Italian Food: Cooking in Abruzzo |

The Food and Cuisine of Abruzzo

Abruzzi is located in the mountains along the Adriatic region of Italy.  The Abruzzi cuisine is known for hearty meals.  The most famous expression of their love for good food is the annual festival called La Panarda.  Originally dedicated to Saint Anthony, participants enjoy dozens of dishes over many hours.  While this is an extreme example of Abruzzi eating, their daily menu is full of simple but filling meals.

The Abbruzi chefs are adept at creating feasts from a few simple kinds of food, even when cooking over a open wood wire.  A typical meal prepared in Abruzzi will feature the diavolicchio, a triad of olive oil, tomatoes and chili peppers.  Abruzzi recipes are often highly spiced with chili peppers, typical for much of Southern Italy.  Of course, rosemary, garlic and wine are used extensively in Abruzzi cooking.  Saffron is commonly used in cooking, despite being more expensive per gram than truffles or caviar.  Most of Italy’s saffron is supplied in this small area of the country.

Abruzzi cuisine is famous for their artichokes and cardoons, legumes and potatoes.  The local vegetables are often enjoyed in soups.  Cicoria, cacio e uova is a soup made from vegetables and salt pork in a chicken base that relies on grated pecorino and eggs for a thick, creamy texture.   Zuppa di cardi combines cardoons, relatives of the artichoke, with tomatoes and salt pork.  According to local tales, seven young women created virtù by combining beans, peas and pasta, vegetables, herbs and pieces of pork and other food and simmering until they became a toothsome soup.   The tiny mountain lentils are cooked with fresh chestnuts, pork and tomatoes with herbs to make zuppla di lenticchie.  Of course, the traditional Christmas lunch mustn’t be overlooked.  This meal begins with chicken broth, cardoons and tiny lamb meatballs.  It has raw egg scrambled into the broth or fried chopped organ meats added to the soup just prior to serving.

Abruzzi recipes feature fresh seafood from the Adriatic prepared in many ways.  Brodetto, a peppered seafood soup, has variations unique to each of the four ports.    Port cities also prepare fresh fish in a salty vinegar based dressing.  Octopus is cooked in tomatoes and hot peppers and affectionately called “polpi in purgatorio”.  Garlic, peppers and rosemary are used to season an anchovy and monkfish dish called coda di rospo alla cacciatora.  Fish and crayfish also come from the freshwater inland.  However, most of Abruzzese animal food sources are land based.

The countryside of Abruzzi is dotted with herds of sheep and goats, making the preferred meats lamb and kid.  These meats are often simmered slowly in sauces to serve over platters of polenta or pasta served family style.  Large pieces of spit roasted, milk fed lamb are frequently eaten in Abruzzi cooking.  Lamb is slowly cooked in a sealed clay casserole dish along with olives, lemons, hot peppers and oregano in agnello alle olive.

Castrato, meat from a wether lamb, is cooked slowly with tomatoes, celery, onions, herbs and wine in a casserole dish or skewered and grilled over coals.  Of course, offal never is wasted and is sometimes served roasted.  Mazzarelle d’agnello features braised lamb lungs and other organ meats and greens in white wine.

While beef is not as popular as in other areas of Italy, many households have their own herds of free ranging pigs.  This yields a tasty meat that is relatively lean, perfect for curing.  Mortadellina, ventricina and salsicce di fegato pazzo are locally made table ready sausages that are enjoyed with bread.  Abruzzi recipes such as ‘Ndocca ‘ndocca make use of the ribs and other parts that might otherwise be wasted, such as skin, ears and feet.  This piquant stew is flavored with vinegar, rosemary, bay leaf and peppers.  Pork sausage is also enjoyed baked into the savory pizza rustica along with cheese and eggs.

Abruzzi cuisine begins many meals with a pasta course.  Maccheroni alla chitarra, or guitar pasta, is a classic Abruzzese dish.  This egg dough is cut into the classic quadrangular shape with an instrument resembling an acoustic guitar.  This is traditionally served with a lamb and tomato sauce seasoned with tomatoes, hot peppers, garlic and bay leaves.  Lasagne abruzzese layers sheets of pasta with a zesty meat and tomato sauce.

Abruzzi cooking often calls for a crepe called scrippelle.  These crepes are filled with flavorful ingredients and then used in other dishes.  With scrippelle ‘mbusse, the crepes are served in chicken stock with grated pecorino cheese.  In timballo di crespe, the crepes are placed in elegant molds with vegetables, cheese and meat, then baked.


Olive Oils:
Aprutino Pescarese PDO, Colline Teatine PDO, Pretuziano delle Colline Teramane PDO

Fresh & Cured Meats:

Salamini italiani alla cacciatora PDO, Vitellone Bianco dell’Appennino Centrale PGI


Carota dell’Altopiano del Fucino PGI, Oliva Ascolana del Piceno PDO

Gourmet Delecacies:

Zafferano de L’Aquila

Learn more about:

The Wines of Abruzzo

Suggested recipes:

Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil and Hot Pepper

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