The delicious regional cuisine of Basilicata has been influenced by its colorful history and cultural roots. The region was historically isolated and this is reflected in the rustic ingredients used in their cooking. You will find fresh fish available on the coast and home-grown vegetables that flourish in the fertile volcanic soil.
Some of the specialties of the region include the spicy Pupazzella, which are small round hot peppers in vinegar stuffed with anchovies and parsley. Ciaudedda is a delightful dish made with braised artichokes, potatoes, onions, fava beans and pancetta. From the sea comes the favorite Zuppa di Pesce alla Santavenere. This usually contains grouper, scorpion fish and other Ionian seafood prepared with plenty of garlic and pepper.
In Basilicata, grapes are cultivated in the both the province of Matera and Potenza, where the hilly volcanic district around Monte Vulture yields a grape of exceptional quality. Aglianico del Vulture (DOC) is one of the great wines of southern Italy and goes beautifully with grilled foods. A more recent wine is the Terra dell’ Alta Val d’Agri which is produced in the province of Potenza. It is best enjoyed with a savory dish such as pasta with a mushroom sauce and Pecorino cheese.
Torta Salata di Verdure
This hearty pie can be served as an appetizer or as a main course and is best served freshly baked, while still hot.
For the dough
- 1 3/4 cups bread flour, plus extra for the counter
- 3/4 tsp yeast
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the bowl and pan
- 1 large egg yolk
For the filling
- 2 bunches arugula, stems removed, washed
- 1 fennel bulb, quartered, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ lb Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- ½ bunch basil, leaves only, chopped
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
To make the dough, place the flour, yeast, 1 teaspoon of the salt and the sugar in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add ½ cup of warm water with the motor running, then add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and the egg yolk. Process for 45 seconds. Shape into a ball, place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1½ hours.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Drop in the arugula and cook 1 minute; remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water, then drain, squeeze dry and chop. Add the fennel to the boiling water; cook 2 minutes, then drain, rinse under cool water and drain again.
Heat the olive oil in a 12” skillet. Add the sausage and cook all the way through over a medium flame (about 5 minutes), stirring often. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Transfer to a bowl, cool to room temperature and fold in the arugula, fennel, basil, salt, pepper and Pecorino. Grease a 12” pizza pan. Cut the dough into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger piece into a 14” circle on a lightly floured counter. Line the pan with it, letting the excess dough hang over the sides.
Spoon in the filling and spread it evenly over the dough. Roll out the smaller piece of dough into a 12” circle and place it over the filling. Squeeze the edges of the dough together, seal with your fingers and cut off excess dough. Brush the top of the dough with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt. Tear a hole in the middle of the dough to allow steam to escape. Let rest 1 hour. Preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 450°F. Place the pizza pan on the baking stone and bake for 30 minutes until the pie is golden brown and lightly crisp. Serve hot.
Spezzatino di Agnello
Traditional cooking in the region will often use an earthenware pot called a pignata, as is the case with this dish prepared for special occasions in Basilicata.
- 2 lb boneless shoulder of lamb, cut into 1” cubes
- 2 lb potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 ½” chunks
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 slice of pancetta
- 5 sage leaves, chopped
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 can (15 ounce size) whole tomatoes, chopped, with their liquid
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- extra virgin olive oil
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a shallow, wide clay pot and warm over a medium-low fame. Once warmed, add the pancetta and as soon as the fat begins to melt, add the pieces of lamb. Sauté the lamb pieces with the cloves of garlic, add the potatoes, wine, sage leaves and rosemary. Season with salt and season with pepper. Continue to cook over low heat. Cover the pot and reduce the heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Add the parsley and cook for 5 minutes. When ready, bring to the table in the same cooking pot and serve hot.
- 12 oz fava beans
- 1 lb potatoes
- 4 oz pancetta
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ onion, chopped
- salt and pepper
- 3 artichokes
Begin by cutting the pancetta into cubes, then remove the artichoke hearts and cut so as to retain only the bottom. Peel the potatoes and cut into cubes. In a medium pan, sauté the onion with the olive oil and pancetta. Once the pancetta is about halfway cooked, add the beans, potatoes, artichokes, ½ cup of water, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and reduce to a simmer and cook for 35 – 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot.