground
- Confectioners sugar
To make the shells
Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, melted butter and eggs in a bowl. Then add the Marsala.. Continue mixing until the dough is smooth, then wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for half an hour.
Roll out the cannoli dough and cut it into squares, about 4 inches per side. Then wrap the squares around the metal tubes to shape the cannoli.
Fry the dough, still wrapped around the tubes, in a large pot of boiling lard or olive oil. Let the cannoli cool on paper towels. Once cool, slide out the metal tubes.
To make the ricotta filling:
With a fork mix the ricotta and sugar, adding a little milk and a dash of vanilla extract and cinnamon. Pass the mixture through a sieve and blend in diced candied fruit and bits of dark chocolate.
Fill the crispy shells with the ricotta filling and sprinkle the crushed pistachio nuts over the ends. Sprinkle the outside with powdered sugar.
Calabria is a region in southern Italy, forming the “toe” of the Italian Peninsula. Calabria is one of the oldest regions of Italy with the first evidence of human presence dating as far back as 700,000 BC. It was the Greeks who occupied the shores of Calabria and Eastern Sicily forming Magna Grecia or Great Greece. The area was home to the poet Theocritus and mathematician and inventor Archimedes, and it remained part of the Greek Empire until the Romans annexed it in the 3rd century B.C.
The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro. The most populated city and the seat of the Calabrian Regional Council, however, is Reggio. It is bordered to the north by the region of Basilicata, to the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea and to the east by the Ionian Sea. The region covers 5,822 sq mi and has a population of just under 2 million. The area is seismically and volcanically active.
The Pollino Mountains in the north of the region are rugged and form a natural barrier separating Calabria from the rest of Italy. Parts of the area are heavily wooded, while others are vast plateaus with little vegetation. These mountains are home to a rare Bosnian Pine and are included in the Pollino National Park. The area boasts numerous lakes and dense coniferous forests.
In general, most of the lower terrain in Calabria has been agricultural for centuries and exhibits natural scrub land as well as introduced plants such as the prickly pear cactus. The lowest slopes are rich in vineyards, citrus fruit orchards and olive and chestnut trees. The region boasts the second highest number of organic farmers only after Sicily. The region is the second-highest for olive oil production The Bergamot orange is intensively cultivated, since the 18th century, exclusively the in coastal area of Reggio, where it found its optimal geological and weather conditions.
Along the coastlines, the climate is Mediterranean with average low temperatures of 8 °C (46 °F) in the winter months and average high temperatures of 30 °C (86 °F) in the summer months. Along the Apennines and in the inland areas, the climate is mountainous (continental) with cold, snowy winters and warm, dry summers with occasional thunderstorms.
Calabria is one of the least developed regions in Italy. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Calabria is represented by service industries (28.94%), financial activities and real estate (21.09%), trade, tourism, transportation and communication (19.39%), taxation (11.49%), manufacturing (8.77%), construction (6.19%) and agriculture (4.13%).
The 485 miles of its coast make Calabria a popular tourist destination during the summer. The low industrial development and the lack of large cities in much of its territory have allowed maintaining low levels of marine pollution. In fact, the region is considered by many a natural paradise, which attracts a number of tourists from all over Italy. The most popular seaside destinations are: Tropea, Capo Vaticano, Pizzo, Scilla, Diamante, Amantea and Soverato.
The interior of Calabria is rich in history, traditions, art and culture that attract a number of tourists. Fortresses, castles, churches, historic centers and cemeteries are common elements in the interior of Calabria.
Some mountain locations attract tourists even in winter. Sila and Aspromonte are two national parks that offer facilities for winter sports, especially in the towns of Camigliatello, Lorica and Gambarie.
The cuisine is a typical southern Italian Mediterranean cuisine with a balance between meat-based dishes (pork, lamb, goat), vegetables (especially eggplant) and fish.
Pasta is also very important in Calabria. Pasta dishes that include peppers, onions and sausage sauteed with or without sauce are very common. Frittatas made with pasta and sausage mixed into the eggs are also prevalent.
Calabrians have traditionally placed an emphasis on the preservation of their food, in part because of the climate and potential crop failures. As a result, there is a tradition of packing vegetables and meats in olive oil, making sausages and cold cuts (Sopressata, ‘Nduja), and, along the coast, curing fish- especially swordfish, sardines (sardelle rosamarina) and cod (Baccalà). Tomatoes are sun-dried, octopi are pickled, anchovies salted and peppers and aubergines packed into jars of oil and vinegar.
The chilli pepper is popular here and is crushed in oil and placed on the table with every meal to sprinkle over your food. The chilli was once considered to be a cure for malaria which probably accounts for its extensive use in this region.
Local desserts are typically fried, honey-sweetened pastries (Cudduraci, scalille or scalidde) or baked biscotti-type treats (such as ‘nzudda) served during holidays. Ice cream or fresh fruit is mainly served for dessert and melons,particularly watermelons, are abundant in Calabria
Some local specialties include Caciocavallo Cheese, Cipolla rossa di Tropea (red onion), Frìttuli and Curcùci (fried pork), Liquorice (liquirizia), Lagane e Cicciari (a pasta dish with chickpeas), Pecorino Crotonese (Cheese of Sheep), and Pignolata.
Some vineyards have origins dating back to the ancient Greek colonists. The best known DOC wines are Cirò (Province of Crotone) and Donnici (Province of Cosenza). 3% of the total annual production qualifies as DOC. Important grape varieties are the red Gaglioppo and white Greco. Many producers are resurrecting local, ancient grape varieties which have been around for as long as 3000 years.
Sun Dried Tomatoes
This particular recipe is Calabrian; before you begin check the weather forecast because you’ll need several days of hot dry weather with intense sunlight.
- 2 pounds (1 k) ripe plum tomatoes, as many as you want
- Freshly shredded mild or hot pepper to taste
- Olive Oil
Wash the tomatoes and pat them dry.
Slice the tomatoes lengthwise, set them on a rack, dust them with salt, put them out where the sun will shine on them all day (if where you live has a lively insect population cover them with fine netting).
Leave them in the sun until dusk and then bring them inside.
Continue putting them out in the morning until they are dry. Depending upon the humidity where you live this could take 2 or more days.
When they have dried, rinse them with water and vinegar. Mince the herbs in the proportion that suits your taste, and then layer the dried tomatoes in a jar, sprinkling the herbs and some salt over each layer. Press down well, then fill the jar with olive oil, shaking repeatedly and tapping the sides of the jar to make sure no air pockets remain. Seal, and let the tomatoes sit in a cool dark place for a few months, at which point they’ll make a fine antipasto, over slices of crusty bread or sliced and served as a garnish for main dishes and vegetables.
Linguine with Sun Dried Tomatoes
At times, Calabrians add seafood to this dish.
- 1 pound (450 g) spaghetti or linguine
- 1/4 pound (100 g) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup basil leaves, cut thin
- 1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
- 1 hot pepper
- A bunch of parsley,finely chopped
- 3-4 tablespoons of oil the tomatoes were packed in
Chop the tomatoes and heat them for 3-5 minutes in a skillet with the oil, the garlic, the basil, the hot pepper and a pinch of salt. Don’t overcook or the tomatoes will dry and toughen. Turn off the heat and keep warm.
Cook the pasta in abundant salted water. Drain it’s al dente, transfer it to a bowl, pour the tomato mixture over it. Mix well. Garnish with the minced parsley and oregano.
Calabrian Marinated Tuna
- 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) fresh tuna, cut into 3/4-inch thick slices
- 8 ounces (200 g) pitted black olives
- One lemon
- Garlic (2 cloves)
- Fresh hot pepper (chili flakes)
- Extra virgin olive oil
Pat the fish dry and grill it, basting it lightly with olive oil; turning it once. Figure a total cooking time of 5-7 minutes.
In the mean time blend the remaining ingredients with more oil to make a sauce. Marinate the fish in the sauce for at least an hour before serving it.
Spicy Calabrian Grilled Pork Chops
- 6 pork chops with bone
- Crushed or powdered hot pepper to taste (Calabrians like things hot)
- Fennel seeds
Lightly pound the chops to flatten them out, sprinkle them with salt and then rub fennel seeds and hot pepper into them.
Grill them over medium hot coals or medium high on a gas grill, turning once, until the internal temperature is 145 degrees F, about 15 minutes.
Transfer chops to a platter. Loosely tent with foil to keep warm; let stand 5 minutes before serving.
The region of Basilicata in Italy forms the instep of the Italian “boot.” This small region is mountainous arid has two coastlines, one in the center of the Gulf of Taranto in the Ionian Sea and the other on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Potenza is the regional capital.
The population is rather small at about 611,000 people. Although Basilicata has never had a large population, there have been considerable fluctuations in the demographic pattern of the region. In 1881, there were 539,258 inhabitants but by 1911 the population had decreased by 11% to 485,911, mainly as a result of emigration overseas.
Basilicata has been victim to many devastating earthquakes over the centuries making it hard for the region to develop into an industrialized area. The effects of such earthquakes can be seen in the local landscape and are fascinating from a geological standpoint.
What little industry there is centers around chemicals and natural gas. About 55% of the population is employed in the service related fields (though many of these positions could also be considered agricultural), about 32% are employed in industry and about 13% of the work force is in agriculture. Industrial development is low, though there are some flourishing craft sectors, such as ceramic, woodwork and textile industries in the region.
Agriculture plays a major role in the region’s economy despite the fact that dry weather and limited underground water supplies make farming difficult. Olives, plums and cereals are grown and sheep and goats are raised. There is also some fishing.
The charm of Basilicata lies in the numerous small ancient villages decorating the region. There is little in the way of highways and railways because of the mountainous nature of the region. Visitors will be attracted to the ancient architecture and historical art of the region’s numerous small churches and medieval castles. The coastline is covered in some of Italy’s finest archaeological ruins. The outdoor markets of Basilicata offer an array of unique handmade items that one would not normally find in other regions.
The cuisine of Basilicata is based on simple, local products used efficiently to minimize waste.
Minimal amounts of meat are used in Basilicata recipes, however, pig farming plays a major role in the food culture. Pork from this region is noticeably leaner than in other parts of Italy, due in large part to the mountainous terrain. Many of the pigs graze in the hills alongside goats and sheep, so they tend to have less fat, more lean muscle mass and a different flavor than one would expect from most pork products. Sausage making is a primary use of pork in the region and the sausage often includes spicy peperoncini. Local favorites include lucanica (a spicy sausage), pezzente (“beggar’s” salami) and pancetta.
Other pork dishes include a popular stew called peperonata con carne di porco, which cooks several cuts of pork in a tomato and pepper sauce. Pork rind is filled with a mixture of salt pork, peppers and garlic and simmered in tomato sauce until tender. Poultry is also used in Basilicata cooking. A specialty of the region is pollo alla potentina, a chicken, onion and pepper dish gently cooked in a basil flavored wine and tomato sauce.
Basilicata produce include regional specialties, the Sarconi bean and Senise peppers. The peppers are usually fried with potatoes and eggplant and then stewed with tomatoes to make ciammotta. Another commonly eaten vegetable dish combines artichokes and potatoes and braises them with salt pork, fava beans and onions. Chickpeas, fava beans, lentils, durum wheat, artichokes, broccoli, rapini, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, carrots, olives and wine grapes are all staple crops and provide the hearty basis for countless dishes made in the Basilicata tradition. Acquasale is a tomato soup that is seasoned with onions, garlic and oil and thickened with bread. Minestra maritata has a blend of meat and vegetables simmered with pasta that sometimes contains breadcrumb dumplings. Other times, the soup may contain filling beans.
Anchovies and salt cod are usually preserved for later use, while tuna and sardines are often eaten fresh. Zuppa di pesce alla Santavenere contains a selection of local seafood in a savory soup.
Local wheat is used to make pasta and rustic bread. The bread is often incorporated into soups when stale. Basilicata is home to countless types of durum wheat pastas, some incorporating lentil flour or other bean flours. Orecchiette (“little ears”), lagane (lasagna), minuich (hand rolled tubes), firricieddi (twists), manate (tagliatelle), minuiddi (shaped like small quills), tapparelle (like orechiette but larger), rascatielli (corkscrew shaped) and lacane chiappute (a wide tagliatelle) are just a few of the pasta cuts popular in Basilicata. Most are served with a simply prepared tomato sauce that contains chili peppers, olive oil and garlic.
Equally as diverse are the different types of breads made in the region, rounding out the rustic country fare that seems to pair so well with dishes made from fresh vegetables and the cheeses of the area.
Lamb dishes are popular and sheep and goat’s milk are used to make cheese, such as canestrato. Lamb and potatoes are placed in a terracotta casserole dish with onions, peppers and bay leaves to make spezzatino di agnello.
Local cheeses also include, cacioricotta Lucano (a sheep and goat milk cheese that is particularly good grated over orecchiette pasta), Lucania mozzarella, Casieddu di Moliterno (a sheep’s milk cheese wrapped in leaves) and pecorino Lucano.
A popular treat in Basilicata is mostacciolo, an almond cookie flavored with cooked wine and sweetened with honey. Cuccia is another local favorite. It is an orange zest and honey flavored walnut pudding made with grano cheese.
It is on the upper slopes of Basilicata’s mountainous region that the finest wines are made. Basilicata boasts 4 DOC identified wines, of which Aglianico del Vulture is the most prolific. The grapes were first introduced to Basilicata by the Greeks in the 6th – 7th century. These wines have gained a significant following in the international market.
Traditional Recipes From Basilicata
Broccoli Rabe Soup Over Bread
- 1/2 pound broccoli rabe or other greens
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ¾ ounces pancetta
- 1 large onion
- 2/3 cup Pecorino cheese grated
- Salt to taste
- Bread slices
Dice the pancetta and thinly slice the onion.
Wash broccoli rabe very well, chop coarsely and boil in salted water until tender.
Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat, add pancetta and onion and sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onion is tender.
Stir in cooked broccoli rabe and saute for 2 minutes
Pour in hot broth. Cook for an additional 5 minutes and season with salt and pepper
Toast slices of bread in a preheated 400°F oven for 5 – 10 minutes.
Place a slice or two of bread in individual soup bowls and ladle hot soup over the bread. Serve with grated Pecorino cheese.
Pasta with Red Pepper Sauce
- 1 pound thick spaghetti (bucatini) or fettuccine
- 2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 of a large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 hot red pepper
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 5 basil leaves, chopped
- 1/2 cup shaved Pecorino cheese
Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and add the onion, chili pepper and garlic.
Once the onion and the garlic have browned, add the bell peppers, salt and black pepper and cook until the peppers are very soft.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water for the time indicated on the package for al dente. Save some of the pasta water for the sauce.
Drain the pasta and mix it with the peppers and onions and some of the pasta water to make a sauce. Mix well.
Garnish the dish with Pecorino cheese, basil and a drizzle of olive oil.
Basilicata Style Chicken
- 3 pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 2/3 pound ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 small bunch parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion
- 1 ½ tablespoons dry white wine
- Chili pepper flakes to taste
- Garnish with basil leaves or rosemary
- Salt to taste
Heat the olive oil and butter together in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add pieces of chicken and thinly sliced onion and cook until golden.
Deglaze the pan with the white wine and add the hot pepper. Add tomatoes, parsley, basil or rosemary and salt.
Cover and cook over medium heat for 1 hour until the chicken, adding spoonfuls of water if the sauce becomes too thick.
Remove from the heat and garnish with basil or rosemary leaves. This dish is often served with wedges of roasted potatoes.
Chocolate-Almond Cookies (Strazzate)
Makes about 34 Cookies
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, for greasing the pans
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 ¾ cups finely ground, plus 2 tablespoons roughly chopped, almonds
- 1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup Strega or Galliano liqueur
- 1/3 cup coffee, at room temperature
Heat oven to 325°F. Grease 2 parchment-lined baking sheets with butter and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the baking powder and 1 tablespoon lukewarm water until dissolved, 20 seconds.
Combine ground and chopped almonds, flour, sugar, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, oil and salt in a large bowl. With a wooden spoon, vigorously stir in the baking powder mixture, liqueur and coffee to form a wet dough.
Divide the dough into 1-oz. portions. Using your hands, roll the dough into balls and transfer to prepared baking sheets spaced about 1-inch apart.
Bake until set, about 25 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool to firm before serving.
Puglia is a little more rustic than other parts of Italy. Its major cities are a lot smaller and less well-known by tourists than Florence or Rome. For the Italians, Puglia is where they go for sunny beaches, good seafood fished from nearby waters, vegetables grown in local pastures and to sample the region’s local wines: negroamaro, primitivo di Manduria and Salice Salentino.
Puglia is a region in southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. It is bordered by the Italian regions of Molise to the north, Campania to the west and Basilicata to the southwest. Puglia’s neighbors are Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece and Montenegro. Its capital city is Bari.
The southernmost portion of Puglia forms a high heel on the “boot” of Italy and its population is about 4.1 million. Foggia is by far the least densely populated province, whereas Bari is the most densely populated province. Emigration from the region’s depressed areas to northern Italy and the rest of Europe was very intense in the years between 1956 and 1971. Later the trend declined as economic conditions improved after 1982.
As with the other regions of Italy, the national language (since 1861) is Italian. However, as a consequence of its long and varied history, other historical languages have been spoken in this region for centuries. In the northern and central sections, some dialects of the Neapolitan language are spoken. In the southern part of the region, the Tarantino and Salentino dialects of Sicily are spoken. In isolated pockets of the southern part of Salento, a dialect of modern Greek, called Griko, is spoken by just a few thousand people. A rare dialect of the Franco-Provençal language called Faetar is spoken in two isolated towns, Faeto and Celle Di San Vito. In a couple of villages, the Arbëreshë dialect of the Albanian language has been spoken by a very small community since a wave of refugees settled there in the 15th century.
In the last 20 years the industrial base of the region’s economy has changed radically. Alongside large-scale plants, such as ILVA (steel-making) in Taranto and Eni (petrochemicals) in Brindisi and Manfredonia, a network of small and medium-sized firms has gradually expanded and they provide approximately 70% of the jobs in the region. The majority of such firms are financed by local capital. As a result, highly specialized areas have developed in food processing, vehicle production, footwear, textiles, clothing, wood and furniture, rubber and computer software. A major contribution to the competitiveness of the region’s economy stems from the existence of important research and development centers such as Tecnopolis-CSATA near Bari, the Cittadella della ricerca (Center for research and new materials) near Brindisi and the new software development centers, also near Bari.
The region has a good network of roads but the railway network is somewhat inadequate, particularly in the south. Puglia’s long coastline, more than 500 miles of coast on two seas, is dotted with ports, which make this region an important terminal for transport and tourism to Greece and the eastern Mediterranean.
No other image says Puglia better than the trulli, a rural home that’s essentially a whitewashed teepee of small limestone slabs stacked without mortar, with a cone surmounted by ancient symbols. They are scattered among olive groves and prickly pear cacti in the Valle d’Itria, inland in a triangle between Bari, Taranto and Brindisi. Of unknown origin and unique to Puglia, the trulli date at least back to the Middle Ages.
Puglian cuisine is balanced by equal use the land and the sea. A typical local antipasti will often contain a number of seafood dishes, such as mussels, oysters, octopus, red mullet and swordfish. Popular vegetables are fava beans, artichokes, chicory and various greens including rucola (“rocket”). Eggplant, peppers, lampasciuoli (a bitter type of onion), cauliflower, olives and olive oil are all Puglian staples.
The region produces half of all Italian olive oils and olive oil is used almost exclusively in local cooking. The most famous pasta is orecchiette, but bucatini is also popular and both are usually served with tomato sauce or with olive oil, garlic and cauliflower. Regional cheeses include Canestrato Puglisi, Caciocavallo Silano (both PDO), Ricotta and Mozzarella. The meat of choice is either lamb or kid that may be roasted, baked or grilled on skewers. Pork is popular for local salami with rabbit and beef also being available. Breads and sweets include focaccia and pizza to fritters filled with sweetened ricotta, sweet ravioli, honey covered dates and Zeppole di San Giuseppe, served on the saint’s day in March.
Puglia is now producing wines of quality over quantity, yet they are reasonably priced. Castel del Monte (DOC) is well-known as a full-bodied red wine, Primitivo di Manduria is now more refined and. Salice Salentino (DOC) is used to make sweeter reds and dessert wines. White wines are undergoing modernization and international grape varieties are being introduced, however there are some traditional varietals. Locorotondo (DOC) is straw yellow and fruity. Martina Franca (DOC) is a dry white. Besides the dessert wines and Grappa, Puglia also is home to a number of herbal and citrus infused spirits making use of local walnuts, flowers, rhubarb, myrtle, anise, lemons and oranges.
Like most bean soups in the Puglia region, this one may be served over slices of stale country-style bread, lightly toasted and brushed with a little garlic.
- 8 oz (1 cup) dried chickpeas
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half
- 3 or 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded, or 2 cups drained canned tomatoes
- 1 stalk celery, including the top green leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small dried hot red chili pepper
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Finely minced flat-leaf parsley
Put the chick-peas in a bowl, cover with cool water and set aside to soak for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Then drain and place in a soup pot with fresh cold water to cover to a depth of one inch.
Put the pot on medium-low heat and when the water boils, lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer until the chickpeas are partially cooked-about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the age of the beans. Add simmering water from time to time to keep the beans covered, if needed.
Add the garlic, onion halves, tomatoes and celery to the pot, along with the bay leaf, chili pepper, salt and pepper.
Continue cooking, adding boiling water as necessary, until the chickpeas are tender. Remove the bay leaf and chili pepper.
Serve garnished with olive oil and parsley.
Orecchiette with Turnip Tops
- 1.8 lbs (800 g) young and tender leaves from turnips
- 6 fillets of anchovy in oil
- 1 fresh chili pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 14 oz (400 g) of orecchiette pasta
Once you’ve collected the most tender leaves, wash them several times in cold water and boil them in plenty salted water in a large pot for at least 7-8 minutes.
Drain the turnip tops into a large bowl saving all the cooking water, since you’ll need it to boil the pasta.
Return the salted cooking water to the pot, bring to a boil and add the orecchiette.
In a saucepan heat the oil, the garlic, the anchovies and the chopped chili pepper. Once the garlic is golden brown, add the turnip tops and sauté them for a few minutes to coat in the oil.
When the orecchiette are cooked to the al dente stage, drain, return them to the pasta pot and add the turnip tops and sauce. Sauté everything together for a few moments, season with salt, if needed, and serve.
Pizza di Patate Pugliese (Tomato-and-Cheese-Topped Potato Pizza)
A classic Puglian pizza recipe adapted from RUSTICO COOKING.
Serves 2 as a main course or 6 as an appetizer
- 1/2 pound boiling potatoes, peeled
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
- 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Place the potatoes in a saucepan. Add water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Cook until tender about 30 minutes over medium heat.
Drain, pass through a ricer and cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 450°F.
Mix the potatoes, flour and ¼ teaspoon salt together on a floured board until a smooth dough forms.
Add a little water, if needed, to help the dough come together or add a little flour, if the dough is sticky,. The dough should be soft but not sticky.
Flatten into a disk and roll out into a 12-inch circle.
Generously grease a 12-inch pizza pan with olive oil and line it with the dough.
Drizzle the top of the dough with olive oil; top with the tomatoes, cut side down. Season with oregano, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper.
Place the pizza pan on the baking stone in the preheated oven and bake 15 minutes or until golden around the edges.
Remove the pan from the oven, top with the Mozzarella and Parmigiano cheeses and return to the oven for 10 more minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Serve hot.
Stuffed Eggplant Puglian Style
- 4 Italian eggplants (about 1 pound), preferably short and plumb
- Coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon (20) small capers, rinsed and drained
- 8 anchovy fillets, rinsed, drained and roughly chopped
- 1/4 packed cup (1 ounce) finely grated Pecorino cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 small cloves garlic, peeled and slivered
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled just before using
- 2 teaspoons dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Halve the eggplants lengthwise and make two or three deep slits in the eggplant flesh but do not pierce the skin on the bottom. Sprinkle with salt and place cut side down in a colander. Put a heavy plate on top and let stand at least 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.
In a mixing bowl, combine the capers, anchovies, cheese and pepper and crush to make a paste. You should have about 3 tablespoons. Divide mixture into 8 equal parts and fill the slits in the eggplant halves with garlic slivers and a portion of the paste. Reshape the eggplant.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat olive oil to hot but not smoking. Add the eggplant, cut side down, and reduce the heat to moderate. Cover and cook until the eggplant flesh turns golden brown, about 10 minutes. Turn each eggplant and cook, uncovered, until tender, about 5 minutes. Place eggplant, flesh side up, on a serving plate; sprinkle with the crumbled oregano, white wine and vinegar and let stand at least 20 minutes before serving.
Molise is a region of Southern Italy. Until 1963, it formed part of the region of Abruzzi. The split, which did not become effective until 1970, makes Molise the newest region in Italy. The region covers 4,438 square kilometres/1,714 sq mi making it the second smallest region in Italy with a population of about 300,000. The region is split into two provinces, named after their respective capitals, Isernia and Campobasso. Campobasso also serves as the regional capital.
Molise is also one of Italy’s less developed and poorest areas. In Molise, one can see two different centuries existing side by side when, on one side of the street grandmothers all in black are purchasing produce in the market and on the other side of the street there are young girls dressed in Benetton carrying mobile phones. Outside the cities are underdeveloped villages that seem to have been forgotten in time, while in the big cities progress is pushing ahead. However, one does not travel to Molise to explore the big cities but to enjoy the region’s natural beauty, the unspoiled beaches and the archaeological excavations.
More than 40% of Molise is covered by mountains. In the Matese area, located on the border of Campania, you will find magnificent mountain ranges. The region is also home to eagles, bears and wolves in the deep forests and it is one of the best locations to harvest mushrooms.
Though there is a large Fiat plant in Termoli, the industrial sector is dominated by the construction industry. With small and medium-sized farms spread widely throughout the region, food processing is another important industry. Pasta, meat, milk products, oil and wine are the traditional regional products. In the service sector the most important industries are distribution, hotels, catering, transport, communications, banking and insurance.
After the earthquake of 2002, some of the communities in Molise adopted a policy which contributed state money to individuals willing to make their homes more resistant to seismic activity. Larino, near Termoli, was a particular beneficiary of this policy and the town, already one of the most beautiful in the province, was transformed. The policy included returning the houses to their historical colors and, based on careful research, the structures were painted in a range of soft pastel tones. As a result, Larino has become an important center for tourism and scores of expatriates from all over the world are returning to live in the revived center. Larino is also famous for the Festa di San Pardo (Larino’s patron saint) and you will witness more than one hundred cattle drawn carts completely covered in flowers made by local families during the three days of festivities.
International tourism is becoming more prevalent as a result of the international flights from other European countries, Great Britain and North America which enter Pescara, not far to the north in Abruzzo. The tourists are attracted by large expanses of natural beaches, a relative lack of congestion and a gentle pace of life.
The cuisine of Molise is similar to the cuisine of Abruzzo, though there are a few differences in the dishes and ingredients. The flavors of Molise are dominated by the many herbs that grow there. Some of Molise’s typical foods include spicy salami, locally produced cheeses, lamb or goat, pasta dishes with hearty sauces and regional vegetables. In addition to bruschetta, a typical antipasto will consist of several meat dishes, such as sausage, ham and smoked prosciutto.
Main dishes of the region include:
- Calcioni di ricotta, a specialty of Campobasso, made of fried pasta stuffed with ricotta, provolone, prosciutto and parsley and usually served with fried artichokes, cauliflower, brains, sweetbreads, potato croquette and scamorza cheese
- Cavatiegl e Patane, gnocchi served in a meat sauce of rabbit and pork
- Pasta e fagioli, pasta-and-white-bean soup cooked with pig’s feet and pork rinds
- Polenta d’iragn, a polenta-like dish made of wheat and potatoes, sauced with tomatoes and pecorino
- Risotto alla marinara, a risotto with seafood
- Spaghetti with diavolillo, a chili pepper sauce
- Zuppa di cardi, a soup of cardoons, tomatoes, onions, pancetta and olive oil
- Zuppa di ortiche, a soup of nettle stems, tomatoes, onions, pancetta and olive oil
Typical vegetable dishes may include:
- Carciofi ripieni, artichokes stuffed with anchovies and capers
- Peeled sweet peppers stuffed with bread crumbs, anchovies, parsley, basil and peperoncino, sautéed in a frying pan and cooked with chopped tomatoes
- Cipollacci con pecorino, fried onions and pecorino cheese
- Frittata con basilico e cipolle, omelette with basil and onions
Fish dishes include red mullet soup and spaghetti with cuttlefish. Trout from the Biferno river is notable for its flavor and is cooked with a simple sauce of aromatic herbs and olive oil. Zuppa di pesce, a fish stew,is a specialty of Termoli.
The cheeses produced in Molise are not very different from those produced in Abruzzo. The more common ones are Burrino and Manteca – soft, buttery cow’s-milk cheeses, Pecorino – sheep’s-milk cheese, served young and soft or aged and hard, Scamorza – a bland cow’s-milk cheese, often served grilled and Caciocavallo – a sheep’s-milk cheese.
Sweets and desserts have an ancient tradition here and are linked to the history of the territory and to religious and family festivities. Most common are:
- Calciumi (also called Caucioni or cauciuni), sweet ravioli filled with chestnuts, almonds, chocolate, vanilla, cooked wine musts and cinnamon and then fried
- Ciambelline, ring-shaped cakes made with olive oil and red wine
- Ferratelle all’anice, anise cakes made in metal molds and stamped with special patterns
- Ricotta pizza, a cake pan filled with a blend of ricotta cheese, sugar, flour, butter, maraschino liqueur and chocolate chips
Traditional Molise Recipes
Polpi in Purgatorio
Spicy Octopus, Molise Style
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 10 sprigs Italian parsley, minced
- 2 teaspoons peperoncini, or more to taste
- 1 to 1 1/2 pounds young octopus
Clean the octopus in salted water and rinse well.
Heat half the oil in a medium skillet with a cover over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, parsley and peperoncini and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions soften, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the octopus to the onion mixture with the remaining oil. Season lightly with salt.
Cover the pan with a lid and cook over very low heat for 2 hours, stirring the octopus from time to time with a wooden spoon. Serve as an appetizer.
Baked Fettuccine with Tomato and Mozzarella
Fettucine con salsa d’aromi
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 4 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
- 8 fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1-15 oz can Italian tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 peperoncino or 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes, more or less to taste
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (or other pecorino)
- 1/4 lb scamorza (you can substitute mozzarella)
- 1 lb fettuccine
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté garlic until golden.
Add basil, parsley, mint and peperoncino. Sauté a minute or two more.
Stir in the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat (a fast bubble) stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile bring pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta al dente. Do not overcook.
Preheat oven (while pasta cooks) to 425 degrees F.
Drain the pasta very well and mix with the sauce in the pan.
Transfer all to a greased ovenproof dish.
Sprinkle on the cheese and lay the slices of scamorza or mozzarella on top.
Bake for a few minutes until the cheese melts and bubbles. Serve hot.
Molise Style Stuffed Peppers
- 6 medium green bell peppers
- 5 cups day old bread, cut into small cubes
- 4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small can anchovies, chopped
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the filling
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Wash the peppers. Cut a hole around the stem. Remove the stem. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and ribs.
In a bowl, combine the bread, parsley, garlic and anchovies. Mix together. Sprinkle with olive oil and toss to coat; do not saturate the bread with oil. Fill the peppers evenly with the stuffing.
Put 1/2 cup of olive oil in a baking pan. Lay the peppers on their sides in the pan. Bake for 20 minutes, turning occasionally to cook evenly.
Sprinkle each pepper fresh Parmigiano Reggiano at the end of the cooking time and allow it to melt over the pepper.
Calzoni d’Isernia are named after the town of Isernia in Molise
Makes 12 Calzones
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
- 1/4-1/2 cup water
- 4 ounces pancetta
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup mozzarella, grated or diced into small cubes
- 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of pepper
Oil for frying
Marinara sauce for serving
In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the whole eggs and mix into the flour. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water slowly until all the flour is incorporated. Don’t add too much water or the dough will become sticky. Once the dough is formed, knead for about 5 minutes.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut the dough into squares that are 4 inches by 4 inches. You should be able to get about 12 squares.
For the filling:
Cook the pancetta in a skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes until well browned. Cool.
Combine the ricotta, egg yolks, mozzarella, pancetta, parsley, salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl.
Place some of the filling in the center of each square of dough. Fold the dough over to form a triangle. Use the tines of a fork to pinch together the seams of the dough. Be careful not to over-stuff the dough or the filling will come out during frying.
Fill a heavy-bottomed pot with about 3 inches of oil. Heat oil to 350 degrees F. Once the oil is hot, drop the calzones in (1 at a time if using a smaller pot, or just a few at a time using a larger pot).
Remove the calzones with a slotted spoon or spider when they have gotten a golden brown color on both sides. Let them drain on a paper towel.
Serve warm with marinara sauce, if desired.
Calciuni del Molise
Adapted from Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni, published 1969, Dutton (New York) (Note: this was the first cookbook I owned.)
Makes 15 fritters
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine
- 1/4 pound fresh chestnuts
- 1 1/2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
- 1 1/4 teaspoons semi-sweet chocolate
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
- 1 pinch cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Oil for frying
Powdered sugar for garnish
Cinnamon for garnish
Put the flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the egg yolks, water, wine and olive oil. Mix the components slowly until a dough has formed. Once the dough is formed, put it on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Cover the dough and set aside. (You can also do this in an electric mixer.)
Using a paring knife make an X on one side of each chestnut. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the chestnuts and let boil for about 10 minutes. Drain the chestnuts and remove the shell and the skin from the chestnuts.
In a food processor, chop the toasted almonds until finely ground. Add the chestnuts and continue to grind until no large pieces remain.
Put the ground chestnuts and almonds in a bowl. Grind the chocolate in the food processor until no large pieces remain. Add to the chestnuts and almonds.
Add the honey, Amaretto, cinnamon and vanilla to the nut/chocolate mixture. Stir well.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 3-4 inch circle cookie cutter or drinking glass, cut out circles from the dough. You should be able to get 15 rounds.
Place about 1 tablespoon in the center of each circle. Do not overfill the pastries. Fold one end over and pinch tightly around the edges to close. Seal edges completely so the filling does not come out while frying.
Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Fry the fritters, a few at a time, until golden brown on each side. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider and place on a paper towels to drain.
Arrange on a plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
The region of Abruzzo is hilly and mountainous and stretches from the Apennines to the Adriatic Sea. In this part of the Adriatic, the long sandy beaches are replaced by steep and rocky coasts. L’Aquila is the regional capital. Pescara, Chieti and Teramo are other important cities.
Abruzzo boasts the title of “Greenest Region in Europe” thanks to one third of its territory, the largest in Europe, being set aside as national parks and protected nature reserves. In the region there are three national parks, one regional park and 38 protected nature reserves. These ensure the survival of 75% of all of Europe’s living species and are also home to some rare species, such as the small wading dotterel, golden eagle, Abruzzo chamois, Apennine wolf and Marsican brown bear. Abruzzo is also home to Calderone, Europe’s southernmost glacier.
The Abruzzo region has two types of climate: the first is strongly influenced by the presence of Abruzzo’s Apennines range. Coastal areas have a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and mild winters, rainy hills and a climate where temperatures progressively decrease with increasing altitude. Precipitation is also strongly affected by the presence of the Apennines mountain ridges with increased rain on the slopes of the mountains in the region.
Until a few decades ago, Abruzzo was a region of poverty in Southern Italy. Since the 1950s, Abruzzo has had steady economic growth. In 1951, the Abruzzo per capita income or GDP was 53% of that of Northern Italy, the nation’s richest region. By 1971, Abruzzo was at 65% and, by 1994, the per capita income was at 76% of Northern Italy’s per capita income, giving Abruzzo the highest per capita GDP of Southern Italy and surpassing the growth of every other region in Italy. The construction of superhighways from Rome to Teramo (A24) and Rome to Pescara (A25) opened Abruzzo to easy access. Abruzzo also attained higher per capita education levels and greater productivity growth than the rest of the South.
The 2009 L’Aquila earthquake led to a sharp economic slowdown. However, according to statistics at the end of 2010, it seems that the economy of Abruzzo is recovering, despite the negative data regarding employment. At the end of 2010, Abruzzo’s growth was placed fourth among the Italian regions with the highest annual growth rates after Lazio, Lombardy and Calabria.
Abruzzo’s industrial sector expanded rapidly, especially in mechanical engineering, transportation equipment and telecommunications. Both pure and applied research are carried out in the region where there are major institutes and factories involved in research, especially, in the fields of pharmaceuticals, biomedicine, electronics, aerospace and nuclear physics. The industrial infrastructure is spread throughout the region in industrial zones, the most important of which are Val Pescara, Val Sangro, Val Trigno, Val Vibrata and Conca del Fucino.
A further activity worthy of note is seaside and mountain tourism, which is of considerable importance to the economy of the region. In the past decade, tourism has increased due to Abruzzo’s wealth of castles and medieval towns, especially around L’Aquila. Beach-goers also flock to places like Tortoreto, Giulianova, Silvi Marina, Roseto and, further south, Ortona, Vasto and San Salvo. Ski resorts are equally popular.
Agriculture has succeeded in modernizing and offering higher-quality products. The mostly small, agricultural properties produce wine, cereals, sugar beet, potatoes, olives, vegetables, fruit and dairy products. Traditional products are saffron and liquorice. Most famous in the wine world is Abruzzo’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has earned a reputation as being one of the most widely exported DOC classed wine in Italy.
Abruzzo has a rich culinary tradition, with various traditions attached to each province.
Battered and fried zucchini blooms, spit-roasted scamorza cheese, vinegar-poached lobster, salame di pecora (a rare sheep’s meat salami), crepes loaded with cheese and vegetables in a rich mutton broth, hearty ragus, ricotta cheese drizzled with honey and dusted with saffron powder .… are just a few of the complex and elegant flavors to be found on Abruzzi tables.
Ragus are a generalized term for any type of meat-based sauce. Ragus are heavily associated with the cooking of Southern Italy, as well, and seem to have begun their migration southward from the Abruzzi region.
This is a cheese-loving region and mozzarella and scamorza take center stage on the dairy scene. Both cow’s milk cheeses are young, mild, creamy and sweet with smooth textures and a stringiness that allows them to hold up equally well in baked dishes or on their own as table cheeses.
The maccheroni alla chitarra are highly renowned (homemade pasta cut on a machine with thin steel blades) and scrippelle are thin strips of pasta eaten in soup. On the coast, most first courses are fish-based, often made with tomato to enhance the taste of “poor man’s fish,” that are caught off the shores of ancient fishing villages.
As for second courses, a typical recipe is scapece, which is pickled fried fish. Guazzetto or fish broth is also popular in coastal towns. Other than sea fare, one will find plenty of lamb, kid and mutton on the dinner table, while pork is used for prosciutto, lonza, ventricina and other typical salamis that are produced locally. Abruzzi lamb, in general, is considered superior in flavor to other lamb found elsewhere because of the animals’ mountain-grazed diets rich in herbs.
Among the desserts, often made with almonds and honey, you will find nougat or torrone; confetti (typical sugared almonds) and cicerchiata, small balls of fried dough covered in honey.
Traditional Recipes from Abuzzo
Potato Soup with Saffron
- 1 ¼ lb potatoes
- 10 oz cannarozzi – spaghetti cut into small pieces
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 teaspoon Saffron threads
- 2 ½ oz extra virgin olive oil
- Celery leaves for garnish
Lightly sauté the onion, carrot and celery in the olive oil. As soon as the mixture has cooled, add the saffron, mix well and then let rest to dissolve the saffron.
Boil and peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks.
Add 8 ¼ cups of water to the pot containing the saffron mixture and then salt to taste. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. When the pasta is cooked, add the potatoes. Heat and serve garnished with celery leaves.
Timballo di Crespelle
This recipe is often served at wedding lunches, where it generally follows the soup course.
For the crespelle (crepes):
- 50g [2 oz] all-purpose flour
- Olive oil, for the pan
- 3 eggs
- 6 tablespoons water
For the filling:
- 125g [4 oz] ground meat
- 100g [3 1/2 oz] spinach
- 75g [2 1/2 oz] mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 20g [1 scant oz] butter
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 artichokes
- 2 tablespoons grated Grana or Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 chicken liver
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
To make the filling.
Mince the chicken liver and combine it with the ground meat.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan and gently brown the ingredients over moderate heat for 3 minutes. Set aside.
Clean the spinach, blanch in a little salted water for 5 minutes; drain, squeeze out any excess water and lightly cook it with the butter for 4 minutes. Set aside.
Clean and trim the artichokes, discard the tough outer leaves and trim off the tips; cut in half, discard the inner fuzz and slice them. Sprinkle with the parsley and a dash of salt and cook in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons olive oil for 20 minutes, moistening with a little water, if need be. Set aside.
Break the egg into a mixing bowl, add the milk and egg yolk and whisk with a fork. Set aside
To make the crespelle.
Put the flour, eggs and 6 tablespoons water into a mixing bowl and beat with a fork. Take a small frying pan, the bottom should be as wide as the ovenproof dish to be used for the timballo, and heat a little olive oil in it over a moderate to low heat.
Place 2 tablespoons batter into the pan, tilting to make sure it spreads out to cover the bottom; let it set and then flip. When the crespelle is ready, remove it from the pan and continue until all the batter has been used, greasing the pan each time with a little oil.
To assemble the timballo.
Butter an ovenproof dish and lay a crespelle on the bottom.
Make separate layers of sliced mozzarella, meat, spinach and artichokes, separating each with a crepe, adding a sprinkling of Grana cheese each time and a couple of tablespoons of the egg and milk mixture.
Make sure there are at least 2 layers of each ingredient, cover with another crespelle and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and egg-milk mixture.
Place the dish in the oven and bake at 220°C/425°F for 30 minutes.
Penne with Abruzzi-Style Lamb Ragu
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 1/2 pound boneless lamb, cut into very fine dice
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with their juices
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
Put the oil and onion in a large skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is pale gold. Add the pancetta and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta fat is rendered; the pancetta should remain soft.
Add the lamb and cook until browned, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Add the wine and simmer until evaporated, 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer gently, stirring from time to time, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce, 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse salt, cover and return to a boil.
Add the pasta to the pot and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Cover and bring back to a boil. Uncover and cook the pasta, stirring frequently, until it is al dente.
Drain the pasta and immediately transfer it to a warmed bowl. Toss with the lamb sauce and the 1/3 cup of grated cheese. Serve at once, passing additional cheese at the table.
But among Abruzzo’s desserts, Parrozzo is the most remarkable. In ancient times, Abruzzo peasants made cornmeal bread in the shape of a dome and baked it in a wood-fired oven. They called this “pan rozzo” meaning ‘unrefined bread,’ as opposed to the regular and more expensive white flour bread eaten at the time only by higher classes. At the turn of the 19th century, pastry chef Luigi D’Amico re-invented that recipe by using eggs instead of cornmeal to obtain the bread’s golden hue. He kept the dome shape and topped it with a dark chocolate coating to reproduce the bread’s charred crust.
- 2 cups 70% dark chocolate
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup sweet almonds
- 10 bitter almonds
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 eggs, separated
Blanch almonds in boiling water and peel off the husk, and grind them with 2 tablespoons of sugar in a processor. Work butter with a fork, add the remaining sugar and the egg yolks and whisk well. Fold in the ground almonds and then the flour and cornstarch. Beat the egg whites in a mixer until soft peaks form and then and fold into the almond mixture.
Pour mixture in a buttered Bundt pan or dome-shaped cake mold and bake at 450° F for 45 minutes.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and once the parrozzo has cooled, spread the chocolate sauce over the entire surface. Allow the chocolate to set before cutting.
Lazio located in central Italy, stretches from the western edges of the Apennines to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The region is mainly flat with small mountainous areas in the most eastern and southern districts. Lazio has four very ancient volcanic districts, where the craters of extinct volcanoes form the lakes of Bolsena, Vico, Bracciano, Albano and Nemi. Lazio is the third most populated region of Italy and has the second largest economy of the nation. Rome is the capital of Italy, as well as the region. Other important cities are Frosinone, Latina, Viterbo and Rieti.
Until the late 19th century, much of the lowland area of Lazio was marshy and malarial. Major reclamation work in the early 20th century resulted in drainage and repopulation of the plain that transformed the region. Migratory grazing was greatly reduced and wheat, maize, vegetables, fruit and meat and dairy products were able to flourish in the lowlands, while olive groves and vineyards gradually began to cover the slopes.
Light industry developed with the help of regional development programs, particularly in and around the new satellite towns of Aprilia, Pomezia and Latina, south of Rome. Rome is the region’s commercial and banking center, but it has little industry apart from artisan and specialized industries, such as fashions. Large numbers of persons are employed by the government. In the rest of the region only chemical and pharmaceutical plants, food industries, papermaking and a few small machine industries are of significance.
Rome, including the Vatican, is Italy’s largest tourist center and tourism is also important at resorts in the Alban Hills, the Apennines and along the coast.
Lazio’s transportation is also dominated by Rome’s railways and roads and the city has one of Europe’s busiest international airports. Civitavecchia, the only port of importance, is noted chiefly for its trade with Sardinia.
Take a tour of the Lazio region with the video below.
Lazio has developed food that is a great example of how the simple dishes of the poor working classes (farmers, miners, craftsmen) have formed the cuisine for all. Add to this a heavy influence of Jewish cooking and a variety of flavor combinations emerge.
Typical Roman food has its roots in the past and reflects the old traditions in most of its offerings. It is based on fresh vegetables (artichokes, deep-fried or simmered in olive oil with garlic and mint) and inexpensive cuts of meat (called “quinto quarto,” meaning mainly innards, cooked with herbs and hot chili pepper). It also consists of deep-fried appetizers (such as salted cod and zucchini blossoms) and sharp Pecorino cheese (made from sheep’s milk from the nearby countryside).
The hills in Lazio are rich and fertile making it easy to grow vegetables of all types which in turn makes them an important part of the cuisine. They are cooked with liberal amounts of oil, herbs and garlic and, more often than not, a good portion of anchovies.
Lazio appetizers feature fresh seafood, preserved meats, ripe produce, artisanal breads, olives and olive oils produced within the region. Lazio cuisine may use fresh or dried pasta in many different shapes. Fresh pasta is usually found in lasagne or fettuccine. Lazio recipes for pasta often call for tubes, as this shape is more effective for holding onto hearty sauces. Potato, rice or semolina gnocchi dumplings are also commonly prepared. Suppli al telefono are hand held balls of rice stuffed with mozzarella cheese and sometimes flavored with liver or anchovies.
Chicken is used more here than in other regions and they also eat a fair amount of rabbit. Pork is used to make Guanciale or cured pork cheek, Ventresca or cured belly meat, Mortadella di Amatrice, sausages or salsicce, lard and prosciutto. Often the salumi are spicy and flavorful.
Much of the fish consumed in Lazio comes from the Tiber River and Bolsena Lake, including ciriole, caption and freshwater eels.
Even when it comes to desserts, they keep it simple. Maritozzi, a type of cream-filled pastry, doughnuts, fried rice treats and ricotta tarts are all popular.
Lazio is known for Est Est Est a wine that is produced in the area near Lake Bolsena and Falerno.
This deep dish pie is probably named for the town of Gaeta and the pan they used to prepare the pie. It was popular for the farmers and fishermen, so that they had a meal that could keep for a few days. It consists of a rustic pizza round that usually contains olives, fish (such as anchovies and / or sardines, octopus and squid), ricotta cheese or other cheeses and vegetables, such as tomatoes or onion.
- 10 ½ oz (300 gr) Italian flour (00 flour)
- 7 oz (200 gr) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 3/4 cup warm water
Ingredients for the filling
- 1 1/4 lbs (500 gr) octopus
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup (60 gr) black olives
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup (200 gr) tomatoes, diced
- 2 tablespoons (20 gr) parsley
- 1 ½ teaspoons (3 gr) crushed red chilli pepper
- Salt to taste
Combine the dough ingredients and let it rise, push the dough down and let it rise again.
Roll out half the dough to fit a 10 inch baking pan.
Put the octopus in a large pot of boiling salted water with the vinegar and boil until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and peel as much of the skin off the octopus as you can while it is still hot. Chop the octopus into bite-size pieces.
Combine the filling ingredients.
Place the filling in the dough covered pan.
Roll out the remaining dough and cover the filling. Seal and brush the dough with extra virgin olive oil.
Bake at 350 degrees F (180-200) for about 25-30 minutes.
Spaghetti and Roman Broccoli
- 1 head Romanesco broccoli or regular broccoli
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 2 ¼ cups (500 ml) of vegetable broth
- 8 oz (220 gr) of spaghetti, broken into pieces
- Salt and Pepper
- 5 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
For Romanesco broccoli:
Clean and dice in small pieces. Set aside in a bowl.
If using regular broccoli:
Wash the broccoli, clean the tops and cut off the florets. Dice the stalks. Set aside in a bowl.
Fry the garlic in the oil until golden in a large saucepan. Add the broccoli to the pan and stir well.
Add the vegetable broth and the tomato paste, stir and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes until the broccoli is tender.
Add salt and pepper according to taste.
Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water. Drain and add to the broccoli in the saucepan and heat. Serve sprinkled with grated cheese.
Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana and Gricia are the four most popular pasta dishes in Rome. Together they form the backbone of Primi courses at every trattoria in the Eternal City, where the locals have strong, vocal opinions on where to find the best execution of each, never all at one place.
- 12 oz (320 gr) bucatini pasta
- 3 ½ oz (100 gr) Pecorino romano cheese, grated
- 3 ½ oz (100 gr) guanciale or pancetta or bacon
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Dice the bacon and brown over low heat in a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of oil.
Cook the pasta in plenty of lightly salted boiling water, al dente. Drain well. Add to the skillet with the bacon and sauté for 1 minute.
Sprinkle with the cheese and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.
Salt Cod Fillets Roman Style
- 1 1/3 lbs (600 gr) salted codfish (baccalà), soaked
- 3 ½ oz (100 gr) flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 (1/4-ounce) packet dry active yeast
- 2 tablespoon butter, melted
- Olive oil
Soak the baccalà in cold water for at least 3 days prior to preparing this dish. Change the water each day.
Combine butter, flour, water and yeast in a mixing bowl. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.
Dry and cut the cod into serving pieces.
Coat each fillet in batter, then fry in a large pan with very hot oil.
Place fillets on paper towels to drain before serving.
Hazelnut Cake Viterbo
- Cake pan – 10 inches or 26 cm diameter
- 1/2 cup (50 g) potato starch
- 7 1/8 oz (200 gr) 00 Italian flour
- 1 2/3 cups (350 gr) sugar
- 1/3 cup (60 gr) milk chocolate, chopped
- 1 ¼ cups (200 gr) chopped toasted hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup 50 gr raisins softened in a little milk
- 6 oz (170 gr) milk
- 3 eggs
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 5 ¼ oz (150 g) butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- Powdered sugar for garnish
In a large bowl mix the potato starch, flour, baking powder, sugar, chocolate, chopped hazelnuts and softened butter.
Add one egg at a time and mix it into the mixture before adding the next. Add the drained raisins, lemon zest and milk.
Butter the pan and sprinkle with flour mixed with a little sugar.
Pour the cake mixture into the pan and bake in the oven at 325 degrees F (160-170) for 45-50 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.
In this series on Italian regional cooking, I have been working my way around the Italian peninsula. The series started with the northern regions and now it is moving into the central areas. Todays post is on Umbria, the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a border with another country. The region is mostly mountainous and hilly and presents a landscape rich in forests, water resources and valleys. Lake Trasimeno is located here.
In literature, Umbria is referred to as il cuore verde d’Italia (the green heart of Italy). The phrase is taken from the poem, Barbarian Odes, by Giosuè Carducci, an italian Nobel prize-winning poet. The poem is one most familiar to Italian school children and is entitled “Le fonti del Clitumno” (“The Head-waters of the Clitumnus”), a description of that spot in the hills of Umbria where the Clitunno River had its beginning. Carducci wrote the ode between July and October 1876. It is generally considered one of Carducci’s best poems combining pastoral beauty with nostalgia for the glories of ancient Italy.
The flocks still come down to you, o Clitumnus, from the far mountains that move with the murmur of breeze-swept ash groves and fresh scent of sage and thyme in the damps of evening.
The young Umbrian shepherd immerses his reluctant sheep in your waters.
By a farmhouse a barefoot mother sits and sings, nursing her child, who looks to the shepherd and smiles.
The pensive father with goatish hair, at his painted cart, turns on his hips like the beasts of old, with the strength of a young bull, like those square of breast, erect and crowned by crescent horns, sweet in their eyes and snow-white, much beloved by gentle Virgil.
The darkening clouds hang like smoke on the Apennines: grand, austere and green from the spreading mountains, Umbria watches. Hail, green Umbria, and you the fount of god Clitumnus.
I feel in my heart the ancient home, my fevered brow touched by the olden gods of Italy.
The region is named for the Umbri tribe, one of the many tribes who were absorbed by the expansion of the Romans. The Umbri probably sprang from neighboring tribes in northern and central Italy, at the beginning of the Bronze Age. The Etruscans were the chief enemies of the Umbri. The Etruscan invasion came from the western coast towards the north and east, eventually driving the Umbrians inland. Nevertheless, the Umbrian population does not seem to have been eradicated by the conquerors. After the downfall of the Etruscans, Umbrians aided the Samnites in their struggle against Rome (308 BC). However, the Romans defeated the Samnites and their allies. The Roman victory started a period of integration under the Roman rulers, who established colonies in the region.
The modern region of Umbria is different from the Umbria of Roman times. Roman Umbria extended through most of what is now the northern Marche region. After the collapse of the Roman empire, Ostrogoths and Byzantines struggled for supremacy in the region. The Lombards founded the duchy of Spoleto, covering much of today’s Umbria and when Charlemagne conquered the Lombard region, some Umbrian territories were given to the Pope. After the French Revolution and the French conquest of Italy, Umbria became part of the Roman Republic (1798–1799) and later, part of the Napoleonic Empire. After Napoleon’s defeat, the Pope regained Umbria and ruled it until 1860.
Following Italian unification in 1861, Umbria was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy. The present borders of Umbria were fixed in 1927 and in 1946 Umbria became part of the Italian Republic.
The charm of Umbria derives from its fusion of art, nature, peacefulness and the inspirations behind its artistic masterpieces and small Medieval towns. Umbrians have a deep appreciation of art and, throughout history, the region has produced its share of talented artists. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Umbria was home to a well-respected art school (known as the “Umbrian School”) that taught venerated artists such as Raphael, della Francesca and Perugino. Old paintings and frescos can still be found all over Umbria, not just in famous museums (such as the National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia) but on the walls of tiny churches in the quiet hilltop towns. Romanesque architecture thrived in this region at the beginning of the twelfth century and some beautiful examples that have survived the years are the Cathedrals of Spoleto and Assisi, St. Silvestro and St. Michele in Bevagna. The Gothic styles are also present in almost every city. The Renaissance movement can be seen in the region’s magnificent monuments.
When it comes to music, Umbria steps away from its traditions and embraces contemporary music. Each July, the region hosts the Umbria Jazz Festival, one of the most renowned international music festivals in the world. Famed musicians such as Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and Dizzy Gillespie have played at the festival and every year it attracts new talented artists.
The food industry in Umbria produces processed pork-meats, pasta, lentils, truffles and cheese. The other main industries are textiles, clothing, sportswear, iron and steel, chemicals and ornamental ceramics. Umbrian agriculture is noted for its tobacco, olive oil and vineyards that produce fine wines. Regional varietals include white Orvieto, Torgiano and Rosso di Montefalco. Another typical Umbrian product is the black truffle found in Valnerina, an area that produces 45% of this product for Italy.
The most renowned Umbrian pork comes from the black pigs of Norcia, an ancient town in southeast Umbria. Norcia has been the center of sausage-making and other pork dishes for so many centuries that pork butcher shops in Umbria are called “Norcineria.” Traditional Umbrian pork dishes include salame mazzafegati (a pork liver sausage made with orange peel, pine nuts and raisins) and porchetta, an herb-stuffed pork roast.
Greens are a very popular vegetable found across Umbria and commonly include rapini (broccoli rabe), bietola (swiss chard) and chicoria (chicory). Greens are usually blanched, drained and sautéed with olive oil, chili pepper and garlic. These sautéed greens are then enjoyed as a vegetable side dish or are used as fillings in sandwiches, to top pizza, stirred into eggs or tossed with pasta. Rustic tortas are made with blanched greens and eggs, flavored with onions, pancetta and garlic. The tiny lentils from the Umbrian town of Castelluccio are prized across Italy for their earthy, sweet taste and their ability to maintain their shape even after long simmering.
Umbrians are masters at grilling and it is not uncommon to find indoor grills in their kitchens. Bakers in Umbria use wood ovens to make giant saltless loaves of pane casereccio. Pecorino or pork rind flavored breads are made from an egg enriched wheat flour dough. Pan nociato are sweet rolls with pecorino, walnuts and grapes flavored with cloves. A similar bun, called pan pepato, is filled with almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts with raisins and candied fruit. Other desserts include torcolo, a sponge cake brimming with raisins and candied fruit, or ciaramicola. This meringue covered round cake is made with a rich egg batter flavored with lemon rind and a spicy liqueur called Alchermes.
Insalata Di Farro (Farro Salad)
- 2 medium shallots, minced or 1/4 clove garlic and 1/4 medium red onion, minced
- 2 tablespoons good olive oil
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard or 1/2 teaspoon minced anchovy or both
- 1 tablespoon minced capers or finely chopped, pitted black olives
- 1 cup (total) chopped fresh parsley, chives, thyme or basil (or any combination)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 2 cups farro
- 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1/2 cup grated ricotta salata or other firm or semi-firm cheese
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cut into 1/4-inch dice
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Squeeze of lemon juice
Combine shallots, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, capers and herbs in a bowl.
In a large saucepan, bring chicken stock to a boil.
Add the farro to the stock, lower heat to a strong simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the farro is tender but somewhat chewy.
Drain and let cool until no more than warm.
Add cooked farro to the ingredients in the bowl and mix. Add vegetables, tomato and cheese and mix.
Salt and pepper to taste. Add more olive oil to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and serve at room temperature.
White Lasagna with Besciamella (Lasagna in Bianco )
Makes 6 servings
- 3/4 cup minced shallots (about 6)
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 3 3/4 cups whole milk
- 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 pound grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup), divided
- 12 (7 by 3 inch) no-boil lasagna sheets
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Cook shallots in butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, 3 minutes. Add nutmeg, then slowly whisk in milk and stock. Bring to a boil, whisking, then simmer, stirring occasionally, just until sauce lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool to warm, stirring occasionally. Stir in eggs, Marsala, sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 cup cheese.
Spread about 1 1/4 cups sauce over the bottom of an 11 by 8 inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Repeat layering 3 more times, then top with remaining sauce and remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, until browned, 45 to 55 minutes.
Umbrian Mixed Grill
This dish is often served with the region’s classic lentils.
- 1 pound boneless pork loin
- 1 pound boneless beef loin
- 1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts
- 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, cut into chunks
- 4 thick slices pancetta or prosciutto, cut in 1-inch squares
- Coarse salt to taste
- Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 medium bell peppers, seeded and cut into 2-inch squares
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- Small bunch of fresh sage, leaves only
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Cut the meat, sausage and chicken into 1-inch cubes. Season the pork with coarse salt and pepper and rub with the garlic; season the beef with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the sage; season the chicken with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the rosemary. Set aside.
In a skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the peppers until just crisp-tender. Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half.
Thread the skewers in this order: Pork, bell pepper, chicken, pancetta, sage leaf, beef, bell pepper and sausage. Do not crowd the pieces. Place the skewers in a nonmetal dish large enough to hold them in a single layer and drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil over them. Let them marinate for several hours in the refrigerator, basting and turning them often.
Heat the grill and lightly oil the grill rack. Remove the skewers from the marinade, place them on the grill, and baste with the marinade. Grill, turning and basting the skewers, until done to taste, about 8 to 12 minutes.
Apricots with Amaretto Syrup
- 10 firm-ripe large apricots
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2/3 cup Amaretto liqueur
- 6 amaretti (Italian almond macaroons; if paper-wrapped, use 3 packets), crumbled (1/3 cup)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped pine nuts for sprinkling
Peel apricots with a vegetable peeler, then halve and pit. Finely chop 2 halves and set aside.
Heat butter in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook sugar, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Stir in Amaretto (be careful; syrup will spatter) and simmer, stirring, 2 minutes.
Working in 2 batches, poach apricot halves in syrup at a low simmer, turning, until almost tender, 5 to 10 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer apricots, hollow sides up, to a platter.
Add crumbled amaretti to syrup and cook over low heat, crushing cookies with back of a wooden spoon, until melted into a coarse purée.
Stir in reserved chopped apricot and gently simmer, stirring, until syrup is deep brown and slightly thickened. Cool syrup slightly.
Spoon syrup over apricots and sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.