Renowned for its variety and richness, Abruzzo’s cuisine is among the best in Italy. In the province of Chieti, both the agricultural and coastal attributes contribute to its cuisine. Due to the Apennine Mountains, much of the area was isolated from international influence until the 20th century and as a result, much of the cuisine of the region remained unique. In many of the small villages, locked away in the mountains for centuries, local farmers, families and cooks perfected the particular cheeses, pastas and dishes over the ages.
While many of the dishes bear similarities to items one might find throughout Italy, the locals usually provide a regional variation. For example, chili pepper can be found added to many dishes. It should not be a surprise then that much of the region’s cuisine revolves around fresh seasonal produce, roasted meats, cured pork and aged cheeses.
Crespelle in Brodo
This Abruzzese specialty is a simple, yet delicious first course and is especially appealing when the weather outside is brisk.
4 large eggs
1 cup, plus 1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk, plus extra if needed
1/3 cup, plus 2 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp Italian parsley, minced
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup Pecorino Romano, freshly grated
Using a whisk, beat the eggs and flour in a bowl. Whisk in the milk; pass through a sieve into a clean bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the parsley. The batter should be fluid, like heavy cream; add a little more milk if needed to thin it out.
Heat a 6-inch nonstick pan over medium-high flame for 2 minutes. Rub the pan with the olive oil using a paper towel. Pour in 3 tablespoons of the batter and tilt the pan immediately to spread the batter. Cook until golden on the bottom, about 2 minutes; flip and cook until the other side is also golden, about 1 minute. Remove to a plate; continue with the remaining batter. Do not grease the pan again. You will need 12 crespelle.
Meanwhile, heat the broth to just below the boiling point. Season with the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Sprinkle the crespelle evenly with the remaining 1/3 cup of Parmigiano and the Pecorino; roll into tight scrolls. Arrange 2 crespelle in each of the 6 bowls. Ladle on the broth and serve immediately.
This hearty Abruzzese-style meat gravy is traditionally served over chitarra pasta (see Tavola, March 9, 2017 for the recipe), but you can also substitute pappardelle.This recipe makes about 1 ½ quarts of gravy, which is more than enough for two pounds of pasta.
3 tbsp cooking oil
½ lb boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
½ lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
½ lb boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 lb chopped canned tomatoes, with their juices
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
2 lb pappardelle pasta
½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
Warm the cooking oil in a large heavy bottomed pot over a medium flame. Season the pieces of meat with a little salt and pepper and add them to the pot. Brown on one side for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn the pieces over to brown the other side for an additional 3 minutes. Remove the meat to a deep plate or bowl. Press the tomatoes through a food mill. Discard the solids and set the tomatoes aside.
Return the pan to a medium flame and add the extra virgin olive oil. Stir in the onion and garlic; reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté for about 5 minutes until the onion is shiny and beginning to soften. Pour in the tomatoes; raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.
Return the meat to the pot and reduce the heat to low and maintain a gentle simmer. Cover partially and let the gravy cook, stirring it from time to time, for about 3 hours, until the meat is very tender and the gravy has thickened. If it has thickened too much before the meat is done, add a splash or two of water.
Before the gravy has finished cooking, set a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente.
Taste and adjust the seasoning in the gravy with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat. Remove the meat from the pot; shred it and return it to the gravy. Serve over the pasta with the Parmigiano.
Pesce al Cartoccio
Along the Adriatic coast, the Abruzzesi adore their baked fish. The type of fish used will vary according to the season and include Adriatic snapper, bream, monkfish and cod.
4 – 8 oz fillets of white fish, such as cod
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 oz capers, mashed
1 small bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped
3 anchovy fillets finely chopped
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice from ½ lemon
½ lemon, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
a knob of butter
Prepare the mixture that will marinade for the fillets by combining the anchovies, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, capers, salt, pepper and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Marinate the fish for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut a piece of aluminum foil large enough to hold the fish fillets and spread a little butter over one side of it. Place the fish in the middle of the buttered foil with the remaining marinade spread over the top. Fold over the foil and seal the edges of the foil together. Place the foil on a baking tray and cook for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with lemon slices.