The foods of Abruzzo are relatively unknown to the rest of the world but no less intriguing than some of Italy’s best-known ingredients. Located in central Italy, Abruzzo sits on the Adriatic Sea, east of Lazio, south of Le Marche, and north of Puglia. Its rugged inland terrain is thanks to the Apennine Mountains, and the entire landscape is a trove for food lovers. Here are seven of the mist quintessential foods from Abruzzo.
1. Saffron from L’Aquila
Among the best in the world and protected with the DOP status, the saffron comes from the area of the Navelli plateau, near L’Aquila. The toasted stigmas of the purple crocus sativus flower have an intense aroma. The saffron is used in risotto all around the country as well as in local sweetbreads and fish soup recipes.
2. Licorice of Atria
Harvested in the area since Roman times, the licorice can be found in sugared almonds, roots, candy, as well as in juice and powder forms that are in great demand by the confectionery, herbal, and cosmetic industries. It’s refreshing with thirst-quenching properties and makes for a good remedy against sore throat and low blood pressure.
3. Mortadella di Campotosto
This Slow Food Presidium cured pork meat is finely ground and seasoned with salt, pepper,
white wine, and spices, and all encasing a lard bar. It’s then stuffed inside a gut sac, which gives it an ovoid shape, and they’re then bound in pairs. Its appearance has earned it the nickname mule balls. After smoking and a two-month maturation (at least), it takes on compact textures and packs intense flavor.
4. Spaghetti alla Chitarra
Made with durum wheat semolina and egg, spaghetti alla chitarra, or guitar spaghetti, is named for the guitar-shaped tool that cuts the dough into large square-shaped spaghetti strands. The porous texture clings nicely to sauces. It’s traditionally served in the traditional sugo di pallottine, a sauce comprised of tiny meatballs made from mixed meat.
5. Gentian Liqueur
This liqueur is made from the dried roots of the gentian, which are macerated in white wine for 40 days. It has a high alcohol content and little sugar – every family has their own recipe, and many riffs incorporate cinnamon, lemon zest, bay leaf, or coffee beans. It’s a very bitter liqueur with great digestive properties.
6. Confetti di Sulmona
These colorful candy-coated almonds from the town of Sulmona date back to the 15th century – the best almonds from Abruzzo and Sicily are still used today to make them. They are often crafted into followers and other objects. Many historic shops in Sulmona still sell them, and the town also has a museum dedicated to their history and workmanship.
The tender, chocolate, and hazelnut torrone, or nougat, from Aquila was invented by Ulisse Nurzia at the beginning of the 20th century. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the excellent Aelion Torrone from Guardiagrele has a crunchier texture and is made with toasted almonds, cinnamon, vanilla, and candied fruit.
Recipes of Abruzzo
- Spaghetti alla chitarra: This dish features a type of spaghetti made with a special tool called a chitarra, which gives the pasta a square shape. It is typically served with a rich tomato sauce, often with the addition of meatballs or sausages.
- Arrosticini: These are skewers of lamb or mutton that are grilled over an open flame and seasoned with salt and olive oil. Arrosticini are a popular street food in Abruzzo and are typically served with a side of bread.
- Scrippelle ‘mbusse: This is a traditional soup made with thin crepes that are filled with pecorino cheese and rolled up. The crepes are then cut into strips and simmered in a rich chicken broth.
- Pallotte cacio e ovo: These are small meatballs made with ground meat, pecorino cheese, and eggs. They are typically fried and then simmered in tomato sauce.
- Virtù: This is a vegetable soup made with a variety of vegetables, including artichokes, fava beans, potatoes, and peas. It is typically served as a first course during special occasions.
- Pecora alla callara: This is a slow-cooked lamb stew that is seasoned with garlic, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. The lamb is cooked in a large pot over an open flame and is typically served with polenta.
- Sagne e fagioli: This is a hearty pasta dish made with wide, ribbon-like noodles and borlotti beans. The noodles are typically cooked in the bean broth and then served with the beans and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Timballo abruzzese: This is a layered pasta dish that features rigatoni pasta, tomato sauce, meatballs, hard-boiled eggs, and mozzarella cheese. The dish is baked in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Brodetto alla vastese: This is a fish stew that is made with a variety of seafood, including mussels, clams, squid, and shrimp. The stew is flavored with tomatoes, garlic, and white wine and is typically served with a side of bread.
- Parrozzo: This is a traditional cake made with almond flour and covered with a layer of chocolate. The cake has a distinctive dome shape and is often served during special occasions like Easter.