For Umbria we had a great, energenic, young named Enea Barbanera. We had a lot fun cooking classic recipes of the region. If you can picture rolling hills dotted with olive trees and vineyards, fields filled with bright yellow sunflowers, and medieval villages perched high on the hill tops it will help set the mood for this week’s region, Umbria. Big, bold, and beautiful is how I would describe the cooking of one of Italy’s smallest regions. Umbria is located in central Italy and is one of the few regions in Italy to be land locked; the other land locked regions are in the northern most part of the country bordering France, Switzerland and Austria. Some say that Umbria has resisted globalization more so than other regions of Italy, and that it continues to strongly cling to its traditions, family traditions, recipes, and artisan food products. I first learned of Slow Food from Chef Lorenzo Polegri in the town of Orvieto, in Umbria 10 years ago. The Slow Food philosophy is thriving in Umbria and you will find many traditional places where local products are the foundation of the typical dishes of each area.
Umbria like the other regions of Italy has its share of duality in the history of its cuisine with dishes both from the noble courts and upper classes, as well as the peasant customs. The Etruscans and Romans both ruled Umbria at one time, and play a part in its cuisine, what we do not find in Umbria is the influence from the Arab or eastern world. Of course the surrounding regions of Tuscany, Lazio, the Marche, and Emilia-Romagna influence the cuisine in Umbria, but the cuisine here is still primarily based on the meats, game, vegetables, pecorino cheeses, and truffles of the area. The land in Umbria is very fertile and Apennine Mountains help to create many micro-climates in the region. Sagrantino di Montefalco a world class red wine is the product of one these micro-climates. Umbria also produces the famous white wine Ovrieto Classico in the hills surrounding the town of Orvieto. The olive tree is another beneficiary of the climate in the region, to some Umbria is known as the “land of olive oil” because of the quality and quantity of the oil produced in the region. Legumes are plentiful, as well as farro, wheat, potatoes, onions, celery, peas, mushrooms, and saffron. Truffles are found in the summer, fall, and winter.
Umbria is certainly known and respected for the quality of its cured meats. The town of Norcia in the southeast part of the region is best known for its artisan salumi and pork products, thus the term Norcino in Italian has come to denote an artisan craftsman in the field of salumi and pork processing. The typical products such as capocollo, prosciutto, guanciale, coppa, pancetta, mortadella, coralline and many others are produced in artisan shops throughout the region. The one pork product that you must try if you visit Umbria is Porchetta. Other regions make it also, but it is a masterpiece in Umbria. A whole pig stuffed with wild fennel, rosemary, garlic, and salt and pepper and roasted until it is crispy on the outside, juicy, tender, aromatic, rich, and tasty on the inside! Go to a piazza on market day, and find the Porchetta truck, all they have is one pig, get a slice, on a simple crusty piece of bread and munch it down, the perfect breakfast. Go early, but not too early because you don’t want the first couple of slices, let them get down into the loin a little, heaven! We cooked:
Panzanella, Penchi della Valnerina (cool folded pasta), Minestra di Pasta e Fagioli della Battitura, Torta al Testo con Coratella d' Agnello, Zuppetta di Fagioli Cannellini con Sformatino Fegatini e Buccia d' Arancia Carmellata, Coniglio in Porchetta, Zuppa di Farro Spezzato con Verdure e Pecorino, Stracciata con Cipolla Rossa, Orzo Mantecato con Faraona in Salmi', Bandiera, Gnocchi al Sugo d' Oca, Ravioli di Pecorino Fresco alla Crema di Peperone, Angello Farcito con Battuto e Patate Arrosto, Schiacciata con Salvia e Cipolla Rossa, Tagliatelle al Ragu d' Agnello, Zuppa di Lenticchie di Castelluccio di Norcia, Strangozzi all Spoletina, Filetto di Maialino al Latte con Salas di Pecorinio e Pera Cotta nel Vino, Baccala' con Uvetta e Prugne, Tegamaccio del Trasimeno.