Skill and Savours of the Land of Abruzzo

Calascio, production of pecorino cheese
Calascio, production of pecorino cheese – Photo © abruzzoturismo.it

On one hand, there is the evolution of shepherding and farming recipes, those prepared by the “poor” folk of the mountain and foothill areas, a cuisine of tasty yet straightforward mutton dishes, soups and broths, cheeses and herbs, and on the other the “refined bourgeois” menus of Teramo, which enhances primary flavors to achieve more complex results like “timballo di scrippelle”, “mazzarelle” and “virtù”.

Then there is coastal cuisine, less evocative of Abruzzo – perceived as a region of mountains and protected areas – but no less critical as there are 133km of shoreline that offers a selection of seafood in uncomplicated, tasty recipes, combined with the range of vegetables grown on the hillsides shielding the Adriatic.

Festival of red garlic in Sulmona
Festival of red garlic in Sulmona – Photo © abruzzoturismo.it

Nonetheless, Abruzzo cuisine is not merely a tradition. There is a well-known and feisty army of innovators who are taking creative, measured steps in the direction of modernity without sacrificing its true identity, the “truth” of its flavors and tradition. The password? Quality: in the raw materials of a generous and varied territory; quality in the milieus and welcome offered to clients and tourists. Last, but not least, “pocket-friendly” prices both in restaurants and hotels. The abundant selection of raw materials is the secret of the cuisine that is appreciated in Italy and abroad. That is thanks to the ranks of “globetrotter” chefs graduating from the prestigious school of Villa Santa Maria. Prime meat from the mountains, above all mutton, and prized dairy products: Pecorino and goat cheeses that include “Canestrato di Castel del Monte” and “Pecorino di Farindola,” both Slow Food Presidia. The deep-rooted pork butchering tradition produces two types of “ventricina”: the spreadable Teramo version and the Vasto version with its chunkier texture. The hills provide the seasoning and flavors of the earth. First of all, extra virgin olive oil (the Loreto Aprutino-Pescara area being the most renowned), followed by vegetables, greens, pulses, and cereals. Their simplicity enhances Abruzzo cuisine in its entirety, alongside the precious Crocus Sativus stigma used for L’Aquila’s PDO saffron. Then there is the wine. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (made from the region’s flagship grape and 15,000,000 bottles sold in 2008) in the front line and followed closely by its “white brother” Trebbiano and new niche products: Cerasuolo, well to the fore; rediscovered and a successful new entry – Pecorino.

Truffle production
Truffle production – Photo © abruzzoturismo.it

Abruzzo cuisine has many facets simply because of its varied territory and local cultures: there are the traditional dishes of the shepherds, up on the mountains; peasant cuisine, on the hills and in the valleys; the liberal, middle-class enclave of Teramo’s culinary traditions; fish recipes on the coast. A wide variety of wisdom and tastes rooted in the region’s massive patchwork of landscapes and environments.

There are plenty of gastro tours available, from those in the Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Parco del Gran Sasso-Laga or Majella national parks to those along the hills dotted with hospitable wine and olive oil producers, and agritourism enterprises for sampling and buying not only wine and oil, but also a vast assortment of other good, natural products: honey, preserves, pickles, pulses and cereals.

Saffron processing
Saffron processing – Photo © abruzzoturismo.it

Gourmet food and wine events abound, so just to mention the most famous there are: “Cantine aperte” with over fifty participating wineries (May); the day dedicated to the “Virtù”, Teramo’s iconic dish (May 1); “Carciofesta” dedicated to the Cupello artichoke (April/May); the month devoted to “Brodetto di pesce alla vastese” chowder (June); “Trabocchi” Coast recipes during the “Cala lenta” (July); “Festa del tartufo” to celebrate Campovalano di Campli truffles (July); “Calici di stelle” for Ortona wines (August); the “Mediterranea” fair of typical Abruzzo products (July/August); “Buon gusto – Rassegna formaggi d’Abruzzo” a review of Abruzzo cheeses at Gessopalena (September); celebration of local lentils at Santo Stefano di Sessanio (September); “Frantoi aperti” when oil presses open their doors (October/November).

A few items from Abruzzo

La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy
Fifty years ago, a group of Italian scholars gathered to discuss a problem: how to preserve traditional Italian cooking. They formed the Italian Academy of Cuisine to document classic recipes from every region. The academy’s more than seven thousand associates spread out to villages everywhere, interviewing grandmothers and farmers at their stoves, transcribing their recipes—many of which had never been documented before. This is the culmination of that research, an astounding feat—2,000 recipes that represent the patrimony of Italian country cooking. Each recipe is labeled with its region of origin, and it’s not just the ingredients but also the techniques that change with the geography. Sprinkled throughout are historical recipes that provide fascinating views into the folk culture of the past. There are no fancy flourishes here, and no shortcuts; this is true salt-of-the-earth cooking. The book is an excellent everyday source for easily achievable recipes, with such simple dishes as White Bean and Escarole Soup, Polenta with Tomato Sauce, and Chicken with Lemon and Capers. For ease of use there are four different indexes. La Cucina is an essential reference for every cook’s library.

Grazing In Abruzzo
Bruce Franchini (Director), Lidia Bastianich (Actor)
Lidia loves the region of Abruzzo! She describes the people there as welcoming, giving and jovial, and the hearty food of the region has left her with such fond memories. In the Abruzzese kitchens, Farro, a kind of wheat berry, is cooked as a whole grain and is manufactured in many shapes-both by small artisanal pasta makers and larger pasta companies. She makes this pasta with arugula and ricotta. Following her main course of Lamb with Olives, she creates the deliciously fun Scrippelle-which look like fettuccine-and tosses them in a hot caramel, citrus and apricot sauce for dessert.

Abruzzo. History and art guide
by Latini M. L. (Author)
Although it is a bit too synthetic, to the detriment of the overall readability of the text, the work provides an exhaustive description of the artistic heritage of Abruzzo, inserting points for observation not always recognized. Recommended.

Abruzzo 1st Edition
by Michael Kenna
Abruzzo, located in southern Italy, is known as the green region of Europe because of the system of parks and nature reserves covering more than one-third of its territory. In Abruzzo, Michael Kenna found a cultural identity that elsewhere, for the most part, has been lost to globalization and instant communication. Kenna photographed medieval ruins, ancient villages and a countryside rich in traditional cultivation. As curator Vincenzo de Pompeis writes in the book s introduction, 'Abruzzo's heritage, together with its impressive natural scenery, brings to mind romantic connotations that have historically attracted many international landscape artists, particularly in the 19th century. Michael Kenna fits perfectly into this rich historical vein of celebrated landscape artists who have worked in Abruzzo. Kenna's work often evokes the influences of Romanticism. In his photographs of historic rural landscapes, for example, there is an air of melancholy, which accompanies memories from the past. His images of ruins stir up feelings of passing time, of the constantly evolving ties between history and nature.' This gorgeous new monograph by renowned landscape photographer Michael Kenna is published to coincide with a major museum exhibition in Loreto Aprutino, Italy. Richly printed in duotone on matt art paper, and presented in an olive-green cloth slipcase with black debossed text on one side and a tipped-in image on the other, Abruzzo presents 65 images from the series, published here for the first time.

Michelin Map Italy: Abruzzo, Molise 361 (Maps/Local (Michelin))
Michelin created its first travel guide over 100 years ago to promote road travel and inspire driving confidence. Today, Michelin Travel & Lifestyle offers travelers an extensive range of travel guides, maps and online travel resources. These products deliver the same Michelin promise of quality and consistency consumers expect from one of the world's most trusted brands.
Publisher of travel guides, maps and atlases, Michelin Travel & Lifestyle offers a complete travel portfolio. Where to go, how to get there, where to eat & stay, and what to see & do ... all in one collection with extensive international & domestic coverage, especially for Europe. Our series includes Michelin (Red) Guides, Green Guides, Must Sees and Michelin maps and atlases.

Canti Della Terra D'Abruzzo
Ettore Montanaro
Buy MP3: all 51 at the same time, or each one individually.

Italian Folk Songs from Abruzzo 1927-1930
LA COPPIA SCIASCIA (Artist)
CD and MP3 reissue of the freat italian folk duo. Comes with rich notes and photos of the couple as well. Pasquale and Clara Sciascia immigrated to the U. S. from the Abruzzo region of Italy, settling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From 1927 to 1933 they recorded 44 songs fro the Victor, Columbia and Brunswick record companies. The Sciascias were the first to record a number of Italian and Abruzzese folk songs, 14 of which are reissued here for the first time in 90 years. The songs feature wonderful duet singing and exquisite string band accompaniment. Also included are notes on the couple and their music, photos, and the transcribed and translated lyrics. Includes 20 page booklet.