Grappa! What is it and why Italians love it?

Grappa is the perfect ending to yet another delicious Italian meal! This venerable digestive has been produced and enjoyed in Italy for centuries; it was mentioned in 14th Century documents and by the end of the 15th Century it was already licensed, taxed and exported – yes, even way back then the Tax Man was quick to recognise the potential and grab his share! Although Grappa had humble origins – it was widely produced in home stills by just about every wine farmer and grape producer in the North of Italy – it has come a long way since it’s rather rough-and-ready high potency origins and today Grappa is enjoyed all over the world and some of the better Grappa can be a most sophisticated ending to an enjoyable meal.

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Grappa and espresso – so Italian! – source

 What is Grappa?

Grappa is made from pomace, the left-over skins, seeds, and stems that remain after grapes have been crushed for wine. Sometimes fruit or other aromatics such as fresh herbs and spices are added to this raw material before it is distilled using either the old fashioned direct-fired stills or more modern methods utilizing steam heating. The distillate is a clear liquid with a hefty alcohol content of around 37% to 40% (and often higher, especially home-made varieties that are not subject to control). A similar product is also produced in France, called Marc, but the name “Grappa” may only be used for those spirits originating in Italy, and there are various regulations controlling the alcohol content (it cannot be less than 40%), distillation process and the grapes used. The resulting distillate is crystal clear and completely colourless.

The big players in the grappa business.

Today there are several enterprising Italian producers, among them some big names like Nardini (Bassano del Grappa) and Nonino in the Friuli Region, who have started to promote and refine the end product. Instead of using whatever grapes are available, (traditionally the old Grappa was made from a mixture of wine-grape remnants) they have started to produce single variety Grappa (cru monovitigno) and Grappa made from the grapes of particular denominated areas. In addition, some producers are aging the distillate in oak, ash or chestnut barrels, which imparts subtle flavours of vanilla, tobacco and sweet spices as well as changing the colour to anything from a light straw to a deeper amber hue. Most of the larger wineries now have their own “house brand” grappa specially distilled for them to sell alongside their wine.
Further innovations to improve the image and desirability of Grappa include the wide-spread use of beautiful hand-blown glass bottles, some embellished with beautiful stoppers, a variety of seals, gold caps, ribbons and lace reminiscent of the more gracious Renaissance era.

How to enjoy grappa.

The best way to enjoy Grappa in the traditional way is to serve it in a small tulip-shaped glass which will enhance the aroma. Young Grappa should be served cool (around 9 – 13C) while older Grappa would best be enjoyed at room temperature (17C). Many Italians enjoy sipping a Grappa alongside their Espresso, or even combining the two.
In the last decade there has been a big increase in the popularity of Grappa, leading it to become quite fashionable. A “Grappa Movement” – (i Grappisti) has been formed to promote the drink and there have been competitions where “mixologists” compete to produce the best cocktail containing Grappa as the primary ingredient. For your own modern take on Grappa try this suggestion from British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver as the finale to your next dinner party: Put a bottle of Grappa and 2-3 bunches of grapes in the freezer for about 2-3 hours. Serve the chilled grapes and Grappa on a large platter with a few bars of good black chocolate – superb!

Grappa tours.

Emilia Delizia would be very happy to organise tours for those interested in the process of making this famous Italian Spirit. Typically produced in the North West of Italy, the producers are easily reached from Venice, Verona, Bologna and Milan. Our company can organise transport, visits and lunches. A minimum of 10 people is required.

 

Lardo di Colonnata….a taste of the Good Fat

What is Lardo di Colonnata?

Lardo di Colonnata is a true Italian heritage food; (it is very unfortunate that non-Italians will generally confuse the name with simple lard, which is far from the truth). This product is a deliciously seasoned, cured slab of pure fat from the back of the pig, which has been cured in a particular way, and it is a delicacy in Italy where it can often be seen on a platter of Salumi (Italian cured meats). Lardo di Colonnata is a superior product and it is protected by an IGP designation, meaning that production is restricted to the region around the little village of Colonnata. In addition, the IGP brings with it certain regulations regarding the production, and ensures that the product is matured in a particular way in the Marble caves near Colonnata.

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Lardo di Colonnata – Source

The Marble Caves of Carrara and the Apuan alps

The magnificent mountains that surround the town of Carrara are a sight to behold! In the height of summer they appear to be covered in snow, but it is not snow but precious white marble that is gleaming in the sun. The marble from Carrara has been known since Roman times, and is where the huge block that was the basis of Michelangelo’s famed “David” was hewn. The town of Carrara is a monument to marble, and you will see marble wherever you look – marble benches, marble statues, marble steps and a gleaming marble Duomo (cathedral). Today you can go on a quarry tour to get an idea of how incredibly difficult it must have been to produce the marble here all those years ago, with no equipment! Above the town of Carrara, in the village of Colonnata, you can learn how the marble caves of the area are essential today in the production of Lardo di Colonnata, just as they have been for centuries.
Legend has it that the original Lardo was produced by the Roman quarry workers who needed a nutritious meal to sustain them during their labours in the quarries.

How Lardo di Colonnata Is Made.

Thick slabs of trimmed pork back fat are seasoned with salt, pepper, rosemary, garlic (and sometimes other herbs such as star anise, oregano, coriander, cloves, etc) and packed into specially carved Carrara marble containers, which are porous and allow for the curing process to take place. Production only takes place in winter, and the vats of seasoned fat are aged and matured entirely naturally in the Marble Caves, where the micro-climate is perfect for the job of curing the meat without any additives or preservatives.
The resultant Lardo di Colonnata, shaved into delicate thin ribbons, is a delicate, creamy textured sliver, full of the rich flavours of the herbs, which perfectly complements a slice of grilled Italian bread – crostini. It tastes a little like the fatty part of a slice of perfect prosciutto, but with a lot more flavour! It is generally eaten just as described above, and forms part of an antipasti platter, along with other cured meats (salumi). It can also be used to impart flavour and moisture to roast game birds or other dishes that require a little extra fat.

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The Marble containers where the lardo is cured – source

How Many Kinds of Parmigiano Reggiano are out there?

There are really stringent laws governing what kind of cheese can be called Parmigiano Reggiano, so in fact the answer to the question should be: Only one kind – Parmesan cheeses produced in the regions which are covered by the Parmigiano Reggiano PDO (protected designation of origin). In reality, however, it is a little more complicated! Let me try to explain about the variations that can be found amongst cheeses that all proudly bear the PDO stamp which proclaims to the world that they are genuine Parmesan cheeses from the PDO region, which includes Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Mantua and Bologna.

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It may surprise you to know that there are about 420 creameries within this designated region, and these “parmesan factories” receive their milk from over four thousand farms every day. Inevitably, there will be a large variation in the end product from all these dairies, due to the season, altitude, breed of cattle and expertise of the cheese-maker. Another factor that hugely influences the final cheese is the period of maturation; the minimum time required for a cheese to fulfil the stringent appellation requirements is 12months, but some cheese wheels spend up to 36 months in the maturation cellars, during which time there is a very noticeable change in the taste and character of the cheese.

Factors which influence the final product are:

Maturation: at 12 months this medium-fat semi-hard cheese will have a pale cream colour, taste slightly salty, slightly acid and slightly sweet, and have a wonderful nutty fragrance – Parmigiano is never a smelly cheese! There is a slight grainy texture, one of the distinctive characteristics of this King of Cheeses. At 18 months, the texture has changed as more crystals develop and the straw colour of the cheese is a shade darker; the flavour is becoming more savoury and the fragrance has become a little fruity. The flavours and aroma of the cheese continue to deepen and mature, and the colour gets progressively darker. By 30+ months the cheese is fully mature, a golden straw colour with many crystals and can have woody, spicy, and dried-fruit flavours on your palate. The rind will be really hard at this stage.

Altitude: At higher altitudes, the dairy herd has access to sweeter, greener grass (Parmigiano herds are never fed anything other than grass!) and purer water, resulting in the cheese from the mountains (Parmigiano di Montagna) having a subtly deeper flavour. Many cheese connoisseurs also believe that cheeses made in Spring and Autumn are also superior due to the improved feed at these times of the year. Since each wheel is date-stamped, it is easy for cheese buyers to select cheeses made at these time of the year.

The Herd: if you are faming cattle for the meat market you choose good beef producing breeds, and likewise milk producers for the famous Parmigiano cheese production rely on superior milk-producing cows. In this region the most favoured breed is the Alpine Brown, bred exclusively in the mountainous areas. Recently “red cows” as they are locally known are making a coming back. The Rossa di Parma is native cow of the area and it produces a superior milk. These animals produce the very best balance of quality and quantity of milk – a really superior product just perfect for the production of a really superior cheese.

So, to get back to the original question – there is only one type of cheese that may be called Parmigiano Reggiano, produced in the areas covered by the PDO, but within the parameters set there can be fairly wide variations in the appearance, aroma and taste (and price!) of your slice of Parmigiano.

Supercars, Super Foods of Modena

Connoisseurs of wonderful cars and superb cuisine will find a holiday in the delightful medieval town of Modena in northern Italy most rewarding.  Modena and near-by Parma are the home of Italy’s greatest exports, Parma Ham, Parmesan Cheese, Balsamic vinegar and, of course, Ferrari and Maserati.  Plan your next holiday to include enough time in this region to get a true taste of some of the best that Italy has to offer.  Here are some of the attractions that you must include in your holiday plans.

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Cathedral of Modena

Hombre Farm – Motorvalley Panini Collection Tour.

Matteo Panini is a young farmer in the region, one of many Parmesan cheese producers, who also happens to  have an amazing collection of motor vehicles which have been passed down to him from his illustrious family which included his father Umberto, who together with his brothers Benito, Franco and Guiseppe, invented the famous Panini stickers.

The motor collection started with tractors, which all farmers needed, and one of the exhibits is a 1934 Landini, still in perfect working order.  After tractors came motorcycles, the most common mode of transport after WWII, and after that came the wonderful cars, featuring examples from Maserati that are thought to be the most important collection of these super cars in the world.  In addition to Italian motor vehicles, there are also many examples from other countries such as British motorbikes from Norton, and even a Messerschmitt car and a Lotus!

A visit to the Hombre farm is an excellent family day trip.  First visit the dairy, where 12 wheels of Parmesan are produced daily, and then enjoy the motor museum.

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The Maserati Eldorado at the Panini Museum

Osteria Francescana

No culinary visit to Modena would be complete without having a meal at this wonderful restaurant, the brain-child of world-renowned chef Massimo Bottura, who grew up in Modena and developed his love of cooking by watching his mother prepare food.  Massimo has come a long way since then!  His food is a modern interpretation of classic Italian cuisine, but this chef, who has worked with some of the big names of the culinary world, such as Alain Ducasse and Ferran Adrio (of El Bulli) is forever pushing the boundaries.  He won his first Michelin star in 2002, a second in 2006 and a third in 2011, as well as numerous other awards and distinctions.  This year, 2013, La Francescana came in 3rd of the 50 best restaurants in the world.  Of course you have to book well in advance, and of course it is expensive, but it is worth it!  His signature dish for 2013 is called Camouflage – a hare in the woods; it is made up of a thin layer of foie gras decorated with various powders composed of hare blood, chestnut and several herbs – perhaps this dish is not for everyone, but it is an example of the chefs’ innovation.  Of course, there are more conventional dishes to suit all palates.

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Chef Massimo Bottura at his restaurant La Francescana in Modena – Source

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

Genuine Balsamic Vinegar has been produced in Modena for centuries, and is a unique artisanal product, completely unlike regular vinegar.  The basic ingredient is grape Must (juice) from predominantly Trebbiano grapes (sometimes with the addition of Lambrusco grapes).  The must is simmered (never boiled!) for a lengthy period to reduce and concentrate the liquid.  This liquid is then allowed to ferment and mature for a minimum of 12 years in the case on a “true” Balsamic.  This wonderful product, known as Black Gold, can sometimes be matured as long as 25 years and a new batch is traditionally started to mark the birth of a baby girl, and treasured to become a part of her dowry!  Balsamic vinegar should be used sparingly – just a drop or two to enhance a sliver of Parmesan or a slice of Parma Ham.  Make sure to visit one of the Balsamic producers of Modena during your visit to learn the process of the production, learn how to use it, taste the wonderful nectar and, of course, buy some to take home with you to remind you of Modena.

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Visiting Soave for wineries

The next time you visit Italy take the time to visit the charming and ancient town of Soave, just 23 km east of Verona in north-eastern Italy. If you thought you had to travel to Tuscany to see a walled hilltop village you are mistaken – Soave has all the necessary attributes and more!

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Soave in Italy is well worth a visit – source

 

Soave Wine

Most people will be familiar with the name Soave – the wine of the same name, produced all around the town, is world famous and probably the best known Italian wine after Chianti.

Soave is a white wine produced from predominantly Garganega grapes grown on the many hillside vineyards all around the town of Soave, and has been awarded DOC status.

Soave is produced in large quantities and in the past few decades the quality has been a little inconsistent. The introduction of stricter requirements for a Soave Superiore (minimum of 70% Garganega grapes, minimum alcohol content of 11.5% and at least 8 months maturation) has resulted in the production of some very fine Soave wines with much more character and flavour than was the case in the past. Some of the very best wines from the region are produced on family-owned and operated wineries and some of them are open to the public for cellar tours and tastings.

What to see and do in Soave

At the very top of your to-do list should be a cellar tour and tasting! Three of the foremost Soave wineries that you can visit and tour are:

Rocca Sveva: A visit to this winery is an experience you should not miss even if you are not a wine lover. You will be amazed at the sight of hundreds of meters of tunnels that have been excavated into the hills of the countryside – these tunnels are filled with thousands of oak barrels lined up along cool underground walkways. At the end of your cellar tour you will be treated to a tasting and both lovely Soave and other local products such as Olive Oil and honey are on sale in the winery shop

I Stefanini: A completely different experience awaits you at Il Stefanini where the last generation of the Tessari family, who have farmed the land since the 1800’s, have decided to combine elements of the old traditions and modern technologies. No Oak barrels here…(traditional Soave was never matured in oak)

Instead expect massive stainless steel tanks; not as romantic perhaps, but their wine is gaining acclaim in all the major guides and reviews.

Coffele Winery: This is one of the oldest wineries in the area and is situated right in the heart of the town. Their Soave Classico is a very well-balanced wine with an exceptionally mild acidity making it a perfect accompaniment to fish and risotto dishes. They also make two other complex Classicos and are well worth a visit.

After you have toured a couple of wineries, it is time to explore the town of Soave. The Castle and Medieval Walls are superbly intact and are the main attraction in the town. The castle is a traditional elevated defensive structure and dates from around 934. The medieval walls were a much later addition; they surround the town and lead up to the castle. On your visit to the castle you can see the remains of a 10th century church, visit the various castle rooms and the museum.

Also worth a visit are the Palace of Justice in the centre of town and the Palazzo Cavallli and the Scaliger Palace. There are also a few churches where you can see examples of 16th and 14th century art.

When it comes to food, you will not be disappointed. There are several good restaurants serving regional cuisine with plenty of emphasis on Risotto (Italy’s best Risotto rice is produced in the area) and Polenta, rather than Pasta, the more well-known Italian basic.

Make sure to accompany your meal with a glass of Soave made just around the corner!

Soave Classico Doc, Monte de Toni 2008

Soave is one of the most recognised wined around the world – source

Gourmet food and wine tours around Verona

The Verona province is blessed with wonderful places to visit each holding its unique speciality. From the hilly regions of Valpolicella and Prealps to the relaxing Lake Garda, you can spend a pleasant holiday in attractive tourist destinations and appreciate their culinary traditions.

Don’t think twice to enjoy one-day tasting tours to learn more about the following three gourmet food typical of Verona province: Amarone wine DOCG, extra virgin olive oil Garda DOP and Monte Veronese cheese DOP.

The unique flavour of Amarone wine DOCG

Zeni one of the most renowned Amarone producer in the Valpolicella

Zeni one of the most renowned Amarone producer in the Valpolicella

This extremely robust red wine made from dried grapes, gained DOCG recognition in 2009 and is appreciated for its bitter and fruity taste. The fine wine is the result of a blend of three grape varieties: Corvina – which gives the fruity flavour -, Rondinella and Molinara.

To be an authentic Amarone, the grapes must grow in the hillside areas mentioned below which best guarantee the deepness of their roots. After the harvest, the grapes are put in special rooms to let them dry for about 120 days, while the wine fermentation takes about 30-50 days.

Amarone della Valpolicella being its full name, clearly indicate the area of production, in the province of Verona. So if you love to visit vineyards and wine cellars you should book a gastronomic tour in the towns of the Valpolicella area – such as San Pietro in Cariano, Negrar, Fumane – but also in Valpantena, Val Tramigna, Val d’Illasi and Val di Mezzane. During the tasting tours you may heard about the Recioto della Valpolicella – the sweeter and less fermented version of Amarone. It is actually said that Amarone was only produced by chance because a Recioto bottle fermented longer than usual!

The golden olive oil from Lake Garda DOP

tour the olive oil museum in Bardolino

tour the olive oil museum in Bardolino

Always in the province of Verona, you can enjoy the wonderful countryside during a visit to olive grooves and oil mills in the surroundings of the magic Lake Garda. This corner of Verona province holds a long tradition in oil making dating back to the Romans. Today it is produced extra virgin olive oil Garda DOP characterized by an intense golden colour similar to green and by almond flavour.

There are many oil mills that you can visit to learn more about the king of the Mediterranean diet. We suggest to book an inspiring tour to the Olive Oil Museum of Bardolino founded in the eighties next to Lake Garda and to an ancient oil mill. The Museum exhibition is very interesting because you can learn more about history and culture of olive oil.

The gourmet Monte Veronese cheese DOP

Monte Veronese cheese tour from Verona

The mountainous region of Lessinia awaits cheese and nature lovers. Prepare for a journey into this surprising territory part of the Prealps, where the cheese method of production apparently never changed: cow’s milk rigorously coming from cattle bred in the Lessinia area. You can find up to three varieties of Monte Veronese cheese on the market, each varying for hardness and taste – depending on the ageing length.

Book a tour with Emilia Delizia to the dairy factories in the Verona province to visit in person the ageing rooms but also the countryside from where this tasteful cheese with a delicate aroma of grass originates.

 

Monte Veronese Cheese, a delight of the Veneto Region

The intense flavour of Monte Veronese DOP

This fabulous cheese is produced in the northernmost part of the Verona province since medieval times, when the Lessinia valley was occupied by the Germanic tribe of Cimbrians. Other say that its production was introduced in this area by immigrants from Lombardy.

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The hilly region of Lessinia is part of the Prealps chain and is a tourist destination all year round for its great natural places – in particular the Regional Park of Lessinia – where visitors can do excursions, birdwatching and have fun at the Malga San Giorgio ski resort.

A gastronomic tour is recommended to gourmet travellers to find out the typical product which gained the DOP recognition in 1996: the Monte Veronese cheese. Furthermore, the Consorzio di Tutela del Monte Veronese was founded to preserve its territory of origin, its method of production and, indeed, its authentic flavour.

A great way to taste it is to visit the town of Zeno di Montagna – province of Verona – during the food festival dedicated to San Zeno chestnuts, Bardolino wine and Monte Veronese cheese. You may also enjoy tours in the dairy factories of Peschiera del Garda, Lazise, Bardolino – all close to the marvellous Lake Garda – Bussolengo and San Pietro in Cariano, to name a few.

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How Monte Veronese is produced

Monte Veronese DOP (or POD) is made only from cow’s milk. But the factor that makes this cheese so unique is that the milk is exclusively taken from cows bred in the Lessinia valleys. This element, together with the period of ageing – safeguards its organoleptic properties and original aroma of grass. You can recognize Monte Veronese varieties by the label colour and by the denomination clearly marked on them.

Monte Veronese Aging period and varieties

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Monte Veronese made from whole milk needs an aging time of 25-40 days and can be recognized by the light green label. Your palate won’t forget its sweet long lasting flavour. Try it with marmalade to enjoy the contrast between bitter and sweet.

Monte Veronese d’allevo – made from skimmed milk – is called “mezzano” if aged for more than 90 days. Its savour slightly spicy makes it perfect to serve grated on many gourmet first courses such as risotto all’Amarone or as filling in ravioli. It’s great also with the radicchio rosso di Verona IGP (PGI). Check the light blue label when you buy it.

If you’re looking for strong flavours, then the Monte Veronese d’allevo vecchio – which period of aging goes between 6 months and 2 years – is the one for you. Labelled with a black tag, you will soon recognize it also by its pleasant flavour of almond. You’d rather enjoy it at the end of the meal matched with great Italian red wines such as Bardolino or Valpolicella.

There is another variety, called Monte Veronese di Malga, that can be served with other food (eggs, pears, walnuts) to emphasize its flavour or with other kind of cheeses. It is the ideal ingredient of recipes based on polenta or salty pies since it gives an intense taste to the dish. It is superb if matched with the strong flavour of truffles.

Emilia Delizia Monte Veronese cheese tour from Verona.

Are you ready for a gourmet travel in the Verona province? Our company organises cheese tours from Verona, Bardolino and the Valpolicella area. With our food experiences you can discover this magnificent products during your holidays in Italy.

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Pecorino di Pienza – tour the jewel of the Val D’Orcia

The Val D’Orcia (Valley of Orcia) South of Sienna is the absolute epitome of what we all expect Tuscany to look like … a landscape of green valleys surrounded by rolling hills and a horizon punctuated by rows of lonely cypress trees. You really should take the time to visit this beautiful area of Tuscany and get to experience some of its’ wonderful artisan foods and wines at their source. The area is best known for the wonderful Pecorino di Pienza, made exclusively in and around the town of Pienza which is situated close to the wine producing towns of Montalcino and Montepulciano, home to the Tuscan classic wines.

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Val D’Orcia in Tuscany

What is Pecorino di Pienza Cheese?

Pecorino, famous all over the world, is named for the milk used to create it…Pecora is Italian for a ewe, and this cheese is made exclusively from whole, raw ewe’s milk. Pecorino is made all over Italy, but the Pecorino from Pienza is unique and special; the sheep who supply the milk are a tough breed, mostly the Sarda, originally from Sardinia, and are well adapted to the terrain of the area which is not suitable for crop farming, but wonderful for sheep! They feed exclusively on the indigenous vegetation of the area, a mixture of grasses and wild herbs including wormwood, meadow salsify, broom, juniper and burnet and it is this diet which makes the cheese special, as traces of herb can be detected in the cheese. It is a seasonal cheese, made only during the Summer when the milk quality is at its’ best, so you will only find young Pecorino in Summer; the mature cheese can, however, be enjoyed all year around.

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Pecorino making in Tuscany – province of Siena – source

To a certain extent the cheese has become mass-produced; demand has exceeded supply and has led to milk from other areas being “imported”, resulting in a change of the original character of the cheese. However, there are still at least two family-run Pecorino makers near Pienza where the cheese is still produced organically in the age-old way, and these are the two you should try and visit: Podere Il Casale and Cugisi.

Pecorino di Pienza Cheese tour at the local dairy.

The raw milk is mixed with rennet  to curdle it. The curds sink to the bottom of the container and are scooped out to dry before being placed in a  salt solution. The set cheese is then formed into “heads” or rounds. These are then wrapped in walnut leaves and placed in a cool humid cellar to mature. The rinds are periodically dampened with olive oil (Tuscan, of course!) and then grease and wax. At the moment there is no discipline in the production nor there is a PDO in place so production might vary from producer to producer. The only traditional pecorino is the one aged in wooden barriques.

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Visit a pecorino dairy in Italy – Source

Eating Pecorino di Pienza.

Pecorino is eaten either as a soft cheese after about 40 – 60 days’ maturation, or left in the cellar for up to 15 months (5 – 12 months is the average). When young,(Pecorino Fresco), you can expect the cheese to be soft and creamy, with a spicy undertone and the herby diet of the sheep really comes to the fore. The rind will be a creamy colour.

A more mature Pecorino will have a darker rind, generally red or black, and the texture is soft and crumbly on the palate with a slightly tannic after-taste; at this point the spicy tones are no longer evident. It is generally believed that Pecorino does improve with ageing, as it acquires more character and structure.

In Tuscany, the cheese is not often used in combination with other foods or used for cooking, but rather enjoyed in its’ own right. The Fresco (young Pecorino) is eaten with a light touch of great Tuscan olive oil or a little of the regions’ chestnut honey. It is sometimes served with sliced pears or raw fava beans and prosciutto as a lovely simply anti-pasti. The matured cheese, (Stagionato) is great to grate! Serve it over a wonderful pasta or risotto, or in thin slices with Proscuitto and other cured meats..

Of course, you need a really lovely wine from the region to complete the feast; the Rosso di Montalcino is just the perfect match. This is a young, unmatured Sangiovese, (only up to a year in the cask) and “baby brother” to the famous Brunello di Montecino, for which the region is famous. Another good wine from the region to try with the cheese is Rosso di Montepulciano; this is also a young, fresh tasting wine comprised of mainly Sangiovese grapes. If you love dessert wines try the Moscadello di Montalcino, a fine late-harvested Muscat which makes the most perfect simple ending to a great Tuscan meal; serve it with fresh seasonal fruit, local honey and some Pecorino Fresco. A perfect way to savoir the essence of the Val D’Orcia!

Emilia Delizia food tours in Tuscany.

If you are set to discover Italian foods, our company would be delighted to organise a cheese tour departing from Siena or Florence and go the Val D’Orcia to experience the production of Pecorino and Tuscan wines.

 

Venice: a gourmet guide to its culinary traditions

Everybody knows that Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But the local gastronomy is not so renowned as tourists usually concentrate on succulent dishes based on pasta and pizza. Nevertheless it is worth knowing more on culinary traditions such as fegato ala venesiana, sarde in saor and bigoli in salsa. If you are in Venice for your holidays you might consider taken some cooking classes or simply a food crawl in the city. Below we have listed some of the dishes that you might want to try

Fegato ala venesiana, an old recipe

The local Venetian dialect is widely spoken in the area and “Fegato ala venesiana” is the name of the typical recipe. The translation means liver in the Venetian way. It dates back to the Roman times when liver used to be cooked with figs in order to hide the strong smell it usually has. Over time the fruit was replaced by onions and it has become one of the most popular in Veneto. If you dare to prepare it, you must cut the onions into very thin slices and cook them in a pan with some olive oil and butter. After ten minutes, add up some vinegar and the liver cut into thin pieces. It will be prepared in five more minutes. Then you can add some salt and pepper and serve it with lemon slices. It must be eaten warm and never re-heat it to avoid the liver becoming too hard.

Sarde in saor, the taste of the sea

Sarde is the local word for sardines, the main ingredient of the recipe. While the fish is being fried, the other ingredients are prepared. Raisins are soaked for thirty minutes and onions are cut into thin slices and cooked in a pan with olive oil for ten minutes. Then some vinegar is added and cooking goes ahead until the onions are soft. Then the fried sardines are seasoned with plenty of vinegar in container and covered with the onions, sprinkled with pine nuts and raisins. Several layers of fish and seasoning are prepared and then marinated in a cool place for at least one day.

The result is a sweet and sour dish usually served as an appetizer. Back in the days of sea travel, sarde in saor was a way to preserve food for the seamen spending long time out on boats.

sarde in saor (con cipolle rosse)

sarde in saor – source

 

Bigoli in salsa, pasta in an original recipe

This recipe used to be prepared during days such as Christmas Eve or Good Friday. It is a very simple pasta dish to prepare but it is also really tasty and delicious. The main ingredients for the seasoning are onions again but this time accompanied by anchovies. And even if the pasta looks to you as spaghetti, it is not so. They are thicker and they have a rougher surface. That causes a difference in the taste and the sensation. And do not forget that the quality of the olive oil is important to obtain an exquisite dish.

If you enjoy Venetian gastronomy, you might be interested on other recipes such as risi e bisi (rice with peas), polenta, gnocchi or baccalà (codfish). And as dessert you can always try the sweet tiramisu or the typical pandoro.
Emilia Delizia oganises food activities in Venice that includes the typical cicchetti tour, cooking classes, and food and wine tours. If want to try the specialities listed above you can contact us and we will provide the best culinary experience in Italy.

 

Three dishes that best represent the culinary Traditions of Ferrara

While the city of Ferrara sparkled in all its beauty under the Este domination, during the Renaissance were elaborated fantastic dishes which entered in today typical food. Let be tempted by the following three gourmet delicacies of this corner of Emilia Romagna.

Castello Estense - Ferrara

The Estense Caslte in Ferrara – a must visit in the city. Source

Pasticcio di Maccheroni alla ferrarese, the quintessential taste reside here

The full name “pasticcio di maccheroni alla ferrarese” discloses its main characteristic: the fact that it comes from a culinary tradition specific to Ferrara like no other town in Emilia Romagna.
It’s considered first course, but it’s so abundant that could be served as second too. That’s why you should order it at the trattoria after a day-long tour of the wonderful ancient Estense city.
When it’s brought to your table you will see a simple yet crunchy dome commonly known with the name of pasticcio. As soon as you cut a slice of it, you will find out the mouthwatering inside kept warm: maccheroni, the typical Italian pasta appreciated worldwide along with spaghetti. The pasticcio is filled with maccheroni dressed with Béchamel, porcini mushrooms, truffles. As it was not enough, the chicken liver and heart complete the dish.
Get the party started for your palate!

Coppia ferrarese, the PGI bread

It seems that the famous “couple” was already produced in local bakeries around 1200, but its official name was forged in 1500. From since, it has become a strong culinary tradition and today the typical bread is still homemade with devotion by family run businesses and you may notice it as you enter one of the shops smelling of flour and yeast in the city center: a smiling Italian floury-some boy may welcome you into the world of bread whose technique passed on from generation to generation. You won’t find the same crunchy and soft dough rolled like a ribbon anywhere else since Coppia Ferrarese gained PGI (Protected Geographical Identification) recognition.
As common the ingredients may seem – water, yeast, flour – the method and the conditions of preparation are unique to this area. Match it with sauces or olive oil to taste its deep flavour.
Combining a tasting tour during the Emilia Romagna Wine and Food Festival may turn into a fantastic idea to discover other local specialities.

coppia

Salama da Sugo, a speciality dating back to the time of the Estense court

The art of making salami in a particular way belongs to the province of Ferrara. Only the capital city and a few villages surrounding it – Madonna Boschi, Portomaggiore, Poggio Recanatico – produce excellent Salama da Sugo following the tradition with a touch of innovation in the choice of some ingredients. The original recipe dating back to the XV century, is based on the use of sow seasoned with many spices such as salt, nutmeg and even red wine. The flavour is not the only thing which makes the Salama – also known as Salamina – different from any other Italian sausage: its shape calls to mind the typical pottery of the Renaissance. Traditionally served cut into slices at the Christmas table, today the Salama da Sugo can be found all year round in any Italian salumeria. Take the chance to taste all the varieties of this gourmet ferrarese food at the Salamina da Sugo al Cucchiaio Festival held each year in Madonna Boschi.

salama

Salama da Sugo – source

During your holidays in Ferrara don’t miss a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Delta Po and Delizie Estensi, but if you really want to feel like a local eating at the Este table, include a gastronomic tour.