The Food and Cuisine of Basilicata
Like many of its neighboring regions, Basilicata cooking is made from a few simple, high quality ingredients. Pasta, vegetables and cheese dominate Basilicata cuisine in order to minimize the cost of food. Chili peppers called peperoncini are enjoyed in many dishes.
Minimal amounts of meat are used in Basilicata recipes. Pork is preserved as sausages or salume. Soppressata is stored in olive oil to prevent spoiling. Other pork dishes include a popular stew called peperonata con carne di porco, which cooks several cuts of pork in a tomato and pepper sauce. Pork rind is filled with a mixture of salt pork, peppers and garlic and simmered in tomato sauce until tender. Poultry is also used in Basilicata cooking. With pollo alla potentina, chicken, onions and peppers are gently cooked in a basil flavored wine and tomato sauce.
Mutton and lamb are the favorite meats in Basilicata cuisine. Lamb and potatoes are placed in a terracotta casserole dish with onions, peppers and bay leaves to make spezzatino di agnello. An older ewe can be cooked in clay pots with pork, potatoes and tomatoes and seasoned with onions and pecorino to make pignata di pecora. This food is named after the unique clay pot that it is cooked in. The lamb offal can be stewed with prosciutto and cheese in wine to make cazmarr.
Basilicata is fortunate enough to have fishing available on two coasts to provide food. Anchovies and salt cod may be preserved for later use and tuna and sardines are often eaten fresh. Zuppa di pesce alla Santavenere cooks a selection of seafoods with pepper and garlic into a savory soup.
Basilicata cooking often offers filling soups to round out their meals. Acquasale is a tomato soup that is seasoned with onions, garlic and oil and thickened with bread. Minestra maritata has a piquant blend of meat and vegetables simmered with pasta. Sometimes it contains vegetable and breadcrumb dumplings that are affectionately referred to as strangulapreuti (priest stranglers). Other times, the soups may contain filling beans and noodles.
Olives are grown along the coastline for the fragrant extra virgin olive oil that food is often dressed with or cooked in. Produce that Basilicata cuisine is known for include the Sarconi bean and Senise peppers. These peppers are fried with potatoes and eggplant and then stewed with tomatoes to make ciammotta. Another commonly eaten vegetable dish takes artichokes and potaotes and braises them with salt pork, fava beans and onions.
Wheat is grown primarily for pasta dishes in Basilicata cooking. This region is famous for lagane, a wide noodle dish dating back to the Roman era. The sauce contains chickpeas, other beans, breadcrumbs and walnuts. Most Basilicata recipes for pasta sauces contain chili peppers, olive oil and garlic.
The wheat crop is also used for breads. Wheat grains are sometimes cooked as a substitute for pasta or rice. This dish, called grano, can be served with meaty tomato sauces or topped with sweet fruit and chocolate additions for dessert. Calzone di verdura bakes a wheat pizza dough around a savory filling of chard and peppers with raisins. Focaccia a brazzud’ is a flatbread flavored with pork cracklings, pork fat and oregano.
The sheep that are raised across the region are used for making many of the the local cheeses used in Basilicata recipes. They are known for their Pecorino di Filiano, a cheese brushed with oil and vinegar as it ages. Other cheeses, such as manteca and burrino, use cow’s milk and are filled with fresh butter. These cheeses are in many recipes including torta di latticini, a savory cheese cake with pecorino, ricotta and mozzarella and flavored with prosciutto. The Easter tart called scarcedda contains hard cooked eggs and ricotta cheese.
A popular treat in Basilicata is mostacciolo, an almond cookie flavored with cooked wine and sweetened with honey. Cuccia is another local favorite. It is an orange zest and honey flavored walnut pudding made with grano.
Caciocavallo Silano PDO
Fagiolo di Sarconi PGI, Peperone di Senise PGI