The Food and Cuisine of Veneto
Veneto cooking has influences from around the world. The dishes are known as exotic and exciting by many. From seafood and livestock to produce from lush gardens, the Veneto cuisine is widely varied. Radicchio rosso is prized for its use in rice dishes, grilled as a vegetable, cooked into soups or eaten raw in salads. The white asparagus and olive oil in Veneto are also very high quality.
Veneto is one of Italy’s northernmost regions, lying along the coast of the Adriatic sea. Much of the diet is based on fresh seafood harvested from these vibrantly green waters. Veneto recipes often call for seafood, such as prawns, crabs, clams, mussels, scallops, octopus, sea snails, and many kinds of fish.
Sardele in saor fries fresh sardines and onions, then marinates the fish with pine nuts and raisins in lemon peel flavored vinegar. Spider crabs are boiled, them mashed with fresh parsley and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and pepper before placing in the empty shell to serve. Baccalà alla vicentina takes salt cod and cooks it with anchovies, Grana Padano cheese and onions in milk. Risotto nero is a creamy black rice dish made with cuttlefish ink. Freshwater fish are enjoyed frequently, also. Carpione, or freshwater salmon trout, and bisati, the freshwater eels are popular in Veneto cuisine.
Pork is cured to make salami known as soppressa or soppressata and sausages, including cotechino, made with ground pork rind, fat and scraps of meat.
Beef and horsemeat are used as food in Veneto cooking. Pastissada de caval stews either meat in red wine until tender. Pearà is a sauce made from grated bread, beef marrow and pepper to accompany bollito misto, the boiled meat supper found everywhere in Northern Italy. The famous dish carpaccio originated in Veneto, where the paper thin slices of beef were traditionally served with a mustard and Worcestershire flavored mayonnaise. Veal liver, fegato alla veneziana, is sauteed with onions and flavored with sage, parsley and a touch of red wine or vinegar in a combination of oil and butter.
Food in Veneto often features poultry. Turkey may cooked with pomegranate. Duck offal and vegetables are made into an herb flavored sauce. This sauce is served over bigoli, a long tube shaped noodle traditionally made with buckwheat or whole wheat flour and duck eggs. Young chickens are braised with veal, rice and vegetables to make risotto alla sbirraglia.
Game birds can be presented with peverade, a piquant sauce made with salame, anchovies, chicken livers, garlic, oil and vinegar. Pigeons are often prepared in Veneto cooking. Sopa coada sautées pigeons and vegetables in an herb and wine broth. This meat is then boned and placed in casserole dishes with broth underneath sliced bread topped with Grana Padano and baked. Wood pigeon and mushrooms are stewed and layered with polenta and baked to make the homey pie known as pasticcio di polenta. Pigeons and salt pork are also spit roasted and basted with a rosemary, juniper berry and bay leaf flavored oil.
Polenta, ground corn, is cooked into a hot cereal. It is not often served as a first course, but instead is generally offered alongside meat. Either the polenta is cooked into mush or the cereal is given time to chill, sliced and grilled.
Rice is the preferred starchy food in Veneto. The primary use for rice is risotto, a creamy dish made by sautéeing the rice, then slowly adding broth while stirring constantly. The resulting sauce is creamy and thick with a toothsome rice. Vegetables, meat, seafood and herbs are used in many combinations to create limitless dishes. Risotto is eaten by everybody. Some options for Veneto recipes include risi e bisi, rice cooked with pork and fresh peas, seasoned with onions and served with grated Grana Padano, and risotto primavera, a selection of spring vegetables and rice. More exotic choices are risi in cavroman, a cinnamon scented mutton and rice dish, or risotto con i bruscàndoli, rice made with wild hop shoots.
While rice is preferred to pasta in Veneto cuisine, the region does have several special pasta dishes that it is known for. Most well known is pasta e fasioli, a filling, thick soup made of beans, noodles and vegetables. Paparele, similar to tagliatelle, is enjoyed with meaty sauces in Veneta cooking. Cassunziei, a filled pasta, usually contains ricotta cheese and vegetables, and is topped with melted butter, grated cheese and poppy seeds.
Deep fried cream known as crema fritta and nut and citron studded fritters called frìtole are popular. Cookies may be made from cornmeal, as in zaleti. Fregolatta are almond cookies and baicoli are sugar biscuits. The torta sabbiosa is a cake with a unique sandy texture.
The most well known of sweet Veneto recipes is tiramisù, a dessert that layers espresso dipped ladyfinger cookies with a marsala or rum flavored cream filling made with mascarpone cheese and beaten eggs. Another famous sweet is the pandoro cake generally made for Christmas.
Fresh & Cured Meats:
Sopressa Vicentina PDO, Prosciutto Veneto Berico-Euganeo PDO, Cotechino di Modena PGI, Mortadella Bologna PGI, Salamini italiani alla cacciatora PDO, Zampone di Modena PGI
Radicchio Variegato di Castelfranco PGI, Asparago bianco di Cimadolmo PGI, Fagiolo di Lamon della Vallata Bellunese PGI, Radicchio Rosso di Treviso PGI
Asiago PDO, Grana Padano PDO, Montasio PDO, Monte Veronese PDO, Taleggio PDO, Provolone Val Padana PDO
Garda PDO, Veneto PDO
Riso Nano Vialone Veronese PGI
Ciliegia di Marostica PGI, Marrone di San Zeno PDO