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One of the oldest versions of this pastry, made for the Christmas and New Year’s festivities in the Terni area, used to be white. The chocolate came much later, changing flavor and color, and only in few families does the old recipe endure, rarely found in writing.

One of the recipes for white Panpepato is owed to Giovanni Eroli from Narni, a curious and cultured man with many interests, from photography (one of the first in Narni to practice this art) to physics, from geography to astronomy. Among his passions was that of collecting cooking recipes. Giovanni Eroli (Narni 1813-1904) gathered local and extra-regional recipes, of any dish possible and imaginable, even pastries and deserts. Born in the Eroli Marquis’ family, old aristocracy established in Narni since the Fifteenth century, after graduating from La Sapienza University in Rome, he enrolled at the Ecclesiastic Academy and became prelate, later returning to his native town in his secular clothes. Here he dives into his many interests, even writing odes and sonnets; he became an inspector of antiquities and archeological excavations and a member of the Society of Homeland History and of the Society of Italian Geography. A multifaceted character, nowadays well-know, yet surely with more to uncover.

 

Food stylist Marisa Radicchi, photo di Riccardo Martinelli.

 

The many recipes he collected, some conserved in a manuscript, others as loose pages, have never been published, even though they had all the premises to become as successful as that of another personality of the 19th century, Pellegrino Artusi, known to this day for his publication The science in the kitchen and the art of good eating. Just by reading the recipe for the white Panpepato – refined by Marisa Radicchi – one shall definitely agree. The basic recipe (doses can always be doubled) foresees 100 grams of wildflower honey, 50 grams of sugar, 250 grams of almonds, 50 grams of candied orange peel, a tea spoon of fine freshly ground black pepper, ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg, the juice of one orange and half a teaspoon of freshly ground cinnamon.

Peel the almonds and crush till finely diced, add in the candied orange peel, 150 grams of flour and the spices. Let the honey melt in a bain-marie and rapidly mix with the dried ingredients, if the dough is too wet add in some flour and stir vigorously. Divide the dough into dome-shaped pastries, about 9 centimeters in diameter and let them cook for about 15 minutes in an oven preheated to 180°C. Let them cool and rest for a few days before serving.

Ingredients:

  • 500 g of flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 200 g of mixed cheese, possibly pecorino and Romanesco, half of which is grated and half into small pieces
  • 50 g of lard
  • 50 g of extra virgin olive oil
  • 60 g of brewer’s yeast
  • 7-8 pepper granules
  • salt
  • Oil or lard to grease the cake tin

Directions:

Place the pepper granules in a saucepan together with a little water and boil for 15 minutes, then leave to cool and strain. Mix the flour, the eggs, the lard, the oil, the cheese, the pepper-flavored water, a nice pinch of salt and the yeast, dissolved in a little warm water. Grease a tall cake tin, with the base narrower than the top, and fill it in half with the dough. Leave to rise until the cake has reached the edges of the pan (it will take about an hour – an hour and a half) then bake at about 160°. Cook for about an hour, raising to 180° towards the end of cooking. Remove from the oven and let cool before enjoying the cake, which can be kept for many days.

 

This is the modern version of the Easter Cheese Cake because it is baked in the oven, but it respects the traditional ingredients and shape. I owe it to Mrs. Carla Onorini di Magione, who incidentally, instead of mixing the pepper granules in the dough as the original recipe, flavored the cake with boiled pepper water. The pie – pizza in southern Umbria, crescia in Gubbio – with cheese, today is found all the year round in bakeries, but once it appeared on Umbrian canteens only during the Easter period and also on January 6th, Easter Day Epiphany which, according to popular tradition, is the first Easter of the year.

 


Courtesy of Calzetti & Mariucci.

Ingredients:

  • 400 g of roveja flour
  • 2 l of salted water
  • 5 anchovy fillets in oil, plus others to decorate
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • extravirgin olive oil to taste

Directions:

Put the pan with the salted water on the fire. As soon as the water boils, pour the roveja flour and mix vigorously with a whisk to prevent lumps from forming. At a low heat, keep turning the polenta with a wooden spoon for about 40 minutes. While the Farecchiata is cooking, heat the extra virgin olive oil with the whole garlic in a non-stick pan; when they are golden brown, remove them and insert the anchovy fillets, letting them melt slowly over low heat. Once the polenta is cooked, remove it from the heat, pour it into the dishes and season with the flavored oil you have prepared; let it rest for a minute, then serve with a rolled anchovy in the center of the plate. Your Farecchiata di Roveja is finally ready to be enjoyed.
A tantalizing variant: to make your Farecchiata more crunchy, cut it into slices, fry it and serve it with an anchovy fillet.

 

Farecchiata, (or polenta with Roveja flour), is a typical polenta with a delicate and slightly bitter taste that is prepared in different areas of the Marche region, but especially in the Castelluccio di Norcia one, in Umbria. It is a dish that belongs to pastoral tradition: an important source of sustenance for the families of shepherds and farmers of the Sibillini Mountains. A very poor dish that in the past was served as a breakfast to the local shepherds. The main ingredient is Roveja, a small and tasty brownish legume, similar to chickpeas but with a stronger flavor. Also known as field pea, robiglio or corbello, roveja is an ancient legume, which risks disappearing due to the difficulties related to the impervious conditions of the territory and the morphology of the plant. Nowadays, in fact, it only survives in a limited area of ​​Valnerina thanks to the efforts of some farmers who work in the locality of Preci (Cascia), where there is also an ancient water source called dei rovegliari. Extremely nutritious, with a high intake of proteins, phosphorus, carbohydrates and a reduced fat content, roveja is now a Slow Food Presidium.

Ingredients:

  • a few thin slices of fresh or dried pork cheek
  • a few sage leaves
  • a few tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper

 

Directions:

Put the slices of bacon in a pan, let them lose the fat and throw it away. Put the slices of bacon in the pan together with the sage, after a minute or two add vinegar, if necessary adjust with salt and pepper and serve.

 

This preparation, almost in disuse, was typical of winter and was known throughout Umbria. In the area of Todi, sometimes people addes tomato. It was served for dinner, accompanied by some slices of bread.

 


Courtesy of Calzetti & Mariucci.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 600 g of leavened bread dough
  • 3 large onions
  • 12-15 sage leaves
  • ½ glass of extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • olive oil or lard for the cake tin

 

DIRECTIONS:

Peel the onions, cut them into thin slices, roll them out on a baking tray and sprinkle with salt. Leave them for a hour, then squeeze them well. Grease a not too high rectangular cake tin, arrange the bread dough in a no more than a centimeter layer and sprinkle the surface with washed and dried slices of onion and sage leaves. Sprinkle the surface of the flatbread pizza with a little olive oil and cook it in the oven at about 180 ° for 30-40 minutes. The white flatbread can be served both cold and hot.

 

The crushed onion – which in Città di Castello it is called pampassato – is known throughout Umbria. The white flatbread can be made with the onion only or with the leaves of rosemary and, in the absence of anything else, only with a little salt on the surface. In Norcia, where it was usually made together whith the bread and where it was also called “spianata”, next to the poorer versions (with salt, ciccioli or rosemary), it is matched with zucchini, tomatoes and sometimes potatoes.

 

 

Courtesy of Calzetti-Mariucci

Let’s talk about the numbers: 150,000 / 180,000 flowers of Crocus Sativus cover an immense field beautiful and violet, and from all that field you get only one kilogram of saffron.

Red gold

A huge amount of flowers for a small product: of course this causes a raise in the price, as the caviar, but unlike this one, the saffron has a thousand-year history that oscillates between magic, health, prestige and cuisine. It has been a successful product for centuries, to the point of obtaining the nickname of red gold. It was a multitasking product, used as a dye for real fabrics, but also as a precious aphrodisiac and cosmetic to revive pale cheeks.
In Italy the word saffron immediately evokes the risotto alla Milanese, while in France it is an ingredient of bouillabaisse (fish soup) and in Sweden it is an element of the Grande Amaro Svedese.
Everyone uses saffron. In fact it is really requested and 180 tons a year are produced in the world. 90% comes from Iran. The powder of saffron is one of the spices which is most subject to fraudes and to be adulterated. The powder can be mixed with turmeric or with calendula, but there are those who do not hesitate to add powdered minerals or synthetic dyes. Moreover, as in ancient spices shops, there is also the risk of buying a badly preserved product.

 

prodotti tipici umbria

Saffron

Saffron of the dukedom

Once, the saffron arrived from the East following the path of the Via delle Spezie, eventually it started to be was cultivated in Italy too, above all in Abruzzo and in the territories of Spoleto and Terni.
Various historical and economic events had made it disappear from the domestic market, but now it is back and it is becoming really very important. In Italy it is not produce so much, but we cultivate the red saffron variet, which is really precious. In order to face the expenses and difficulties of cultivation and harvesting, forty Umbrian producers created an association with the evocative name of Saffron of the Dukedom, to rember the presence of the Duchy of Spoleto. One of the associates, Mr. Giuliano Sfascia, explained to me the characteristics that the product must have to be of the highest quality, and brought me to the field, where I observed the saffron itself.

 

umbria

The crocuses

 

The flowers, the crocuses, are born from the bulbs that are placed in the ground in July, but they do not bear the intensive cultivation, they need space and air, they grow on the hills, they need light and well drained soils, sandy or silty.
The 180,000 flowers, needed to obtain a kilo of saffron, can only be picked up by hand, bent over the crocuses, early in the morning, when the flowers are still closed. Each flower has only three red stigmas (antennines) that contain the spice which is the saffron. This harsh harvest is called overflowing and is done in October.
Once the flowers have been collected, the three stigmas are delicately come off, placed in a glass vase and immediately left to dry. The first they dry, the better the taste of the spice will be. Saffron production requires effort and many hours of work and it is subject to a thousand risks, bad weather and parasites. To all this we must add that every collection, to obtain the quality certification, must be analyzed by an authorized laboratory. Crocina, the color, Pirocrocina, the bitter taste and Safranale, the aroma, are the three substances that characterize the saffron, but only if the presence of these substances is high we have the saffron of the best quality. No magic. Good cultivation helps the three substances to give their best. So, good “risotto” to everyone.

It is not the first (and surely, not even the last) adventure in “perugino dialect” for Ida Trotta, author of five other books about the Umbrian cuisine.

The passion of the author, that allowed her to win two challenges thanks to her own recipes, so as to teach at the Mantignana’s Easter Cake School. Ida considers food as a collective good and eating good food as an expression of education and respect: all elements which find their roots in the umbrian excellence.
The Umbrian cuisine – with its rustic nobility and so hospitable, warm and relaxed (to paraphrase the author) – has demonstrated how its excellence derives from simple and genuine ingredients; it is the same simplicity that today distinguished chefs are looking for, removing elements from the elaborate dishes of the past. But Umbria, has always had this characteristics in its culinary tradition since ancient times. Ida describes this world recalling the typical aromas and flavors experienced during her childhood spent at her grandparents’ house.

 

 

The book continues with her personal recipes, but Perugia a Tavola is not a simple collection of recipes: every creation which belongs to the culinary tradition of Perugia, is accompanied by a presentation in verse, strictly in perugino dialect, with many curiosities about  umbrian customs and traditions. Ida is also the author of the illustrations of the first part of the book which is about appetizers, bread and savory pies, pasta dishes, soups, vegetable soups, second courses, side dishes, omelettes, cured meats and desserts.

But the book reserves another surprise too. At the bottom of this recipe book, there are the Minima culinaria, poems written in the local dialect of Perugia, approved by the Academy of Donca: the “donca” is, emblematically, the peculiar inflection which characterizes the area of Perugia and which identifies, the dialect itself. The section is curated by Sandro Allegrini, author of the preface.

To close the volume, a more touristic appendix: the author selected a series of places dua se magna bene (where you can eat well): a series of restaurants selected due to their way of interpreting and presenting the same recipes of the tradition mentioned in the book. The other criterion to choose these restaurants was their ability to promote and describe the territory. In a nutshell, a unique work by Ida Trotta, a true ambassador of the Umbrian cuisine and and the “perugino dialect”.

 


“Perugia a tavola – Tradizione, identità, cultura”

By Ida Trotta

Publishing House: Morlacchi Editore

Perugia 2017

369 pages

«Olive Oil and Umbrian wine are our cultural heritage such as Pinturicchio and Perugino».

Gianfranco Vissani does not need many presentations. It is perhaps the first chef appeared on television, when the chefs were still in the kitchen. Exuberant, outspoken and a genuine Umbrian. During our talk he remembers stories connected to his father: when he killed the pig or when he prepared the aromatic liqueurs so as the numerous things  that he taught him. Then the interview moves on to the Umbrian cuisine and to the bond to this land. At this point everything gets clear: “Mine is a true relationship with the territory”.

 

Gianfranco Vissani

What is your link with Umbria?

My origins are in Maremma but I was born in Umbria in Civitella del Lago in the province of Terni, At the lake of Corbara my father opened the first restaurant when there was still little electricity in the area and the streets were not very practical. When I was young, I was attracted by everything that was different, for this reason I traveled a lot thorough Italy: Venice, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Genoa, Florence and Naples, today all that is here represents my life. I love Umbria, I have a very deep bond with this land.

If Umbria was a dish, what would it be?

It would not be just a dish, but many. It would be hunting, the lentils of Castelluccio, the potatoes of Colfiorito, the truffle caved and not cultivated, the olive oil, the wines like Sagrantino, the torta al testo cooked under the embers, the “maialata” and the “sanguinaccio”, the thrushes of Amelia and the “palomba alla ghiotta” of Todi. We are a small region, but very important and innovative in the fileld of cuisine

An ingredient that can not miss on the table of an Umbrian…

Certainly the olive oil, for its small size, Umbria produces a lot, and the wine of Caprai and Lungarotti that were true innovators. These two products are our cultural heritage equal to Pinturicchio and Perugino.

How much, and how, has this region influenced your cooking and your work?

Very very much. Umbrian products are very present in my recipes.

Your latest book La cucina delle feste has this subtitle: “L’altro Vissani” Who is the other Vissani? Is there another one?

Yes, it’s another nuisance like me (laughs). It’s a subtitle that I enjoyed to choose.

A good chef is the one who cooks the best pasta with tomato sauce or the one who makes a great dish never made by others?

A good chef must know how to do both: starting from the simplicity of a pasta with tomato sauce to get to a more particular and complicated dish.

Little curiosity: is there a food that you can not stand? And one which you can not do without?

I do not like sauerkraut and I could not do without olive oil or ham, but the ham which doesn’t

How would you describe Umbria in three words?

Hills, nature and green landscapes.

The first thing that comes to your mind thinking of this region…

Quiet life and grape vines.

The “Torta di Pasqua dolce” is the traditional umbrian sweet cake tipically made and eaten during the Easter time.  This cake is also kneaded on the occasion of the Epiphany which is considered the first Easter of the year.

 

Ingredients for a cake:

  • 1 kg of flour
  • 250 gr of sugar
  • 10 eggs
  • 50 gr of butter
  • 50 gr of oil
  • 50 gr of candied fruit
  • 50 gr of dried grapes
  • 60 gr of brewer’s yeast
  • 1 pinch of salt

 

Preparation:

Pour the flour on the pastry board, pour inside the fountain the yeast dissolved in warm water, kneaded with warm water until you get a mixture of the consistency of the bread and place in a rather large bowl. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place away from drafts until it has doubled in volume. Add the butter, the oil, the candied fruit and the dried grapes to the dough and pour it into a 15 cm high oven pan, well greased, filling it only a half. Let rise so that the cake can reache a certain edge, and cook for a hour at 180 °B

 

This was the Easter cake throughout the region. In Città di Castello they call it “ciaccia dolce”; in southern Umbria, where they usually do not used candied fruit – and where, a variant, is known as Orvieto’s cake, enriched with aromas and a special liquor- is called “pizza”. In Norcia, where it is not used the Easter cake with cheese, they usually have breakfast, at Easter, with this sweet version, but together with slices of salami.

 

Courtesy of Calzetti & Mariucci Editore

«Take a handful of chopped walnuts, a handful of raisin, a fistful of pecorino cheese cut into small dice, a pinch of the same grated cheese, a pinch of pepper, a little salt, five or six cloves, half a glass of red wine, lard and olive oil as required, and form a whole which has to rest for about ten hours. Join a kilo and a half of bread dough, forming a mixture to divide into three parts like separate loaves. On these you can practice a deep cross cut. When the mixture is leavened, you have to cook it in the brick oven».

A snack for farmers

The Yearbook of the city of Todi, dated 1927, reports this procedure for the preparation of the “pan pepato”, a bread enriched with tasty walnuts – sometimes even raisins – that the people of these areas used to consume during the Autumn period, especially when the worked in the fields.
This type of food due to its ingredients is extremely energetic and corroborating, so that it was choosen as  as the perfect snack for those who, during the cold November days, struggled along the grassy ridges because of the olive harvest. In fact, the small size of the damaged breadpan was perfect for having  something to eat without weighing down.

 

A sublimated version

Although there are several versions, both sweet and savory, the original recipe is the the one from Todi, which benefits not only from the softness of lard, but also from the sweet-savory contrast of raisins combined with pecorino. It seems that this preparation had already been codified in a treaty of the sixteenth, but similar preparations were already widespread in the classical world. The patriarch of Jerusalem Sofrone, during the sixth century, talks about a type of cheese bread for children, not to mention the innumerable preparations spreaded in the ancient Rome and then refined over the following centuries.

Literary appetizers

It is undoubted, then, that the “pan nociato”, or “pan caciato”, is an authentic delicacy, still appreciated today, on the Umbrian tables and served as an appetizer. A delight that spreaded from Todi throughout the Umbria. So known to deserve a place of honor in the poem “November” of Guido Discepoli, inside the “Sage of poems and religious folk songs of some Umbrian towns”, edited by Oreste Grifoni – unfortunately, today, out of print.

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