Stones, chisels, cookies, cactus thorns, dolphins, little sausages and paintbrushes… crafts and food are “mixed” in the labs of our country kitchens. Italy is thrilling under the co-ordination of the master chefs who are hidden everywhere. Even the name of the different types of pasta sound moulded by the hands dusted with flour of many ageless housekeepers. So, let’s start with pasta. Roviano is a tiny village where the hard and the soft flour are mixed with the maize flour and the eggs to make the ‘cuzzi’. They are worked by using the rolling pin, their size and shape is similar to the “strozzapreti” from Emilia. Seasoned with garlic, oil, pepper, tomatoes, pecorino cheese or the local cheese they are served on wooden plates. The ‘sagne ncannulate’ that means “twisted” are typical from Salento where the home-made pasta is pure craftsmanship and art. They are long lasagna curls that are rolled and they are decorated with the sauce and the strong taste of ricotta.
Salami from land and sea
Just like the chef can find the perfect cooking moment for the pasta, the perfect fisherman from Liguria exactly knows when the fish filet has reached its perfect maturation in the sun. That’s how the ‘musciàmme’ was born, it’s a particular type of dried fish meat to be cut into thin slices like a truffle. Nowadays the tuna is used but the dolphins were used in the past until it was permitted by the law. From the panoramic village of Coreglia Antelminelli, in the Tuscan Apennines, let’s taste the salami. The art of pork butchery is excellent and it gives the people the “porcino mushroom’s bite”, a tasty little sausage made of the goat’s gut, the ham meat and the dried crumbled mushrooms. Pennapiedimonte, meaning pin at the foot of the Mount, is a village set on a limy rocky edge of Eastern Majella where the craftsmen work what is given by the land: the white stone. The sausage that has the same name is flavoured with the local herbs like the thyme, the juniper, the rosemary, the bay, the chives, the spicy pepper, the fennel and the sage. It’s a recipe that has been passed on from the older generation of butchers.
Pasture flowers and thornless liquors
Elsewhere there’s a flowered balcony called Costiera Amalfitana: the baskets’ reed and the sandals’ straw are weaved here, the fences are made of iron, the floors are covered in fine pottery and the portals are made of stones. Then there’s the Nanassino, a delicious liquor that is home-made by using the prickly pears. Stones also lead us to Latronico, a “hidden place” in the mountains of Basilicata although it is so near the sea. The alabaster is the main stone here and the typical salt biscuits from this area have got the same colour. They have the shape of the number eight, it’s a mix of Carosella flour, an old type of soft wheat that is still produced in the Pollino Park. Some good cheese is the perfect match for this type of biscuits. At the bottom of Monte Rosa they make the Macagn, it belongs to the Slow Food Organization, it’s made of the caws’ whole milk and it’s made after each milking that is twice a day: that’s why the scent of pastures and flowers come to your nose from this dough of milk.
Fake fruit and noble butter
By association let’s talk about butter. Did you know there’s an Italian ‘ghee’? It’s a clarified butter produced in the Aosta Valley that is called ‘beuro colò’. «It’s soured-cream butter and we make it by using the traditional method. In my grandmother’s days it was the only way to preserve the butter inside an earthenware pot in the cellar until the following year. You put it on the fire and you remove the froth like the broth until you can see the bottom of the pot», Luisa La Croix tells us, she makes the butter and the cheese. The working’s outcome is some pure fat, a noble healthy butter with a warm taste. We need some sweets now, or some fruit. The Martorana fruit comes from the monastery of Agrigento, it’s considered an Italian handcrafted product and it’s famous all over the world. The marzipan is shaped to become a fig, a tomato, an orange and even the garlic, it’s perfectly painted and the final outcome is a little gourmet masterpiece. It’s an amazing way to finish our journey through the typical Italian food.
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