East of Rome, nestled between the Adriatic and the Apennines lies the rugged green region of Abruzzo. Abruzzo has a rich culinary tradition, with several traditions attached to each province. Having a history of transhumance that stretches back thousands of years, a varied landscape from mountains to the coastline and protected national parks, Abruzzo has great gastronomic wealth that it has kept rather undisclosed compared to neighbouring Rome in Lazio or Italy's other more notable cuisines.
When we talk about local foods, Abbruzzo's offering is just as wide as the landscape, characterised by rustic dishes finishes with the highly sought after saffron from Aquila.
The maccheroni alla chitarra which is a home-made pasta cut on a machine with thin steel blades, are highly-renowned, while scrippelle are thin strips of pasta eaten in soup, typical to Teramo.
On the coast, most first courses are fish-based, often made with tomato to enhance the taste of "poor man's fish," often found on the shores of ancient fishing villages. For the second courses, the typical recipe of Chieti is scapece, pickled fried fish. Guazzetto or fish broth is also heavily-consumed in coastal hubs and often revisited in the zones of Teramo Province.
Among the desserts, often made with almonds and honey, we highlight nougat or torrone; confetti (typical sugared almonds similar to Jordan almonds, they are a speciality of Sulmona); cicerchiata, small balls of fried dough covered in honey; mostaccioli and bocconotto, typical of the Province of Chieti.
Mortadella di Campotosto
Even Abruzzo has its own regional spin on the popular Italian cold cut, mortadella. Campotosto is composed of lean cuts of pork, with a small addition of bacon. The typical lard mixture is then added after the smoking process of 15 days and ageing of at least three months.
Purple skinned (which of course is full of antioxidants and best not removed), lumpy in shape and with a pure white interior, the turchesa is an unusual and hugely versatile variety of potato. They are grown successfully at high altitudes, making them the main livelihood in many mountain communities.
Historically, ferratelle take their name from their form, however, the biscuit can be in different forms, depending on the moulds used to bake them. They have always played a significant role in celebrations, both religious and non–religious, and even the iron moulds that were used to make them, were often once part of a bride's dowry.
A grape jam made using only the grapes from Montepulciano D'Abruzzo. The name is derived from the manual operation of crushing. Regardless of being popular as a filling in various sweets, its bitter aftertaste makes it equally enjoyable on its own.
Pecorino di Farindola
A lingering aroma, with herbaceous flavours and very little spiciness: pecorino of Farindola is made strictly from raw milk, and is suitable for use in many traditional recipes. If you've never tried it, try out Strapizzoni or the very tasty meatballs made with bread and cheese.
In any respectable Abruzzo household, you will find this liquor, better known as "gentian." It's largely homemade and derived from the roots of the shrub, which are easy to come by at the market and can also be used for herbal teas and infusions.
Zafferano dell'Aquila (L'Aquila Saffron)
This DOP from the Aquila province lends itself to many recipes, from lamb to Canon risotto. And it was even mentioned in "Ratatouille", the 2007 animated film (Oscar) in which L' Aquila saffron is described as "excellent."
Canestrato di Castel del Monte
Historically speaking, the culture of transhumance has always been important for Abruzzo. At Castel del Monte a long tradition of cheese production includes that of aged sheep's milk – for a period of two months to a year – which is then smeared with olive oil.
Lenticchie di Santo Stefano di Sessanio
They are really small and equally tasty, this variety of lentil has a special quality: it is so absorbent that it doesn't need to be soaked before cooking. A perfect legume for the mountains, as it is well suited to harsh climates and barren lands, it was cultivated from before 1000.
You can plan a full-blown culinary trip to this Italian region – Abruzzo.
Source(s): italia.it, finedininglovers