Last January The Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism and the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies declared 2018 the Year of Italian food in the World.
The fact that Italian Food is part of our heritage like all the monuments, art and landscape that make Italy so unique, is universally recognized and food production also plays a very important role in our economy, a sector that reached record exports worth of 40 billion Euros in 2017. In addition, according to a recent analysis by ISTAT, the National Institute of Statistics, life expectancy of Italians rose to 82.6 for women and 80.6 for men in 2016, a significant increase compared to the average of 81.2 years ten years ago (83.9 for women and 78.6 for men), placing Italy first out of 163 countries for the healthiest population in the world in 2016 “Bloomberg Global Health Index“.
This important data are the result of the healthy food habits of Italians, recording an important increase in +7% in fresh fish up to 6% growth for fresh fruit: a such big amount of fruit and vegetable has never reached our tables since the beginning of the century, showing that – despite the global crisis and our financial troubles – healthy food is more and more available for anyone. The Mediterranean diet based mainly on bread, pasta, fruit, vegetable, meat and extra virgin olive oil accompanied by the traditional glass of wine enjoyed at the table in regular meals has allowed our population to achieve these significant record values in longevity.
10 Umbrian specialities to celebrate The Year of Italian Food
According to all these records above, there’s a lot to celebrate this year, isn’t it?
What’s the best way to celebrate the Year of Italian Food? With food, of course! If you’re planning a holiday in Umbria, here the 10 Food and local specialities not to be missed and some tips on when/where you can find it:
- Porchetta: the Queen of the Umbrian street food, porchetta, the entire pork, de-boned and stuffed with garlic, rosemary and other aromas, roast in special big ovens, is available everywhere in the region from food trucks, kiosks and many butcher shops. The best way to enjoy it, it’s in a panino, a sandwich.
- Pecorino: cheese made by sheep (pecora) milk is always the main ingredient of a rustic aperitivo with a glass of wine. It can be aged from few months up to one year or more.
- Umbrichelli: named also strongozzi, strangozzi or pici on the border with Tuscany, this thick kind of ‘spaghetti’ made only by flour and water and served with a sauce by tomato and garlic, called umbrichelli all’aglione, is typical of Orvieto, perfect for a Summer easy lunch.
- Cinghiale: wild boar and Umbria is an inseparable duo. Our forests are full of these animals and the hunting season goes from October to December. As all the other kind of game, cinghiale stew is very rich and it is served mostly in Fall/Winter menus everywhere in the region.
- Erba: literally in standard Italian ‘grass’ or…in Italian slang something else, erba in Umbria means all the kind of foraged greens, especially cicoria, cicory, a perfect side dish for any kind of meat and secondi, in general. Dressed just by our extra virgin olive oil and salt, it is perfect to add some vitamins and fibers during your holiday here.
- Tegamaccio: Umbria is a landlocked region, but we also have beautiful lakes. Tegamaccio is a fish soup typical of Trasimeno Lake area. Originally a poor men meal, in the past Tegamaccio was made by all the fish that the fishermen weren’t able to sell. Each year at the beginning of August a local association organizes a great food festival in Porto, a little village between lakes Trasimeno and Chiusi. I had the opportunity to take part to it years ago and it was really a memorable experience.
- Carpa Regina in porchetta: as the name says, this rich and tasty fish dish is a big carp, up to 15-20 kg, baked in the oven like a little pig, and stuffed with lard, wild fennel and garlic, similar to the real porchetta, mentioned above. Differently from Tegamaccio, this dish was and is very special and served in important meals and rich banquets. Good restaurants around Trasimeno lake offer it in their menus all year round.
- Sella di San Venanzo: special pork cured meat invented by David Rossi aka David Salumi, a well-know butcher from the beautiful mountain area of Peglia. Sella di San Venanzo was born from a very simple question: why not leaving lean meat on that extraordinary product that is lard? Sella, produced with registered trademark, is obtained by processing the loin together with the lard from the back. Thanks to its intense fragrance and a spicy and flavored taste it is perfect on a toast or in a warm torta al testo, the traditional flat bread.
- Parmigiana di Cipolle: parmigiana is a dish made of fried vegetables, normally eggplants or zucchini and baked or better, au gratin, in oven with tomato sauce, basil and one or more cheeses like parmigiano reggiano, pecorino, mozzarella, scamorza, depending on the region. In Umbria and especially in the area around the village of Cannara, famous for its onions, the vegetable used in parmigiana is cipolla, onion, and it’s a.m.a.z.i.n.g.
- Rocciata: Umbria is not famous for rich desserts, no. Landlocked region, quite isolated for several centuries during the austere papal domination, Umbria dessert tradition is made of very simple cakes, mostly kind of “sweet breads”. Typical of the valley facing Assisi, Rocciata is another thing. Belonging to the family of “rolled up” desserts, even if we don’t know its origins, it is similar to a strudel. It is prepared by first pulling a thin puff pastry and then filling it with apples cut into small pieces, walnuts, pine nuts and raisins. The best way to enjoy it’s with a glass of our local nectar Sagrantino Passito DOCG, unique dessert wine from Montefalco.
WHERE TO FIND/EAT:
Pecorino and Sella di San Venanzo: Vineria San Fortunato, few steps from the church of San Fortunato in Todi historic centre.
Order a tagliere, little wood table, including the two specialities and other local cheeses and cured meat. For Sella you can also go directly to the source at David Salumi‘s butcher shop in San Venanzo.
Umbrichelli: Osteria da Mamma Angela, located in the beautiful Piazza del Popolo in Orvieto. In Summer book a table outside to admire the stunning Palazzo del Popolo while enjoying your umbrichelli.
Parmigiana di Cipolla: Festa della Cipolla, Onion Festival, takes place each year in Cannara, beginning of September. Stay tuned on their website for the dates 2018.
If you’ll be in Umbria in other months, no worries. Our friends Matteo and Doriana at Il Cerreto Farmhouse in Bettona, offers this speciality in their menu all year round.
Porchetta: if you’ll be here on May 18-20, 2018 don’t miss ‘Porchettiamo‘ festival of Italian Porchetta, in the nice village of San Terenziano, just few km from Todi.
Do you know that Umbria has 6 food saved from extinction by the Slow Food Movement? I wrote about it some years ago, read more here:
Slow Food from Umbria: preserving special and rare products
Anno del Cibo Italiano: Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism website