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Luccio in Salsa

Experience Culinary Excellence in Mantua in 3 Recipes

The elegance, civility and grace of Mantua is reflected in their cuisine. The food has been described as that of both princes and of the people. Many of its dishes date back to the days of the Gonzaga family and the talents of chefs at court ensured that a fair number of dishes and recipes have lived on. Recipes use simple ingredients which through careful attention to detail, create textures and flavors that are unique to Mantua.

Tortelli di Zucca

One of the iconic dishes of Mantua is Tortelli di Zucca – pumpkin tortelli. It is a classic meal made with egg pasta filled with pumpkin. This mixture of flavors allows for a delightful and varied taste. Mostarda Mantovana is very popular in the area and dates back to the 14th century and was created as a luxury specialty for the Gonzaga family. It is a jam made with fruit and mustard and is unlike any other condiment that you are likely to have tried.


For the pasta

  • 1 lb of 00 flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 oz extra virgin olive oil

For the stuffing

  • 18 oz pumpkin
  • 6 oz Amaretto cookies
  • 3 oz of grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 1 oz Mostarda Mantovana (or just honey mustard)
  • ½ grated lemon peel
  • salt to taste

For the seasoning

  • 2 oz butter
  • 6-8 sage leaves


Start by preparing the stuffing and let it rest in the fridge while you roll out the dough. Take the pumpkin, cut into slices and bake in oven at 375°F for about 20 minutes. When the pumpkin is soft, remove it from the oven and let it rest for drying, then crush with a potato masher. Meanwhile, crumble the amaretto cookies in a bowl and add the pumpkin, grated lemon peel and mustard. Mix everything and add salt. Finally add the grated cheese.

To make the fresh pasta, form a well with the flour and add the eggs at room temperature to the center with the olive oil. Knead until you get a soft and smooth mixture and leave to rest for about 30 minutes covering it with plastic wrap.

Roll out the egg pasta and with a knife, cut some small squares that are at least 1 ½” per side. Now, place your stuffing on the dough and seal it trying to remove any air. As you shape your tortelli, place them on a tray lined with a lightly floured kitchen towel.

After having cooked the tortelli in boiling salted water, drain and pour the heated butter and sage. Serve the hot tortelli with a sprinkling of grated cheese.

Luccio in Salsa

Luccio in Salsa is a very old recipe and is the second course that characterizes Mantuan gastronomic traditions. Most restaurants serve the dish all year round, either hot or cold, according to the seasons. For centuries, the dish has been traditionally accompanied by slices of grilled polenta. Although it seems like an odd combination with freshwater fish, to Mantuans it is perfectly natural.


  • 5 lb Luccio (although it is indigenous to Mantua, you can substitute Pike and be sure to buy it deboned)
  • 1 pickled green pepper
  • 1 pickled yellow pepper
  • 5 oz capers
  • 3 oz extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 anchovies
  • small handful of parsley
  • 8 oz white wine vinegar
  • 8 oz dry white wine
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • salt and pepper to taste


Rinse the fish in cold water. Coarsely chop the vegetables and add the pike, bay leaves, carrots, onion vinegar, salt and white wine to a medium stock pot with two quarts of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow the pike to cool in the broth, then discard the broth. Meanwhile, finely chop the capers, parsley and pepper. Thoroughly rinse the anchovies. Add the extra-virgin oil into a pan and sauté the anchovies gently until soft. Add the chopped pepper mixture and a little vinegar; add salt and pepper to taste and cook gently for about 10 minutes. Cut the fish into 4” long pieces and arrange on a serving dish. Grate the lemon zest over the fish and add the lemon juice, then add the sauce. Leave to rest for at least 2 hours. Serve the pike cold.


Not all of the recipes from Mantua are from the royal kitchens of the Gonzagas. Sbrisolona comes from a northern Italian dialect meaning ‘crumb’ and is the traditional sweet of the people. It can be difficult to cut, so feel free to break it into pieces. Don’t forget to add the grappa when you serve it.


  • 4 oz white flour
  • 4 oz corn flour
  • 4 oz unsalted butter
  • 4 oz white sugar
  • 4 oz almond
  • 1 egg
  • 2 oz grappa


Allow the butter to warm to room temperature. Put aside a handful of almonds, then place the rest of into a food processor to crush. Mix both flours in a deep bowl, then add the crushed almonds and most of the sugar. Leave a pinch of sugar on the side to decorate the top later. Add the butter to the bowl and start making the dough. This is a delicate and fundamental step and you need to pay close attention. This does not use the traditional method of kneading, instead, use your fingers to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture, carefully breaking up the lumps.

Once the butter is incorporated, add the egg and work it into the dough. There is no need to let it rest since the dough does not rise in this recipe. When finished, spread the dough with your fingers onto a well-greased tray. Once your cake looks more or less like a giant cookie, about ½” thick, place the reserved almonds on top and sprinkle with sugar. In a preheated oven, bake at 350°F for about 12 minutes or until the cake turns into a golden brown color. As you serve the cake, pour some grappa onto your Sbrisolona. The cake becomes lighter, tastier and goes beautifully with your espresso after dinner.