Like all Italian cuisine, the dishes of Grosseto are based upon using simple, fresh ingredients of the season, especially when it comes to vegetables, herbs and fruits. Typical dishes are based upon what you would find fresh at the local market that week, making meals very easy to prepare and involving few ingredients. Although the food may be simple, it is rich in flavor, very hearty and quite filling. An unsalted loaf of bread is a tradition that dates back to the 16th century when there was a tax placed on salt, changing the way locals thought about baking bread. It may seem flavorless at first, but its real job is to soak up all the juices left on your plate or to be served in stews or soups, as you will find in two of this week’s recipes.
Literally translated, acquacotta means cooked water and is a simple vegetable soup, served over day old bread and topped with an egg. There are many variations to this age-old recipe. Bread and water are fundamental, while onion and celery are important. But the ingredients then added depend upon what is in the kitchen, such as tomatoes, carrots, spinach, chard and fresh herbs. Acquacotta is best served hot in bowls with toasted Tuscan bread, Pecorino cheese and a poached egg. With these few ingredients you will have a simple, but delicious recipe.
3 medium onions (one red, one white, one yellow)
4 stalks of celery hearts with leaves
4 oz extra virgin olive oil
8 small plum tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
four slices of day old bread
Bring a pan of water to a boil as you will need it shortly. Peel and very thinly slice the onions. Chop the celery into thin arcs. Warm the olive oil in large heavy-based pan and add the onion and celery. Sauté the vegetables over a low flame until soft and translucent. Add the chopped tomatoes, a good pinch of salt, a grind of pepper and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
Add the boiling water, one ladleful at a time so the vegetables never stop bubbling. Once the vegetables are covered by 3 inches of water, lower the flame and leave the acquacotta to simmer for 40 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
Prepare the bowls by putting a slice of toasted day-old bread at the bottom of each and sprinkling it with a little cheese. Once the acquacotta is ready, divide it between the four bowls – covering the bread with vegetables and some broth, but leave an inch of the broth in the pan.
Break four eggs into the remaining broth, cover the pan and then let the eggs poach gently over a low flame for 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to lift the eggs on top of the acquacotta in each of the four bowls.
The Hunter’s Cinghiale
The hunter’s cinghiale is a traditional and rustic recipe of Grosseto and in particular of the Maremma, where wild boar are found in extraordinary abundance. In the wooded areas of the Maremma, the boar are everywhere; their meat is rich, full-bodied and extremely tasty. This classic recipe will vary from family to family, but the essentials stay the same. In this recipe, black olives are added, but regardless of the additions that might be made, Cinghiale is unquestionably a dish of pure Italian gastronomy! This recipe is ideal for those who love rich flavors and it certainly will be appreciated by those who have never tried boar meat.
2 lbs wild boar stew meat
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp juniper berries
8 sage leaves
4 rosemary sprigs
2 cups full-bodied red wine
1 28 oz can peeled tomatoes
1 whole walnut
5 oz black olives
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
Take the wild boar meat and cut it into cubes, removing the excess fat. Heat a frying pan over a medium-high flame and sauté the meat until browned on all sides. Remove the meat from the pan and let it rest for a few minutes. Heat a nice round of olive oil in a saucepan and add the crushed red pepper. Heat over a medium flame to infuse the oil for 3 minutes. Add the chopped carrots, onion, celery, cloves of crushed garlic and stirring occasionally, cook until the vegetables begin to brown.
Tie the rosemary springs together with cooking twine and do the same for the sage leaves. Deglaze the frying pan with a half cup of red wine over a medium high flame and then return the boar meat to the pan. Add the cooked vegetables, juniper berries, sage leaves and rosemary. Add the remaining 1 ½ cups of red wine to the pan and cook over a high flame until the alcohol reduces to 1/3.
Add the peeled tomatoes and a whole walnut, cover and simmer for 2 hours. At the end of cooking time, add the black olives, stir and taste; if necessary add salt. Serve the wild boar with all its seasonings with a ribbon pasta, such as pappardelle.
Frittelle di Riso
These delicious sweets are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. They are also extremely addicting. So small and delectable, once you have one Frittella di Riso, it is difficult to stop!
2 ½ cups short grain rice
6 cups milk
4 tbsp sugar
Peel of one lemon (wide strips)
1 oz amaretto
1 cup flour
1 tbsp baking flour
a pinch of salt
6 eggs, separated
olive oil for frying
Bring the rice, sugar, lemon peel and milk to a slow boil. The rice is cooked when all the milk is absorbed. Place the rice in large bowl, add the amaretto, egg yolks, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well and let cool at room temperature. Do not refrigerate! Whip the egg whites until stiff and then fold the whites into the rice mixture.
In a heavy pan, heat 3 inches of oil for frying. Drop teaspoons of dough into the hot oil. Fry quickly and remove when they are golden. Do not brown. Drain on paper towels and serve sprinkled with granulated sugar. Frittelle di Riso are best served hot, but can be re-heated or served cold.