Basilicata forms the instep of the Italian boot. This lovely but generally unknown hilly and mountainous region is located in the southwest corner of Italy. Like so many other parts of Italy over the centuries Basilicata has known a series of conquerors, each of whom has left a cultural and culinary trace. The region’s centerpiece are caves, which have been occupied for thousands of years and have now become trendy tourist attractions, complete with upscale restaurants and, I daresay, fine local wine.
Start off your meal with some delicious vegetables. One great dish is Piatto di Erbe alla Lucana (Dish of Herbs Lucana Style) consisting of eggplants, onions, yellow peppers, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and a few other ingredients. Begin by salting the eggplants to remove those bitter juices. First fry and then simmer the veggies and their accompaniments. This is definitely not a quick dish to make, but you’ll enjoy it whether you are a vegetarian or not. The suggested wine pairing is an Italian Syrah.
Lamb is really quite popular in Basilicata. Make sure that you try Cutturiddi o Agnello in Casseruola (Cutturiddi or Lamb Casserole), which is made from a combination of lamb breast and shoulder along with pearl onions, chili peppers, ripe tomatoes, and a few other ingredients. The classic wine pairing is the local Aglianico del Vulture DOC named for the extinct Mount Vulture volcano that gives the wine its special taste.
Maybe you like your lamb to be baked. Try Agnello e Funghi al Forno (Baked Lamb with mushrooms), is ideally made with cardoncelli mushrooms that tend to grow under thistle bushes. Other ingredients include chili peppers and olive oil. Suggested wine pairings include Italian Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Pinot Nero. I have this sneaking suspicion that Aglianico del Vulture would also work very well, even if you had to substitute with mushrooms from your grocer.
Nobody will blame us for yet another popular but different local lamb specialty, this time based on leg of lamb. Agnello Venosino (Lamb Venosino style). Other ingredients include asparagus, onions, grated Pecorino cheese, eggs, and olive oil. This delicious dish calls for an Italian Cabernet Sauvignon, or those Piedmont prizes, Barbaresco DOCG and Barolo DOCG.
Let’s not forget chicken. One local dish is Pollo alla Potentina (Chicken Potenza Style), chicken braised in white wine with onions, tomatoes, sweet peppers, and some other ingredients. Among the recommended wine pairings are an Italian Pinot Nero and a Barbera from Piedmont.
About the Author
Where to stay in Potenza
Hotels, apartments, B&Bs and villas can be searched and reserved here.