Abruzzo is ensconced in the middle of Italy surrounded by mountains and national parks, and as a result, this part of Italy has been quite isolated until recent times. Abruzzo is largely unspoiled and has been for centuries. The entire region is still dotted by ancient villages, castles and monasteries where everything from the culture to the cuisine has remained practically unchanged with very few outside influences. The food of this region is quite unusual and extremely pure – in fact, it is said that Abruzzo boasts having the purest of all Italian food.
Pasta dishes of Abruzzo
Pasta dishes grace the tables of the Abruzzese people with most meals beginning with a pasta course. One of the most popular types of pasta from this region is the Maccheroni Alla Chitarra (guitar pasta).
The basic dough of this pasta is cut into quadrangles using a tool that looks like a guitar (this is where the name is derived from).
The dish is usually served with lamb and tomato sauce that has been flavoured with bay leaves, garlic or pepperoncino or a four meat ragu; alternatively, it is serviced with a lamb ragu with sweet peppers. Other ways of serving Maccheroni Alla Chitarra is with pesto Abruzzese or a modest yet flavourful tomato sauce.
Other pasta dishes from Abruzzo include:
- Maccheroni Alla Molinara which is a very long spaghetti kneaded with saltwater
- Cannelloni – pasta tubes filled with a mixture of ground pork, chicken and veal
- Sagne e Fagioli – a typical slow-cooked soup made with beans and water and flour noodles called Sagne, which are then boiled in broth with fresh tomato sauce, garlic, oil and the abundant Abruzzo pepperoncino (hot chilli peppers).
The Abruzzese love spicy dishes and of special interest is that grated cheese is not as popular on pasta in Abruzzo; instead, bowls of oil, flavoured with either dried or fresh pepperoncino are passed around to add to dishes. In certain spots whole fresh green chilis are passed around with pairs of scissors for slicing!!
The coastal regions of Abruzzo boast pasta dishes such as Spaghetti al Cartoccio, which is a favourite seafood and pasta dish – it is usually completed in the oven wrapped in baking paper.
The above dishes are a mere handful of the cornucopia of pasta dishes that are typical of this region, although there are many more dishes which beg for an encore visit to the region, such as the saffron pasta dishes.