Veneto Food and Recipes

This is an excerpt from the book “Venice and the Veneto

Venetian fast food – Photo © James Lawson
Venetian fast food – Photo © James Lawson

In Veneto there are many kind of Salami, a lot of local regional Recipes, they pair very well with the local Wine.  It’s all part of the best Italian Food.

The ‘Veneto’ is an essentially agricultural region growing wheat, maize, mulberry bushes, olive, fruit trees and vines. The industrial sector includes oil refineries, smelting works and chemical plants which are concentrated in the vicinity of Venice at Mestre-Marghera, as well as a large production of hydro-electric energy in the valleys of the Pre-Alps. The latter supplies the textile industry.

The landscape is punctuated by two small volcanic groups, the Berici Mountains south of Vicenza and the Euganean Hills near Padua. The slopes of these blackish heights carry vines, peach orchards and are the site of hot springs.

In the Po delta (Polesine) and that of the Adige lie impoverished, grandiose and desolate areas, subject to river floods. Following reclamation certain areas are farmed on an industrial scale for wheat and sugar beet.

The coastline takes the form of lagoons (lido) separated from the sea by spits of sand pierced by gaps (porti). Venice, whose industrial sector is continually growing, is built on piles in one of these lagoons.

Veneto food: as in the Po Plain, the people eat polenta, a form of semolina made from maize, sometimes accompanied by little birds, risi e bisi (rice and peas), and fegato alla veneziana (calf’s liver fried with onions). The shell-fish, eels and dried cod (baccala) are excellent. The best wines come from the district of Verona; Valpolicella and Bardolino, rose’ or red, perfumed and slightly sparkling, and Soave, which is white and strong.
From the ‘Michelin Guide to Italy’

Venetian cuisine is known for its variety of dishes and ingredients. This can be expected in a lagoon city which, though born of its own waters, has always maintained close ties with the mainland as well as flourishing trade routes with many faraway countries, from northern Europe to the far East.

Here you find not only the dried Baltic cod and the exquisite Asian spices, but also the genuine if perhaps more modest fresh vegetables from the estuary islands, fish from the Venice lagoon and game fowl captured in the barene, or shallows. A visit to Venice offers an opportunity to discover a fascinating gastronomic tradition.

Venetian cuisine is simple and tasty, fish-based. Vongole, Capparozzoli, Cappe (clams), Cozze (mussels), Gamberi, Gamberetti, Gamberoni, Scampi, Astici (all in the family of shrimps), Seppie, Seppioline (cuttle-fish) are the most popular. It is, however, difficult if not impossible to have fresh fish on Mondays because most fishermen do not work on Sunday nights. You will also notice there is no fresh fish at the market or in the shops just frozen.

Grappa

Grappa is grape pomace, the remnants of winegrape pressings. Derived from the crushed skins, pulp and seeds of winegrapes, grappa is produced throughout Italy and is generally considered to be one of the most elementary of distilled spirits-an authentic case of Distilling 101, if you will. Regardless of which accounts of the history of distilling you adhere to, it is certain that distillation of some forms of grape juice was occurring in Italy by the 12th century. For centuries, grappa has been the peasant’s drink of choice. Farmers in bucolic districts such as Piedmont, the Veneto, Umbria, Friuli, and Tuscany customarily wanted a strong drink to help patch up their workday wounds and salve their aches for the night It was grappa that became Italy’s national spirit. It is a liqueur now.

Specialty Foods of Veneto

Risi, or rice, is a mainstay on the Venetian menu, but it’s generally served differently than in most other areas of Italy. Rice is never eaten by itself, but always cooked and served with other ingredients, such as lamb, sausages, chicken livers, tripe, beans, and raisins, as well as with fish and shellfish. The most famous Venetian rice dishes are risi e bisi (rice and fresh peas) and risi e figadini (rice with chicken livers), which have the consistency of a thick soup. Risotto – made with fish, beans, chicken, veal, or vegetables such as fennel or zucchini – is also popular in the Veneto, with specialties such as Risotto alla sbirraglia: spring chicken and lean veal braised with rice and vegetables and Risotto primavera: diced string beans, artichokes, tomatoes, carrots and potatoes united with peas and asparagus tips and braised with rice in the spring.

Vegetable market – Photo © Silvia Massetti
Vegetable market – Photo © Silvia Massetti

Another specialty Veneto food is Baccala’, dried, salted cod fish, is one food that the people of Venice and the larger region of Veneto agree on.  It is widely served throughout the area, at gala dinners or on everyday tables, often mixed with polenta into a delicate, delicious “cream” that is eaten as an appetizer with cocktails or as a first course.  Baccala’ alla Visentina, which is a version of baccala’ that hails from the city of Vicenza, is a slow-cooking dish with many variations, and which ingredients should or should not be included (milk, celery, potatoes) is often the subject of heated but friendly debate among Venetian food lovers.

Polenta, a modest dish made from cornmeal, is a staple food of much of Northern Italy, but nowhere is it more popular than in the Veneto region. It was (and still is) traditionally prepared by stirring cornmeal, water, and salt over heat constantly for 40 to 45 minutes with a wooden stirring stick called a mescola.  (To ease the burden, families would often take “shifts” as stirrers.) The resulting “mush” is then poured onto a wooden board to cool, and cut with kitchen string while still hot (a knife can be used once the polenta is set).  Today, automatic stirring machines make the job easier, but they do not supply the togetherness of sitting around the kitchen and stirring the fragrant polenta as it cooks. Pasticcio di polenta: layers of fried polenta and stew of wood pigeon with mushrooms baked in pie crust.

Veneto’s food contribution to Italy’s pasta culture is a style of fresh pasta called bigoli, which gets its name from the traditional kitchen implement that’s used to make it, called a bigolaro, a four-inch-wide bronze tube. Bigoli, a long, spaghetti-style pasta with a hole in its middle, is made on a hand-operated press by forcing pasta dough through the bigolaro, then cutting the strands to the desired length. A typical Venetian preparation is bigoli in salsa, which tosses thebigoli with a delicious sauce of anchovies, olive oil, and cooked onions and bigoli co l’anara:“spaghetti” and sauce of duck liver and innards with vegetables and herbs.

Produce sales on the lagoon in Venice
Produce sales on the lagoon in Venice

Veneto Recipes

Veneto typical food:
Pasticcio di polenta: layers of fried polenta and stew of wood pigeon with mushrooms baked in pie crust.
Pastissada de caval: horse meat stewed with tomatoes, onions and herbs in red wine.


Veneto Recipes:

Baccala mantecato – Dried Cod
Bigoli co l’anara – “spaghetti” and sauce of duck liver and innards with vegetables and herbs.
Capesante in tecia – Scallops in Tecia
Carpaccio – the original (named for the Venetian Renaissance painter) was thin-sliced raw beef dressed with mayonnaise containing mustard and Worcestershire sauce, though popularity has inspired creations with meat, fish, cheese, mushrooms and truffles.
Fagioli alla Veneta – Beans and Anchovies
Fegato alla veneziana – Calf’s liver sauteed with onions, parsley and sage in butter and oil with a hint of vinegar.
Fettuccine Alfredo
Granseola alla veneziana – The meat of boiled spider crab pounded in a mortar and served in the hollowed shell with olive oil, pepper, lemon, parsley.
Pasta e fasioi – Noodles of any type and beans in a thick minestra, often flavored with onion, carrot, celery, pork rind, though recipes vary around the region.
Prosciutto di San Daniele Recipes
Risi e bisi – Rice and peas
Risotto alla sbirraglia – spring chicken and lean veal braised with rice and vegetables.
Risotto primavera – diced string beans, artichokes, tomatoes, carrots and potatoes united with peas and asparagus tips and braised with rice in the spring.
Salsa peverada – Spicy Sauce
Sarde in saor – Marinated sardines
Sardelle in saor – Sardines in Saor
Savor di frutta – Fruit Spice
Sopa coada – Squab Soup
Tiramisu – Coffee-flavored cream of mascarpone and eggs, layered with savoiardi (ladyfingers) and topped with curls of bitter chocolate.
Torresani allo spiedo – pigeons roasted on the spit with salt pork basted with oil containing mashed bay leaf, rosemary, juniper berries.