The regional foods of the Aosta Valley are hardy, with influences historically coming from the north and west. It is rich in its use of dairy products and features dishes full of game meat and beef. The pasta of choice is gnocchi and is often supplemented with the filling and warming soups that are a staple in this mountainous region. Stews are another favorite. Local specialties include carbonada, which is made with stewed meat, wine, onions and spices and mocetta, made from dried beef or ibex, seasoned with mountain herbs. Perhaps the most popular stew is Capriolo alla Valdostana, which we have included below.
Cows are abundant and excellent cow’s milk cheeses, such as Fontina are popular. One of the popular local fare, Cotoletta alla Valdostana, is a veal chop covered made with Fontina.
Thanks to the region’s micro-climate, vines can bear fruit up to 3,937 feet in altitude, while the fruit and nut trees offer delicacies like walnuts, chestnuts, Rennet apples and the famous Martin pears.
Minestra di Castagne e Riso
This recipe for chestnut and rice soup is perfect for a cold winter day.
- 12 oz chestnuts, already shelled and boiled
- 1 fresh thyme sprig
- 1 fresh rosemary sprig
- 1 bay leaf
- 48 oz vegetable stock
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 4 oz Arborio rice
- 1 oz butter
- 10 oz whole milk
If using chestnuts in the shell, place into a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for three minutes, then remove from heat. Scoop out a few at a time and peel off the shell and skin with a sharp knife. Keep them in hot water until you are ready to peel.
After shelling all of the chestnuts, replace into the pan, add fresh water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Peel the skin and then cut into small pieces.
Tie the sprigs of thyme and rosemary around the bay leaf with string. Place the chestnuts in a medium-sized pot with the herbs and mushrooms. Add the stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Leave to simmer gently, uncovered for 40 minutes.
Next, add the rice and continue simmering for another 10 minutes, then add the butter and milk. Simmer until the rice is just cooked but still al dente (about 10 minutes). Taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with chopped parsley or chives and serve.
Gnocchi alla Bava
Giovanni Vialardi, the famous head chef of Kings Carlo Alberto and Vittorio Emanuele II, included this recipe in his 1854 book of gastronomy – “The Treaty of Cooking and Pastry.”
- 28 oz gnocchi
- 12 oz Fontina cheese
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup milk cup
- salt to taste
- 1 handful walnuts shelled and chopped
- 2 oz Parmigiana Reggiano, grated
- 4-6 sage leaves
Put a pot of water on to boil for the gnocchi. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring to a boil again
Cut the Fontina cheese into chunks. Place the Fontina into a saucepan together with the milk and cream. Melt over a low flame, stirring continuously until there are no lumps.
Cook the gnocchi in the boiling salted water. Remove with a slotted spoon as soon as they rise to the surface. Add the gnocchi to the cheese sauce and gently mix everything together. Serve with chopped walnuts and grated Parmigiana. Garnish with a sage leaf.
This recipe can be made with other excellent melting Italian cheeses such as Toma, Raschera, Gorgonzola, Maccagno or Castelmagno.
Capriolo Alla Valdostana
A favorite for Sunday dinner, this stew is usually served over polenta.
- 2 lb venison
- 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 oz flour
- 2 cups red wine
- 1 sprig thyme
- 8 juniper berries, crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 cloves
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 onion, chopped
- small handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 2 oz grappa
- 4 oz heavy cream
- 1 cup beef broth
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Cut the venison into pieces about 1-1/2 inches cubed. Wash and pat dry the pieces before placing into a large bowl. Add the chopped parsley, garlic, onion, carrot and celery. Crumble the bay leaves into the bowl with the cloves, thyme, cinnamon and crushed juniper berries. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Mix well.
Add the red wine; cover and leave the venison in the marinade for at least 12 hours, turning it carefully and gently from time to time.
Drain the pieces of meat. Run the marinade through a sieve to remove the solids and reserve the liquid. In a Dutch oven, add the olive oil and heat over a medium-high flame. Brown the venison, then add the grappa and sprinkle with flour.
Continue cooking until the meat becomes golden in color and then add the reserved marinade. Add the crushed tomatoes and beef broth and continue cooking, uncovered for 40-45 minutes, until the venison is fork tender. Remove the meat from the Dutch oven and place onto a large serving plate and keep it warm.
Add the gravy into a saucepan, add the cream and cook for 5 minutes. Pour the sauce over the venison and serve.