Like all the northern regions on Italy’s border that I have written about so far in this series, the regions are heavily influenced by the countries they touch.
Friuli–Venezia Giulia is Italy’s most North-Eastern region and is the fifth smallest region of the country. It borders Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east. To the south it faces the Adriatic Sea and to the west. The region spans a wide variety of climates and landscapes from the mild Mediterranean climate in the south to Alpine continental in the north. The total area is subdivided into mountainous-alpine terrain in the north, hilly areas in the south-east and in the interior the coastal plains area.
The regional capital is Trieste; the other important cities are Udine, Gorizia and Pordenone.
The ancient Romans left many remarkable traces, mainly at Aquileia, which is a famous archaeological center. In Grado and Cividale, there are important architecture examples of the Byzantine style. The Basilica of Aquileia, which is in the Romanesque Gothic style, houses splendid mosaics.
In Trieste, the Revoltella Civic Museum, holds an important collection of sculptural and pictorial works from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the Civic Museum of the Sea, shows the history of navigation from its origins to the end of the last century, with models, instruments and projects. The Civic Museum of Risorgimento is an interesting review of Trieste’s struggle for freedom; the Civic Museum of Art History holds a remarkable collection of archaeological relics, from the Paleolithic to the Roman Age with collections of archaeology, sculpture, painting, ceramics, coins and jewelry.
Italian is the official national language. Friulian language is also spoken in most of the region — with a few exceptions, most notably Trieste and the area around Monfalcone and Grado, where a version of the Venetian language and Triestine dialect is spoken instead. The local languages are more common in the countryside, while in the larger towns (Udine, Pordenone, Gorizia), standard Italian is the predominant language.
Take a visit to the Friuli Venezia Giulia region via the video below:
Friuli Venezia Giulia Cuisine
The food culture has been enriched by the historical melting pot of peoples, languages and traditions, with influences from the Mediterranean and Slavic countries detectable in a range of flavors and recipes.
The legendary San Daniele ham and wines from Friuli vineyards have become the ambassadors of Friuli Venezia Giulia food production. There are 8 D.O.C. zones where D.O.C.G. wines are produced, including robust reds such as Ramandolo, Picolit and Rosazzo, the strangely-named Tazzelenghe (do you know how it got this name?). Tazzelenghe, in English, means literally “tongue-cutting or stinging,” which refers to a great combination of acidity and tannins, born from a long, cool growing season. Tazzelenghe is an indigenous varietal that disappeared and only saw cultivation and production as recently as the late 1970s and early ‘80s.
The foremost white wine produced in this region is the Tocai Friulano, as it is called now. Because of a confusion between a Hungarian grape called Tokaj and a French one called Tokay, the European Community had demanded a name change of the French and Friuli grapes allowing Hungary to keep the original Tokaj name.
Seafood dishes include crostacei e conchiglie (a crustacean and shellfish dish), specialities such as boreto from Grado, “scampi a la busara” from Istria, sardoni from the Gulf of Trieste and ribalta vapor from the Marano lagoon.
Montasio, smoked ricotta cheese with the taste of Alpine meadows is the best known cheese of the region and cheeses that are little known but much-loved, are formadi frant and Asìno. Dis
Delicacies such as Sauris cured ham, cured ham from Cormòns, salami, speck (smoked ham), local bacon, brusaola and pitina, smoked meatball of sheep, goat or wild animal are all characteristic foods of the region.
Specialties of the region include frico (a kind of cheese fritter, either soft or crunchy), with musèt and brovade (sausage with soured turnip). Other specialities include cjarsòns (ravioli with a sweet or herb-flavored filling) and gnocchi di susine (plum gnocchi) from Goriziano. You will also find trout (especially the Regina smoked trout from San Daniele), honey, Julia Dop apples, grappas, oils and Slavic desserts such as gubana and presnitz.
If you want to taste and buy typical Friuli products, go to the Farmers’ Market in San Daniele: it’s an open air market organised in collaboration between the San Daniele Agro-food Park and the Slow Food Movement.
Recipes from Friuli Venezia Giulia
Asiago is a good replacement for Montasio cheese.
Ingredients for 1 frico ( 4 people):
- 8 oz (250 grams) of potatoes
- 1 onion
- 9 oz (260 grams) of Montasio cheese, cut into small cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Grated Grana Padano cheese
Place potatoes in a pot of cold water; when it begins to boil cook them for 20 minutes. Drain and mash with a fork.
In the meantime chopped the onion. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet and add the onion. cook until lightly brown. Add the mashed potatoes to the pan with the cheese cubes. Flatten the mixture with a wide spatula and cook until the underside is brown.
Slip the spatula under the mixture and flip it over. Cook until brown on the bottom.
Sprinkle with the grated grana padano cheese, cut into four and serve as an appetizer.
Fresh Pasta with Poppy Seeds and Sugar
This is an unusual sweet sauce not usually found in Italy.
For the pasta:
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 pound fresh egg tagliatelle or reginette pasta
For the sauce:
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 ounces poppy seeds
- 1/4 cup sugar
Make the pasta:
Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente; then drain, reserving about 2 cups of the pasta cooking water.
Make the sauce:
Warm the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the poppy seeds and warm through until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Keep warm.
Transfer the drained pasta to a large serving platter and toss with the warm poppy-seed butter. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking water, as needed to thin out the sauce; it should coat the pasta nicely. Sprinkle with the sugar and toss again. Serve hot.
Cevapcici with Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Sauce
- 8 ounces ground beef
- 8 ounces lean ground pork
- 1 onion plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion, divided
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Dash cayenne pepper
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1 small eggplant
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Dash cayenne pepper
To prepare the Cevapcici:
In a medium bowl, combine the ground beef, ground pork, 2 tablespoons chopped onion, garlic, paprika, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Roll the mixture into sausage shapes about 3 inches long and ¾ inch in diameter.
Preheat a grill (or heat a large skillet over medium-high heat). Place the sausages on the grill; cook until done, about 5–6 minutes, turning to brown each side.
Serve with the sauce and the onion, chopped.
To prepare the Sauce:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the bell pepper and eggplant on a baking sheet; bake until the eggplant is tender and the bell pepper skin begins to brown, about 30–40 minutes. When the bell pepper is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin, stem and seeds.
Slice open the eggplant and scoop out the flesh. Place the bell pepper and eggplant in a food processor, along with the olive oil, vinegar, sugar and cayenne pepper; purée until smooth. Season to taste with salt.
Friuli Chocolate Fondue
- 2 bananas
- 12 fresh, ripe strawberries
- 2 pears
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- 1 ¼ lbs (500 gr) dark melting chocolate of excellent quality, chopped
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream, slightly scalded
- 2 tablespoons rum
Wash all the fruit. Slice the bananas and pears into wedges and rub with the sliced lemon to keep them from turning brown. Take care not to use too much lemon as it will alter the flavor of the fruit.
Melt the chocolate pieces in a double boiler.
Remove from the heat and add the rum and the heavy cream.
Serve the chocolate sauce in a warmed ceramic (or clay) bowl and arrange the fruit around it.
Calabria is one of the oldest regions of Italy with the first evidence of human presence in the region dating as far back as 700,000 years BC. Around 3,500 BC, the first villages in Calabria were settled. By the eighth century BC, the Greeks had control over the region and, in the second century BC, Calabria was conquered by the Romans. After the fall of the Roman Empire the region was conquered by the Goths, the Byzantines and later the Longobards. It wouldn’t be until 1860 that Calabria would consolidate and became part of the larger region of Italy.
Calabria’s economy is based mainly on agriculture. Chief agricultural products include olive oil, onions, mushrooms, wheat and other cereal grains, wine, eggplant, figs, chestnuts and citrus fruit. Calabria is the largest producer of bergamot oranges in Italy. The rinds of bergamot oranges are used to manufacture perfumes, teas, and other aromatic creations. Despite its small size and low population, Calabria is responsible for producing a third of all the olive oil produced in Italy.
Calabria is fortunate to have a great deal of forested land and, as a result, most industry is developed around construction and building. Textile, clothing and chemical industries are also present in the region. A substantial portion of the region’s economic resources stem from the production and sale of handicrafts by individuals and very small family businesses. Tourism, which is increasing, also plays a major part in the Calabrian economy and is the motive behind some of the region’s most recent technological advancements.
It is a place of contrasts, with high mountain villages seemingly built on the sides of mountains in the interior to red roofed villas on the coast, clustered around an ancient castle or church. Calabria hosts several world class seaside resorts, as well as, mountaintop resorts dedicated to winter sports. Tourists also enjoy watching local artisans produce any number of handicrafts, with pottery and ceramics being the most common.
The Food of Calabria
Calabrians use the mountainous area covering most of the region to raise hill-loving pigs, goats and sheep and comb the woods for chestnuts, acorns and wild mushrooms to add rustic flavors to their cooking. Adventurous fishermen have little trouble finding swordfish, cod, sardines, and shellfish. The inland freshwater lakes and streams offer trout in abundance.
Most of the cuisine of Calabria is heavily influenced by the Mediterranean and is often spicy. Pasta dishes with peppers, onions and sausage sauteed with or without sauce are very common. Frittatas made with pasta and sausage are also prevalent. Eggplant is a favorite dish in the region and is served in a variety of ways.
Due to the humid climate and the high risk of rapid molding and spoilage, food preservation is important. Oiling, salting, curing and smoking – almost all of the area’s food products can be found preserved in some form or another. Calabria’s many varieties of cured meats and sausages are served alongside fresh produce. The local pancetta pairs perfectly with summer melons.
Calabrians do their best to utilize the entire animal letting nothing go to waste. The spicy-hot tang of nduja (also known as ‘ndugghi) is a singularly unusual flavor, made from pig’s fat and organ meats and mixed with liberal amounts of pepperoncinis. This salami-style delicacy (left alone to cure for an entire year) is a testament to the Calabrian patience of waiting until foods have reached their perfection before eating. Other salamis such as Capicola Calabrese and Sopressata di Calabria also come from the region and are served alongside local breads and cheeses.
Breads, cheeses and pastas are all important to Calabrian cooking.
Pane del Pescatore is a local bread specialty made with eggs and dried fruits. Focaccia and pita breads are popular in the region, reflecting the Greek and Arabic flatbread influences. Similarly, special pastries and dessert breads take on a Greek flavor with many being fried and dipped in honey.
Cheeses lean toward the goat and/or sheep milk varieties, though cow’s milk cheeses are becoming more common. Sciungata (a sheep’s milk cheese similar to ricotta), ricotta calabrese (a ricotta with the addition of milk and salt), butirro (a buttery cow’s milk cheese) and the prized, caciocavallo silano, a cow’s milk cheese hung to dry thus developing its signature teardrop shape, are just a few of the cheeses found on the Calabrian table.
Calabrian pastas are hearty and varied, with the names of some of the more creative cuts like ricci di donna ( “curls of the lady”) and capieddi ‘e prieviti ( “hairs of the priest”) belying a whimsical spirit of the region’s people. Fusilli is a common pasta component in Calabrian dishes, as are Scilateddri, Lagane, Cavateddri and Maccheroni.
Make Some Calabrian Inspired Recipes At Home
Serve with Italian Bread
Serves 4 to 6 people
- 2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into slices
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 roasted chili peppers, packed in oil, minced
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup of fresh oregano, minced or 1 tablespoon dried
- 3 tablespoons of white vinegar
- 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Cut the eggplant slices into one inch strips and place in a bowl.
Salt the fresh cut eggplant and let it set for an 1 hour.
Rinse the eggplant thoroughly under cold water.
In a large pot of boiling water, cook the eggplant for 4 to 5 minutes until tender. Drain.
Lay the eggplant out on a towel to dry.
In a medium size bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, chili peppers, garlic, oregano and pepper.
Lay the eggplant out on a plate and drizzle some of the oil mixture on top.
Place another layer on top and repeat until all the eggplant is used.
Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours and serve chilled.
Pasta with Sardines
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs, made from stale bread
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound long, thick pasta, like perciatelli or bucatini
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons drained capers
- 2 cans of sardines packed in extra virgin olive oil, undrained, (or 1/2 pound fresh, boned)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente; drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
Put 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, less than 5 minutes, and then remove.
Add the remaining oil and the onion and garlic to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Turn the heat under the onions to medium-high and add the lemon zest, capers and sardines with the oil the fish was packed in; cook, stirring occasionally, until just heated through, about 2 minutes.
Add the pasta to the sardine mixture and toss well to combine. Add the parsley, most of the bread crumbs and the reserved pasta water to moisten. Taste and adjust seasoning, garnish with parsley and remaining bread crumbs.
Lamb Chops Calabria Style with Tomatoes, Peppers, and Olives
- 1 large red bell pepper, cut into bite-size chunks
- 8 lamb chops, each about 1″ thick
- Sea salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 2 cups Italian chopped tomatoes, such as Pomi
- 3 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup green olives in brine, pitted and coarsely cut up
- freshly ground black pepper
Cut each pepper lengthwise, remove the stem, seeds, and core. Cut into approximately 1 1/2″ squares.
Salt lamb chops on both sides. Pour olive oil into a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add lamb chops. Brown thoroughly on one side, turn, and brown thoroughly on the other side (cook to your liking). Remove from the pan to a plate (cover with foil).
Add chopped onion to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it becomes soft and golden. Add the tomatoes, stirring occasionally, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, parsley, olives, salt and black pepper.
Turn the heat down to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, until the peppers are tender but firm.
Sprinkle the chops with freshly ground pepper and put them into the pan with the sauce. Turn the chops over several times to coat them well and after a minute or so turn the full contents of the skillet onto a warm platter and serve.
- Pristine beaches and wild scenery: welcome to Calabria (mylittleitaliankitchen.wordpress.com)
- Calabria: Time Will Tell (acevola.blogspot.com)
- Completing The Map of Calabria (relijournal.com)
- A stellar Italian food experience in Calabria (acevola.blogspot.com)
- The Cuisine Of Italy – Catanzaro (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- The Cuisine Of Italy – Cosenza (jovinacooksitalian.com)