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Venison with Walnut and Herbs in Grappa Sauce

Delicious Recipes from the North

The cuisine of Trentino and South Tyrol is distinctly different from the other regions in Italy. Potatoes show up more frequently than pasta in restaurants and when it is offered, it is typically gnocchi, about twice the size of what you would be served in the southern regions. You are far more likely to be served whole-grain bread, rather than semolina. Canederli, a bread dumpling, is one of the famous regional dishes served with meat, in soups or even filled with fruit for dessert. Instead of using pancetta, they use a cured, smoked pork called speck. This is solid genuine country cooking. Pork and poultry are raised at home and hunters bring home rabbit, venison, mountain goat and the chamois for stews and other recipes. There is also more beef on the menu than you’ll find in many parts of the country. Polenta is a staple food, but it may contain potatoes or buckwheat instead of cornmeal. It is often served with wild game or mushrooms and is liberally flavored with butter and cheese. It is also made into trisa, a hot soup of cornmeal and wheat flour cooked with butter and milk. Much of the region’s cheeses are made from cow’s milk and over 90 different types are available. The most famous ones include Dolomiti, Alta Badia, Pustertaler and Stelvio; Mozzarella is considered a delicacy. Excellent wines are also produced in the region, especially those made from the Pinot grape, including Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Pinot Nero and Pinot Blanc.

Venison with Walnut and Herbs in Grappa Sauce

This hearty meal is a winter favorite in the northern part of Italy where venison is readily available.


  • 2 lbs venison, sliced thickly
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 oz butter
  • ½ oz grappa
  • ½ cup beef stock
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • freshly ground pepper
  • salt
  • ½ cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 tbsp thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp parsley, finely chopped
  • 5 chopped juniper berries


Cut the cleaned venison in eight filets. Mix the walnuts, thyme, parsley and juniper berries together and gently press mixture into the venison slices (about a tablespoon each). Season with salt and pepper, then sauté the filets on both sides in hot oil. Keep the venison warm while you make the sauce. Dissolve the flour in a tablespoon of cold water. Wipe the oil from the pan, add butter and grappa. Stir in the beef stock and dissolved flour. Heat and stir until thickened. Cover the venison with sauce and serve.

Beef Tagliata Wrapped in Speck

Tagliata is a sliced ribeye steak that doesn’t only have to be enjoyed in Italian restaurants. It is quite easy to prepare at home, too. The unique taste of South Tyrolean Speck gives the finishing touch to this beef entrée.


  • 2 lbs ribeye steak
  • 10 oz finely sliced Speck Alto Adige PGI
  • 1 head of radicchio
  • 10 oz potatoes
  • 2 oz butter
  • 2 oz olive oil
  • a pinch of sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 sprig of rosemary


Peel the potatoes and cut them into small chunks. Coat an over-safe pan with olive oil and add the potatoes. Sprinkle with a bit of additional olive oil and the rosemary removed from the stem. Spread over the potatoes. Bake at 375°F until golden brown (approx. 40 minutes). Slice the ribeye steak into pieces ½” thick and wrap with the speck. Heat a large sauté pan over a medium high flame, lightly seasoned with olive oil and cook the beef slices until done to your preference (about 4 minutes each side for medium). Cook the radicchio in a medium-sized pan with butter. Season with salt and pepper and then dust with a pinch of sugar. Bake the meat and potatoes together for an additional 5 minutes in the oven. Arrange the tagliata on a plate with the potatoes and radicchio and serve.

Tirolese Canederli

Canederli are bread dumplings generally only found in the northern part of Italy and are made of simple and inexpensive ingredients: stale bread moistened with milk and bound with eggs and a small amount of flour. This soup is a typical first course for dinner and derives from peasant cooking because of the use of stale bread.


  • 1 cup rustic bread
  • 7 oz milk
  • 4 oz speck (or pancetta)
  • 3 oz flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • 1 tsp chives
  • 2 cups of beef stock
  • salt and nutmeg to taste


Trim any dry brown crust from the bread and cut the soft inner part into regular-sized cubes. Put the cubes in a bowl. Add the speck, chives, parsley, nutmeg and beaten eggs and mix. Add the milk and allow it to soften. Gently mix to make the whole cubes more compact. Add some flour to the mixture to dry up any excess moisture. Season with salt and pepper. Work the dough and using two spoons, make the canederli into small balls the size of a walnut. Bring the beef stock to a boil and add the canederli. Let it cook for 15 minutes, making sure that the boiling is not too vigorous. Serve hot.