It has been said that whether or not someone is a romantic at heart or not, Venice will amaze you. With breath-taking ancient architecture, winding canals and endless mysterious passageways, Venice is one of the most alluring cities in the world. Traditionally, Venetian cuisine has been a combination of local ingredients, as well as rare and exotic ones. Due to Venice’s location on the sea and its historic importance as a trading hub, dishes use more exotic spices than anywhere else in Italy. Along with a significant amount of seafood, the Venetian cuisine uses vegetables that grow in the surrounding area, such as peas, beans and artichokes, but in particular asparagus and radicchio.
Sarden in Saor
One of the most typical of Venetian dishes, it is found in many restaurants and osterias in the Venice. Originally the recipe was prepared with sardines, flour, onion and vinegar, then during the Renaissance people started adding raisins and pignoli nuts. It is often paired with radicchio, one of the other specialties of the Veneto region.
2 lb fresh sardines
2 lb white onions
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 ½ cups flour
2 oz pignoli pine nuts
2 oz raisins
oil for deep frying
For the Radicchio
1 radicchio bunch
4 oz pancetta
salt and pepper
2 oz white wine
Wash the sardines under cold running water, remove the heads and organs. Flour the sardines on both sides and deep fry in hot oil until golden. Then from the oil, add some salt; remove and drain on paper towels and leave to rest.
Thinly slice the onions and sauté in oil until they become soft and golden, then add the cup of white wine vinegar. Bring to boil then switch the heat off.
Take the sardines and place one layer in a glass oven-safe dish. Place a layer of onions with some raisins and pignoli nuts on top and continue making layers of sardines and onions/raisins/nuts until all of the ingredients are used. Finish with a layer of onions. Allow to sit covered in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours; 48 hours is better.
When you are ready to serve the sardines, wash and chop the radicchio. Chop the pancetta and gently fry in a large pan until very crispy. Add the radicchio to the pan, add salt and pepper to taste. Add the white wine and cook until it evaporates. Cook for 10 minutes, until the radicchio is soft. Serve together with the Sarden in Saor.
Fegato alla Veneziana
Venetian liver and onions is hugely popular throughout the Veneto region. It couples thinly sliced liver with an abundance of well-caramelized onions, which adds sweetness to balance the liver’s earthy flavor. White wine or vinegar is used in the recipe to tone down the sweetness of the onion and to add depth and character to the dish.
2 lb calf’s liver
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 small yellow onions
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp butter
½ bunch Italian parsley
4 oz white wine
Trim the liver and peel off the thin membrane. Cut the liver lengthwise into 4 long pieces; then, using a very sharp knife and pressing the palm of your hand firmly against the meat, slice each piece crosswise into pieces as thin as possible. Peel and cut the onions in half. Cut each half into very thin slices. Trim and chop the parsley.
Heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over a medium flame. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and deep golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer the onions with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside.
Increase the flame to medium-high and add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. When oil is sizzling hot, add the liver and cook in batches to avoid overcrowding the skillet. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, until the pieces are brown and crispy on the edges, 3-5 minutes. Season liberally with salt and pepper, then add reserved onions and accumulated juices. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring and turning liver and onions constantly while shaking skillet over the flame. Transfer to a warm serving platter.
Add butter to skillet and scrape up any brown bits stuck to bottom of skillet as butter melts. Remove skillet from heat and stir in parsley. Spoon the butter and parsley mixture over liver and onions. Add the white wine to the skillet and deglaze, scraping up the bits that will have formed with a wooden spoon or spatula. When the wine has reduced to a syrupy consistency, pour it over the liver with some additional chopped parsley and serve immediately.
Pollo alla Veneziana con Pappardelle
Traders from Venice introduced sultanas to Europe. This Venetian pasta dish contains the flavors of pignoli nuts, rosemary and sultanas with the chicken to make a rich, delicious pasta dinner.
3 lb roasted chicken
1 lb pappardelle
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken stock cubes
2 rosemary sprigs
1/3 cup sultanas
1/4 cup toasted pignoli nuts
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Wash and place the chicken in a roasting pan. Coat the chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 75 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 180°F. About 7 minutes before the chicken is done, place the pignoli nuts on a small baking sheet and place in the oven to toast. Allow the chicken to cool enough to remove the meat. Cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Reserve the juices from the roasting pan.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt and add the pasta. Cook until just al dente and reserve 1 ½ cups of pasta water.
Chop the leaves from 2 sprigs of rosemary. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter together with 2 tablespoon of oil in a large sauté pan. Add 2 tablespoons of the juices from the roaster and mix. Add the chopped rosemary sprigs and one cup of pasta water and stir the ingredients together. Add the sultanas to the mixture and reduce the flame to a low simmer. Add the pasta and mix with the remaining ½ cup of pasta water, then stir in the chicken. Cook over a low heat until the pasta is well coated. Serve topped with the toasted pignoli nuts.