Etruscan Roots Beyond Tuscany: Umbrian Cuisine
MAXWELL, V.; LEVITON, A.; PETTERSEN, L.; Tuscany and Umbria, Lonely Planet, 2010
Umbrian cuisine finds its roots in the Etruscan age, almost three thousand years ago. It is pretty basic and it uses the ingredients that can be found in the rich and diverse environment of the region. Umbrian food is natural and most refer to it as “cucina povera”, which is “poor” only by name.
Seasonal products such as mushrooms, asparagus (as well other vegetables) and truffles develop all through the land and form the basis of Umbrian cooking. Truffles have an enormous influence in numerous dishes, like in Tuscany. Dark truffles originate from Valnerina, while white truffles are collected from the upper Tevere valley.
Antipasti in Umbria can be as simple as an diversity of bruschetta topped with olive or truffle glues, a platter of flame broiled vegetables, or a choice of the area’s extraordinary cold cuts.
If Antipasti, in Umbria, can ba as simple as long as they follow some sort of “bruschetta” way of life, probably Strangozzi, the most typical pasta dish, are very particular: strangozzi are served with black truffles or a spicy tomato sauce from Spoleto. Another pasta is Umbricelli in salsa di Trasimeno, which is a fish-based sauce from the lake Trasimeno. Soups, however, tend to be rustic and include seasonal vegetables, dried beans such as favas, lentils and chickpeas, farro and chestnuts. Some of the region’s vegetables and grains, like Trasimeno beans, Cannara onions and Trevi black celery, have earned the prestigious DOP quality denomination label
Umbria is known for an abundance of meat dishes, particularly lamb and pork either grilled over fire or cooked with herbs. Norcia has become so famous for its preparation of cured meats that burchers across Italy currently use the tern “norcino” to indicate all kinds of meats preserved in that manner.
Traditional Umbrian desserts are almost always baked in the oven, and traditionally include almonds (or other nuts), honey, spices and candied fruit. They are associated with specific religious holidays or celebrations: in a word, sweet is often sacred too.
When you write about Umbrian cuisine, how not to mention the production of chocolate? The Perugina chocolate factory was founded in 1907 by the Buitoni family, but it rose to international popularity with the Baci chocolate, made with ground hazelnuts and dark chocolate. While their initial name was “cazzotti”, the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio re-named them as “baci”, kisses.
As important as its food, Umbrian wine can be traced back to ancient times: the Sagrantino di Montefalco, among other wines, is quickly rising up in popularity.
As you can see, Umbrian cuisine is about good flavor, freshness, and simplicity. It’s rich soil provides its residents an unlimited number of amazing seasonal ingredients which are simply prepared to highlight the true flavor of each dish. The traditional methods still used in the production of such typical ingredients as Norcia’s cured meats, regional artisan cheeses, regional wines, and farm raised meats ensures the absolute best quality of these products.