This is an excerpt from the book “Turin“
Piedmont (Piedmont in Italian) – “at the foot of the mountains” – consists mainly of the extensive Po Plain. Between the Alps and the Apennines this fertile area is intersected with long rows of poplars where grassland alternates with cereals and rice growing. Three fifths of the Italian rice production is concentrated in the districts of Vercelli and Novara. Southeast of Turin the gently rolling chalk hills of the Monferrato bear the well-known Asti wine and produce the Gorgonzola cheese. Numerous hydro-electric power stations supply electricity for the textile factories of Biella and the metal, engineering and chemical works of Turin. Turin, home to Fiat, is a dynamic town which attracts followers of fashion and those with a passion for cars.Cooking here is done with butter. A popular dish is fonduta, a melted cheese dip of milk, eggs and white truffles (tartufi bianchi). Polenta is a staple. Cardi (chards) are prepared alla bagna cauda, i.e. with a hot sauce containing oil or butter, anchovies, garlic and truffles. Monferrato produces the famous Gorgonzola cheese and delicious wines: Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Grignolino, red Freisas, white Asti, still or sparkling (spumante). with a strong flavor of grapes. And… don’t forget cioccolato, Piedmont has been the kingdom of cocoa products for hundreds of years (visit the historic Caffe’ Bicerin to get a good perspective).
Chocolate was produced in Turin even before Switzerland, and chocolatiers Giroldi and Giuliano were already famous in 1700 where their shop in Via Doragrossa served hot chocolate to faithful customers. They were joined by Peyrano, who today uses nine different types of cocoa in their production which includes bitter gianduiotti (made with almonds), pistachio shells and other specialties. Baratti & Milano and Caffarel are other famous names. And the French might be surprised to know the most French of desserts, the Montblanc, made with chestnuts and whipped cream, came originally from the Varaita Valley in Cuneo, and was translated into the elegant dessert in Turin and named after the nearby mountain Mont Blanc.
Salami is a big production in Piedmont.
Specialty Foods of Piedmont
The white Alba truffle is the most delicious and sought-after truffle in the world. This “noble mushroom,” as the ancient Romans called it, is found in the Langhe, the hilly countryside around the town of Alba. The gathering of white truffles, between October and November, when they have reached the peak of flavor, is a difficult process requiring the knowledge of a trifulau, or professional truffle hunter (and his trained dog) who will keep secret the areas where he knows truffles to grow. Truffles usually weigh between two and four ounces – and the price can reach 150 to 200 dollars for four ounces. Sliced raw and paper-thin, the rich flavor of the white truffle enhances the flavors of even the simplest local dish, from the simplest tagliolini (thin egg noodles) to the most elaborate beef filet.
Bagna cauda, a delicious dipping sauce made with butter, olive oil, garlic, and anchovies, is served whenever the Piedmontse are hungry, usually with a glass of red wine. The name translates as “hot bath,” because raw vegetables – such as celery, peppers, and artichokes – are dipped into the hot sauce for an explosion of flavor.Gorgonzola is one of the Italy’s most famous cheeses, and the majority of its producers are based in the Novara area of the Piedmont. A full-fat cow’s milk cheese, gorgonzola is made from pasteurized milk and inject with Penicillium glaucum, a mold that aids fermentation and produces the cheese’s characteristic blue veins. Gorgonzola has a place on any cheese board, and can be served as an appetizer or at the conclusion of a meal.
Robiola di Roccaverano is a delicate, creamy cheese made in a very limited area between the provinces of Asti and Alessandria in the northwestern region of Piedmont. This delicious example of the cheesemaker’s art can be made from three different kinds of milk: cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s. According to gourmets all over Italy, Robiola di Roccaverano that is made from 100% goat’s milk is one of the finest of all delicacies, although the mixed versions made from a blend of sheep’s and goat’s milk are also much sought after.
Typical food from Piedmont include:
Agnolotti al burro e salvia: envelopes with a lean meat-herb filling served with fresh sage leaves sauteed in butter and grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Fritto misto Piedmontse or fricia: this deep-fried banquet includes lamb, chicken, veal, liver, brains, sweetbreads, pig’s feet, sausages, artichokes, cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms, apples, pears, cheese, dumplings, almond biscuits, though possibilities don’t stop there.
Insalata di carne cruda: finely chopped raw beef or veal marinated briefly in olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, served with salad greens or, in season, shaved truffles.
Panissa: risotto tinted with Barbera, braised with reddish borlotti beans, pork rind and salame alla douja, typical of Vercelli; paniscia of nearby Novara is subtly different.
Polenta consa: cornmeal mixed with Fontina and toma, topped with butter and grated grana.
Trota alla salvia: brook trout braised in white wine and vinegar with bay leaf and fresh sage.
Amaretti – Almond Cookies
Bollito misto – Boiled Dinner
Bagna Cauda – Anchovy and Garlic Dip
Brasato al barolo – Braised Beef with Barolo
Finanziera – Chicken Liver and Sweetbread Sauce
Fonduta – Fonduta
Fonduta con tartufi – Truffle Fondue
Gnocchi di patate alla bava – Gnocchi with Fontina
Grande bollito misto Piedmontse – Various cuts of beef and veal, including tongue and head, simmered with hen, cotechino sausage, onions, celery, carrots and served with bagnet verde (sauce of parsley, garlic, anchovy, breadcrumbs) or bagnet ross (peppery hot and red from tomatoes).
Lepre al vino rosso – Hare in Civet
Riso in cagnone – Rice with Sage and Parmigiano
Risotto con Tartufi – Risotto with Truffles
Salsa Verde – Greene sauce
Spaghetti tartufati – Spaghetti with Truffles
Tajarin all’Albese – Piedmontese tagliatelle
Vitello tonnato – Veal in Tuna Sauce
Zabaione or zabaglione – egg yolks whipped with sugar and Marsala into a delicious cream, which also flavors ice cream and semifreddo.
Where to stay in Turin
Hotels, Apartments, Condo hotels and B&Bs: search and reserve here.