The local cuisine of Latina is tied to the products of this highly-agricultural province, as well as to those of the sea. Agricultural products are combined to create delicious dishes inspired by Roman cuisine. Cheeses of the province include mozzarella, fiordilatte, caciotta and provola cheese and marzolino. Prosciutto is cured in Bassiano, where it is flavored with a seasoning of wine, garlic and pepper. Sausages from the province are particularly good, like those made in Monte San Biagio, using the premium parts of the hog, spiced with coriander and preserved in oil. Then of course, there is the world-famous Gaeta olives, which are immersed in brine for up to five months to provide their distinctive flavor. The province’s D.O.C. wines include the Aprilia Trebbiano, Merlot and Circeo Trebbiano; the red and white wines of Cori and Circeo, which are produced in the Pontine area and the dry, sweet full-bodied Moscato di Terracina.
Tiella di Gaeta
The word tiella refers to the oven dish used to prepare the recipe, but the recipes themselves vary considerably in the southern regions of Italy. This recipe is for the traditional tiella di gaeta enjoyed along the coast.
1 lb 00 flour
1/4 oz packet dry yeast
5 tbsp olive oil,
6 oz warm water,
2 lb octopus
2 bay leaves
1 medium-sized clove garlic, sliced
1/2 cup Gaeta olives, pitted
1 cup peeled tomatoes
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tsp coarse sea salt
To make the dough, combine the warm water, yeast and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a small bowl. Place the flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a mixing bowl. Stir the liquid mixture onto dry ingredients and mix well. Knead by hand for 5 minutes on floured board. Transfer dough into covered and oiled bowl. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 60-90 minutes, until it has doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, you can prepare the filling. If frozen (and already cleaned), defrost the octopus and place it in a large pot with several inches of water to cover. Add the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until the octopus is tender, but al dente. Let it cool in the cooking water, then drain well and cut it up into 3/4-inch pieces. Rinse, core and seed the plum tomatoes and cut into 1/3-inch pieces.
Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large skillet, set it over a medium flame and stir in the garlic. Cook for one minute, until sizzling, then add the octopus pieces by tossing them into the oil. Scatter the olives in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring and tossing. When the octopus is sizzling, add the diced tomatoes and season with a pinch or two of salt. Reduce the flame to low and simmer, stirring frequently for another 10-12 minutes, until the filling is dense and glistening and no liquid is left in the pan. Add the parsley and cool the filling before assembling the tiella.
When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down. Take half the dough and roll it out just as you would a pie crust and layer it in a greased tiella pan (deep dish pie pan). Add the filling, distribute it evenly and cover with the second half of the dough. Seal the edges of the two crusts together. Let it sit for about 30 minutes, then bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Allow the tiella to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Salsiccia e Pasta di Castagne
The town of Norma, a few miles north of the provincial capital, recently held its annual Sagra della Caldarrosta – Festival of the Roasted Chestnut. One of the favorite dishes was this pasta prepared with locally-made sausages and chestnuts.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
8 oz chestnuts, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp chopped rosemary
1 tsp fennel seed
6 oz full-bodied red wine
16 oz passata di pomodoro
1 lb large pasta shells
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
4 oz Parmigiano cheese, shaved
freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium flame and sauté the onions for 5 minutes, until they have begun to soften. Turn up the flame to medium-high and add the sausage meat and chestnuts and sauté for another 10-12 minutes, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon, stirring often.
When the meat and chestnuts are golden brown, add the garlic, rosemary and fennel seeds. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the red wine, allowing most of it to boil away, about 4 minutes, then add the passata di pomodoro. Cover and simmer the sauce for 10 minutes while you cook the pasta in well-salted water until al dente.
Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta well. Toss the pasta, 3 tablespoons of the water and the sauce. Add about half of the parsley. Serve with a grinding of black pepper, parsley and Parmigiano shavings.
Coda alla Vaccinara
Ranchers of the inland hilly portion of the province have raised cattle for centuries and the next few months are the perfect time of the year to make oxtail stew.
2-1⁄2 lb oxtails, cut into 2-1/2 inch pieces
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz pancetta or guanciale, minced
6 ribs of celery (5 whole, 1 minced)
5 cloves, whole
2 garlic bulbs, minced
1 medium carrot, minced
1 small white onion, minced
1 dried bay leaf
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 1⁄4 cups red wine, such as chianti
1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, undrained and crushed by hand
1⁄8 tsp ground cinnamon, plus more to taste
Crusty bread or pasta, for serving
Season the oxtails with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 5-qt. pot over medium-high flame. Add oxtails; cook, turning once, until browned, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Place the pancetta, minced celery, cloves, garlic, carrots, onions and bay leaf into the pot and cook, stirring until soft, 6-7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, for about 6 minutes. Add the red wine and bring to a boil. Cook until the wine has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the oxtails along with the tomatoes and 1 1/2 cups water. Reduce flame to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours.
Add the whole celery; cook over medium heat, uncovered, until celery is tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in cinnamon and season with salt and pepper. Transfer oxtails to plates and spoon some of sauce and celery on top. Serve with crusty bread.