The cuisine of Campobasso varies greatly from the east, where seafood from the Adriatic Sea dominates the menu, to the hills, where zucchini, lentils, pearl barley and beans are locally grown and are used in soups. The province is also home to delicious sausages and cured meats – capocollo or seasoned pork, ciccioli pork rinds, ham, pork sausage, salami, torcinelli and pork belly. The area’s diversity is also ideal for producing a variety of mushrooms, among them porcini, field mushrooms and even black truffles. The delicious cheeses produced include pecorino, caciocavallo, burrino and mozzarella.
The word ‘Sagne’ is used in the mountainous parts of Molise and Abruzzo to describe this particular type of pasta that is mostly cut in rough squares and the recipe for the sauce is a typical of the ’cucina povera’ in central Italy.
- 12 oz durum flour
- 2 lb sun ripened tomatoes
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper
- grated pecorino cheese
- 10-12 basil leaves, torn
- 8 pepper corns
- 2 tbsp olive oil
Make a mountain of durum wheat and pour a little water in the middle, then begin mixing the water and flour, using a fork to start. Gradually add more water, until you have a soft and firm pasta dough. Knead the dough through with the heel of your hand, or run it through a pasta machine at the widest setting 10 times. Cover the pasta in cling film and leave it to rest in the refrigerator for half an hour.
Meanwhile prepare the sauce. Chop the red bell pepper and remove the seeds. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over a medium flame and sauté the cloves of garlic along with the bell pepper. Wash and cut the tomatoes in halves before adding them to the saucepan. Let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes, then remove the garlic cloves. Crush the pepper corns using the side of a knife. Stir the sauce with crushed red pepper, roughly-crushed pepper corns and salt to taste.
Roll the pasta through all the settings of the pasta machine starting with the widest and ending with number 5. You can also roll the pasta by hand if you prefer. Cut the pasta into rough diamond shapes, and boil it in plenty of water and a little oil for about 3 minutes until the Sagne is tender, but still has bite. Drain and cover the sagne pasta with the sauce. Served with grated Pecorino cheese and torn basil leaves.
Spicy Baby Octopus Stew
This dish is found along Campobasso’s Adriatic coast. The octopus is flavored with spicy pepper flakes, which are an essential ingredient, giving this stew an extra kick.
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
- 2 lb baby octopus, cleaned
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 cup water
- coarse sea salt
- flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Clean the baby octopus by taking a small sharp knife and cut a slit in the head. Clean out the innards and ink sac and rinse under cold water to remove any grit. Gently push your thumbs through the middle part of the body to extract the beak.
In a large, heavy frying pan, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the sliced onion and cook for 2–3 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the octopus and sauté for 2–3 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in the wine and cook for 3–4 minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Add the cup of water and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and cook over low heat for 90 minutes, or until the baby octopus is tender. Add salt to taste and then garnish with coarsely chopped parsley. Serve hot with crusty bread.
This simple dessert does not contain peaches at all, but will certainly impress your dinner guests. It uses a homemade milk liqueur that is prepared with Grappa.
For the Dough
- 2 lb all-purpose flour
- 6 eggs
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 7 oz sugar
- 1 oz fresh yeast
- 1 cup milk
For the Filling
- 4 cups custard cream
- ¼ cup milk liqueur (see recipe below)
- lemon zest
For the Garnish
- Simple Syrup to taste
- milk liqueur
- confectioners’ sugar to taste
In a small saucepan, heat the milk over a low flame until warm. Remove from the heat and transfer the milk into a cup. Add the yeast to the milk and stir with a spoon until it dissolves. Let rest for 5 minutes.
Mix the milk and yeast with the rest of the ingredients for the dough. Knead by hand in a bowl or using a mixer for 5 to 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into walnut-sized balls. Place the balls in a baking dish lined with parchment paper. Lightly toss with flour and cover with a kitchen towel. Let rest for about 2 hours, until the balls have doubles in volume. Once the dough has risen, bake at 350°F oven until golden brown. Then, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Make a hole in the flat part of the balls. Moisten with 1 teaspoon of milk liquor (see recipe below) and 1 teaspoon of simple syrup. Fill with the pastry cream. Pair the balls together, forming the shape of a peach. Repeat until you have used all the ingredients.
Once you have finished, decorate the pastry to give the appearance of peaches. First brush the pastry with the milk liquor and then with Amaretto, giving them a nice pink color. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
Homemade Milk Liqueur
- ½ cup grappa
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup sugar
- 1/4 lemon, juice and rind
Mix everything together in a clean glass container with a tight-sealing lid. Shake vigorously and store in a cool, dark place for 10 days. Give the container a few shakes every day. After 10 days, the liqueur is ready. Strain through a double-layer of cheese cloth or a coffee filter to catch the milk solids and clarify the liqueur. More rounds of straining will result in a cleaner, clearer liqueur. Transfer to a clean container and store for up to several months.