Verbano-Cusio-Ossola encompasses a diverse area of eastern Piedmont. The most popular area is along the coast of Lake Maggiore, where the lake fish, perch is highly favored. Further north and to the west, recipes tend towards wide pastas served with a butter-base, rather than tomato-based sauce.
The Lake Maggiore area is also renowned for its wide range of products. The local cheeses from the northern portion of the province include Bettelmatt and Ossolano d’Alpe, often enjoyed with locally produced honey. Specialty cured meats include mortadella, prosciutto and violini di capra (cured goat’s leg). The locally produced wines include full-bodied reds such as Ghemme Docg and Nebbiolo from the Novara hills, plus Prunent and Neuv Bruschett from the Ossola valleys.
Perch is one of the tastiest fish of Lake Maggiore and it is used in many recipes. Traditionally, virtually the whole fish is used. The fillet is often floured, breaded or in the case of the recipe below, potato-crusted. The fish head would be saved and used to make a broth with olive oil, garlic, herbs and a bit of wine, plus water, of course. The recipe from Stresa uses whole milk with lemon juice as the marinade, but buttermilk also works quite well. It is often served with roasted carrots and asparagus during summer months.
2 (5 – 6 oz) perch fillets
½ cup of whole milk
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup shredded, peeled potato
½ tbsp melted, unsalted butter
3/4 tsp granulated garlic
3/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ tbsp olive oil
Prepare the marinade by adding the lemon juice to the whole milk and mix thoroughly. Marinate the fish in the milk for 15 minutes. In a small bowl, combine granulated garlic, thyme, celery salt, crushed red pepper flakes and black pepper until well mixed. Preheat oven to 375°F.
After marinating, season both sides of the fish with a bit of the seasoning mix, reserving some to toss with the potatoes.
In another bowl, combine the shredded potatoes, melted butter and remaining seasoning mix, tossing well to combine. Evenly divide potatoes and crust on one side of each fillet, pressing lightly to make it stick. Heat 1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil in a medium-sized, oven safe skillet over medium-high flame. Carefully place fish, potato side down, in the pan and cook for 3 minutes. Flip fish over and place the pan in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes until fish is cooked through and serve.
Pasta with Mushrooms and Prosciutto
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil
2 oz thinly sliced prosciutto (about 6 slices)
1 pound mixed mushrooms, torn into bite-size pieces
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp thyme leaves, plus more for serving
coarse salt, freshly ground pepper
1 cup chicken stock
12 ounces pappardelle
3 oz panna da montare (or heavy cream)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Heat 2 ounces of oil in a deep baking pan over a medium flame. Arrange the prosciutto in a single layer in the pan and cook, turning once or twice, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Heat the remaining oil in same pan over a high flame. Cook the mushrooms, tossing occasionally, until browned and tender, about 5–7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the shallots and 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until shallots are translucent and softened, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and reduce the flame to low. Bring to a simmer and cook until only a thin layer of stock coats bottom of pan, 5−7 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions.
Using tongs, transfer the pasta to the pan with the mushrooms and add 1 cup of the pasta water. Crumble half of prosciutto into pan. Increase the flame to medium and bring to a simmer. Cook, tossing constantly, until pasta is al dente and liquid has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the panna da montare (or heavy cream) and return to a simmer. Cook, tossing until the pasta is coated, about 1 minute. Remove from the stove and add the butter. Toss to combine. Taste and season with salt, if needed. Divide the pasta among four bowls. Before serving, top with remaining crumbled prosciutto and more thyme and season with black pepper.