LOCAL SPECIALTIES

Our Valley, at least in the past, had a certain prestige, being a Marquisate, but its inhabitants were not particularly rich and consisted mainly of peasants, craftsmen, and shepherds. The local cuisine, therefore, is typical for a mountainous area: “poor”, simple, rustic, tasty, and often rich in calories. Apart from local dishes that can be found throughout the Teramo area, however, we would like to share some small gems with you: things that are part of a tradition, some almost forgotten. All of these are linked to certain times of the year, so it depends on the period in which you are here, what dishes you may happen to find and try.

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Starting with appetizers or “antipasti” we boast excellent cured meats and locally produced cheeses; you may also find filling dishes like lamb offal, beans with pork rind, tripe with tomato sauce and fried cheese. An honorable mention goes to “uova a vuzzətillə with pependunə and pummadorə”, a dish consisting of eggs cooked in a tomato and red pepper sauce, a real farmer’s favourite. A local proverb says: “pummadorə e pependunə l’legrijə də li cafunə!” – tomatoes and peppers, joy for the peasants. Another egg dish typical of the area, is omelettes flavored with wild herbs, asparagus, nettle, orapi or ciməviticchiə (clematis vitalba).

 

Moving on to the pasta dishes (“i primi piatti”). Typical dishes of the whole Teramo area are “timballo” (a type of lasagna made with crepes), “chitarrina with pallottine” (a type of spaghetti with tomato sauce and mini-meatballs) or “scrəppellə ‘mbussə” (crepes in chicken broth, rolled and stuffed with grated cheese). However, less common and more local dishes are “fettuccine con le voliche” (pasta with wild spinach, also known as Good King Henry or “orapo”), typical of the Castelli and Isola del Gran Sasso area. And, of course, pasta with mushrooms: the very noble porcini, truffles and russules, known in the area as Frijə, Rusciulə and Quaiarulə.

 

A special mention deserves sweet ravioli, a typical dish from Castelli and Tossicia, filled with ricotta, cinnamon, sugar and lemon zest and seasoned with a robust tomato sauce, finished with a sprinkling of grated pecorino. Of course, if you prefer, there is also the savoury version with parsley, pepper and marjoram, a typical dish from Colledara, Castel Castagna and Isola del Gran Sasso. The truth is that, naturally, traditions have been adapted and mixed over the centuries and each family has its own recipe, all of them worth tasting.
Worth mentioning also are the Tajarillə, a very versatile pasta format served, seasonally, with chickpeas, beans, broad beans, lentils, “slow” tomato sauce, and so on, and so on……
If you are keen on broth, you will find it here, served with crepes, tagliolini, stracciatella, pizzetta and cardoon … whatever you like.
In winter you may find excellent polenta, served covered with a mixed pork meat and tomato sauce, sausages and bacon, sometimes with a piece of mutton added to obtain a more rustic sauce, and all finished with a sprinkling of grated pecorino cheese.

 

After pasta, we have meat (“i secondi piatti”). Traditionally, the staple meat of the valley was pork and chicken, since they were readily available on every farm: roasted, boiled, grilled, any way you like. Pork sausage, in all its forms, is the local king: cooked on the grill, spread raw on bread (we are the only ones in the world to do this and our survival is still a mystery), used in sauces, seasoned, stored in lard or in oil, made with pure meat, made with meat and liver, made with rind (‘nnujə – cotechino), made with wild boar, etc.
If you ever get the chance to join a family or friends’ barbeque party in our Valley, you are sure to find 100% sausages, bacon, arrosticini (mutton skewers) and mutton steaks, all locally reared and transformed.

 

Another very traditional meat dish is “‘Ndocca’ ndocchə”, a stew of the less noble parts of the pig, ears, tail, rind, and feet, flavored with garlic, fennel and rosemary. The essence of this dish is that absolutely nothing is wasted and every part of the slaughtered pig is used.
In the Easter period, you can find “mazzarelle”, chard leaves stuffed with lamb offal and tied with its cleaned intestines, served with either a white or a tomato sauce, a truly unique delicacy for brave palates. Not typical of the area but inevitable in the repertoire of all our grandmothers are meatballs made with beef, and served with potatoes boiled in a tomato sauce with the holy trinity of celery, carrot and onion. Some prefer the “cacə and ovə” version, which is made with cheese and eggs instead of beef, but those are really more typical of Chieti.

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The typical dessert of festive holidays is the renowned “pizza doggə” (dialect), or “pizza dolce” (Italian): a sponge cake with different layers of vanilla and chocolate creams and almond paste, soaked in liqueur and covered with a glaze of coffee and butter sprinkled with chopped peanuts…… Try it and forget about your diet!
If you happen to be in Castelli, ask for “mostaccioli”, a typical dessert biscuit in the Neapolitan tradition; its secret recipe is fiercely guarded by the ladies of Castelli.

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At breakfast they are a must: “i fritti di latte” (milk fries), but few are left who know how to make them. It is a sweet made of milk, flour, sugar and lemon zest, cut in diamond shapes and fried.
Another typical breakfast sweet are “neole” or “ferratelle” (a type of waffle) that are sometimes filled with Nutella, but are best with homemade jam.
If you happen to be in Tossicia in January for the mystical fire of S. Antonio, you will have the opportunity to try the “Cellittə də Sand’Andoniə”: a biscuit filled with jam (or chocolate) and shaped like a bird (although to some they seem more like fantastic dragons). Impossible to resist, with a drop of locally produced Montepulciano red wine, sitting by the fire.

 

At Christmas time, you will find “caggiunittə (or “calcionetti”) everywhere. This is a very particular sweet, filled with a mix of chestnuts, chocolate, rum and coffee, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon on top.
In February, when celebrating Carnival, there are “castagnole” and the legendary “taralli di San Biagio”, with aniseed flavour. These are supposed to be good for your throat, since San Biagio is the saint that protects your throat.
At Easter time, the tradition calls for other sweets, such as “pizza di Pasqua”, a type of sweet, rich bread, sometimes with dried fruit, and “taralli di Pasqua”, usually eaten on Easter Sunday morning.

 

May 1st is another special day, with its own special dish in the Teramo area: the Virtù. This is a thick and hearty soup, traditionally made to clean out the pantry. It is a dish to say goodbye to winter and welcome spring. Some say you need to put in seven different kinds each of grains and pulses, of pasta and of vegetables and wild herbs, which all need to be cooked first separately. Sometimes some scraps of meat are added. Of course, there are many versions of this dish, but this is not mere food, it is an experience!

 

No food without drink, especially before or after eating. There are some particular drinks to try, which are often still homemade: most common is “genziana”: a bitter alcoholic drink made with an infusion of the roots of the Gentiana Lutea, which grows high up in our mountains; it can be made with white wine or alcohol. Also you can find grappa infused with wild herbs or fruit.
Harder to find is “vino cotto”, which is a type of sweet cooked wine, aged in wooden barrels, similar to port.

And last, but not least, if you come across a van selling “porchetta di Colledara”, stop and treat yourself to a tasty snack: a fresh white roll with roasted pork. It is the best around and makes a hearty breakfast … or lunch … or snack, anytime!

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