Salerno is a very beautiful city situated in the middle of the Amalfi and Cilento coasts in the region of Campania. Located on the Tyrrhenian Sea on the Gulf of Salerno, the city is within an easy distance of the stunning Amalfi Coast. Famous for being the location of the world’s first medical university, Schola Medica Salernitana, Salerno was also an important center for art, culture and learning dating back to the 16th century.
Despite its rich farmland and access to ports for fresh seafood, the area is well known for its pizza and although most are familiar with the popular pasta shapes and types spaghetti, maccheroni, fusilli and ziti, perciatelli is a less well-known pasta, long but hollow. There are many fish-based dishes, from spaghetti with clam sauce and fish soup, to fried anchovies, octopus cooked with San Marzano tomatoes and Impepata di cozze, which are steamed mussels in their own juices with nothing else except a generous addition of freshly ground black pepper. Vegetables play such a large part in the cuisine that the locals are often called ‘mangiafoglie’ or leaf eaters. The fertile soil provides bountiful amounts of food, including salad greens, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, garlic and herbs. Popular dishes include stewed eggplant, peppers, zucchini and onions with basil and olive oil, served cold. Also, they are famous for stuffed red and yellow bell peppers with breadcrumbs seasoned with black olives, capers, garlic and anchovies.
Cheeses, including Provolone, Pecorino, Manteca del Cilento, Scamorza, Buffalo Mozzarella and Burrino, are all produced in the traditional way from centuries past. Melons, citrus, figs and grapes are all grown in the area, while olives make richly flavored green extra virgin olive oil. Amalfi lemons are used to make the famous Limoncello liqueur and to prepare gelato, sweets and desserts, such as our recipe for Almond Limoncello Cake.
Perciatelli with Shrimp and Garlic Breadcrumbs
8 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from French bread
8 garlic cloves, minced, divided
1-1/4 pounds uncooked peeled, deveined large shrimp
½ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, divided
6 tbsp drained capers
4 tsp grated lemon peel
12 oz Perciatelli pasta
1 cup pasta cooking water reserved
Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the perciatelli according to the package directions until al dente. While the water for the pasta is heating up, set a large nonstick skillet over a medium flame and heat 3 tablespoons oil. Add the breadcrumbs and half of the garlic. Sauté until crumbs are golden and crisp, 7-10 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl.
Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 5 tablespoons of olive oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and remaining garlic to skillet. Sauté until the shrimp are just opaque in center, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup parsley, the capers and lemon peel. Add the cooked perciatelli and ½ cup reserved pasta cooking water. Mix in 1 cup garlic breadcrumbs, adding more pasta cooking water if dry. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the remaining garlic breadcrumbs, parsley and serve.
Almond Limoncello Cake
This delicious cake combines almond with the tangy sweetness of Limoncello. Just remember, it needs to cool completely before being removed from the springform pan and that takes a few hours. If it sits overnight, the Limoncello really sinks in and gives the cake a richer, more lemony flavor.
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
5 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
10 ½ oz almond paste, crumbled
2 tsp finely grated lemon peel, (2 -3 lemons)
3 large eggs, brought to room temperature
1/3 cup Limoncello
½ cup toasted sliced almonds for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a 9” springform pan. In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt together; set aside.
In an electric stand mixer, add sugar, oil and butter. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the crumbled almond paste and grated lemon peel. Beat until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, incorporating well. Add flour mixture and blend.
Transfer the batter to the pan. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet and place into the oven. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool cake completely. Remove cake from springform pan and carefully remove the bottom of the pan. Place cake on a serving plate.
Brush top of cake with Limoncello or poke tiny holes in the cake and drizzle with the Limoncello. It can be prepared one day in advance. Cover and store at room temperature. Right before serving, sprinkle with a little more Limoncello and powdered sugar. If desired, garnish with sliced almonds.
The wines of Campania have been a favorite of the locals since ancient times. For centuries, travelers of this region had a chance to sample the unique varieties of wines. The perfect soil and abundant sunshine make this area a haven for vineyards. From the the slopes of Mount Vesuvius to the varied landscapes of Campania, locally made wines are especially enjoyed when paired with wonderfully prepared regional foods. Try some of the varieties we list here.
Greco di Tufo is a crisp white wine, perfect on a warm summer afternoon on the Amalfi Coast. It can be served as a refreshing aperitivo and also makes an excellent accompaniment with fish.
Piedirosso is one of Campania’s most distinct wines, made with the Piedirosso grapes grown throughout the region. These deep purple grapes received their unusual name, “red feet,” which resemble the color of pigeon feet.
Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, “Christ’s Tears at Vesuvius,” is the name used to describe the red, white and rosé wines made with grapes grown on the slopes of the volcano Mount Vesuvius. The red wine is a blend of Piedirosso, Sciascinoso and Aglianico grapes, while the whites are made with Verdeca, Coda di Volpe and Falanghina grapes.
Aglianico is the variety of red grapes called Aglianico, one of the most widespread in southern Italy. Aglianico grapes are grown throughout the region and are made into rich and full-bodied wines. They are also the base for the superb Taurasi DOCG wines made in the province of Avellino.