Abruzzo - Food & Wine
Abruzzo is the heart of Italy, boasting majestic snow-capped mountains and the sparkling blue expanse of the Adriatic Sea. Perhaps the only thing grander than the picturesque scenery is the tradition-steeped culinary courses particular to each of its provinces. Pasta production houses dating back to the 1800s sprinkled over the region yield some of the purest and most decadent homemade pasta around. Extra-virgin olive oil produced in the Teramo hills is considered to be the best in Italy.
Due to Abruzzo’s somewhat isolated mountainous location, this diamond in the rough was shielded from external culinary influences, keeping the cuisine highly traditional and therefore a novelty of the region.
From fresh meat and seafood fare to handcrafted sugared almond desserts, Abruzzo truly offers a unique dining experience that simply has no comparison.
Abruzzo antipasti (appetizers) are rich and savory and embody all the best of the region, including mountain and coastal fare. Bruschetta is a lighter bread-based starter that encompasses the flavors of the region’s famous extra-virgin olive oil and the robust flavors of sausage and roasted vegetables. Sagne e fagioli, a bean and noodle soup, is heavily laced with the organic flavors of tomatoes, garlic, oil, and peperoncini.
The region proudly makes several versions of pork-based salami which is often served with a variety of native cheeses, including ricotta, Caciocavallo, and Canestrato di Castel del Monte, which is made from sheep’s milk.
Popular seafood appetizers include dishes derived fresh from the Adriatic Sea. A variety of mussel and stockfish dishes become show stoppers when accented with the finest oils, herbs, spices, and full-bodied roasted vegetables such as tomato, onion, and potato. Cozze ripiene, or stuffed mussels are a delightful combination of extra-virgin olive oil, parsley, breadcrumbs, garlic, parmesan cheese, and a rich tomato sauce.
While the appetizers admittedly sound amazing with hearty, natural flavors, diners will want to pace themselves so they can enjoy the delicious subsequent courses.
The most iconic first courses in Abruzzo are hands down pasta-based. The Maccheroni alla chitarra, is a broad pasta made by rolling an egg dough through a wooden frame with wires that resembles a guitar. This decadent traditional pasta can be served with a variety of meats including lamb, pork, or goose.
The Teramo area serves Le Virtu, known as The Virtues, a spring soup featuring various types of pasta served with fresh vegetables and legumes.
When it comes to coastal fare, Scrippelle ‘Mbusse, or crepes in broth, is another widely popular appetizer. The thin crepes rolled and covered in broth are a traditional recipe of the Teramo territory.
Possibly the most popular second course in Abruzzo is Arrosticini. The dish is served on a skewer that showcases cubes of sheep meat. These skewers are often cooked on special narrow grills called fornacella at restaurants or road side eateries. Often considered as a street food, locals usually shun silverware for this treat and eat it straight off the stick.
Fish broth variations, pickled fried fish, and soups are also popular second courses specific to the region. Brodetto alla Vastese is a dish very renowned among locals that consists in broth with the freshest assorted fish, tomatoes, garlic, bell pepper, parsley, and salt.
Don’t let the simple nature of these dishes fool you. The secret to the popularity of these second courses is using the freshest of ingredients and pairing them with the purest offerings of Mother Nature.
While pizza and gelato are perfect foods to enjoy on the go, Abruzzo has many more offerings when it comes to street food. In fact, Panino con Porchetta is a favorite in the region. This dish features slow cooked pork that is seasoned to perfection and served either on crusty bread, or on its own.
For a sweet treat, try a Bomba, which is a light doughnut stuffed with a sweet custard. This dish pairs wonderfully with a nice hot cappuccino.
By and large, most of the sweet treats of Abruzzo are almond-based and often have a hint of honey.
Perhaps one of the most colorful and aesthetically beautiful almond desserts is Italian Confetti, a traditional offering of the city of Sulmona. Almonds are peeled and coated in sugar and come in virtually every color of the rainbow. While this dessert can be served loose in a bowl, both the eyes and taste buds delight at confetti that is fashioned into gorgeous bright flower bouquets and other aesthetically pleasing designs. Sulmona is home to this exquisite combination of food and art.
Another favorite in the Abruzzo region is torrone, or nougat. These can be found in almost any restaurant in a variety of flavor combinations that will both surprise and delight.
Pastries are a given in this region of Italy. Rustic pastries called Bocconotti are often stuffed with almonds and chocolate, although they can be found in a variety of flavors. Cicerchiata are small balls of fried pastry with accents of honey served as an oval shaped cake.
A more unassuming dessert category that is often underestimated is that of cookies. Ferratelle, also known as Pizzelle, is a light, wafer-thin cookie flavored with anise. The only danger with this dessert is that the light taste has you going back for seconds and thirds.
For those that love all things pasta, the Ravioli dolci or pasta with sugar, is much like the classic international version of ravioli, except larger and with some unusual additions such as sugar, lemon, and cinnamon.
No meal in Abruzzo is complete unless it is paired with the perfect wine. With organic wineries found across the region but particularly in Chieti and Teramo, it isn’t hard to see why Abruzzo wine is recognized both nationally and internationally and is the perfect complement to any dish.
One of Abruzzo’s most famous wines is Montepulciano, which is named as such because it is produced with the Montepulciano grape. Most of this wine made in the Chieti province and is so famous and revered there are bottles displayed at a wine museum in Tollo. This medium-bodied red wine is divine with meats and roasted winter vegetable dishes.
Trebbiano and Sangiovese are also popular wine varieties found in the region. Trebbiano white wine pairs fabulously with seafood fare, pastas, and risottos. Sangiovese is a dry red wine that pairs splendidly with hard cheeses, rich meats, and cured sausages.
Abruzzo Ratafia is liqueur made with cherries and Montepulciano Di Abruzzo wines, making it a fabulous choice for almost any dessert on the menu.
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