(by Andrea Gropplero - Cinecittario: Archivio Luce)
From an environmental perspective, Abruzzo has it all. Embracing a wealth of biodiversity from the high slopes of Gran Sasso to nature reserves and the Adriatic coast, the land of this region produces natural marvels such as the saffron of Navelli, the best in the world (although the people of Abruzzo have not historically made much use of it with only one fish recipe scapece di Vasto featuring this precious spice). Other unique products are: Sulmona garlic, Avezzano potatoes from the Fucino area, the turquoise potato, gentian and liquorice, to name a few.Print itinerary
Federico Fellini’s third film, La strada (1954) won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film festival that year, the Best Director Nastro d’argento the following year and in 1957 became the first ever winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in its debut year. “Fetch a kilo of salami and two jugs of wine” says Zampanò (Anthony Quinn) to the little boys, brothers of Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina) whom he will take far away from her family, to wander villages as his assistant for his circus performances. “We work for the appetite factory” he often says, before asking for donations at the end of the show. And Zampanò and Gelsomina demonstrate that hearty appetite when they are invited to a wedding panarde, a traditional multi-course communal feast where they eat maccheroni with goat, braised potatoes, lamb ribs, all washed down with a good Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Their work manages to feed them, at times with just a simple vegetable soup (in Abruzzo known as “le virtù”, the virtues), at others in restaurants with spaghetti alla chitarra with goat and other meat dishes, generally lamb, roast or stewed. Food and cooking play a significant role in Fellini’s movies, as if highlighting the notes of magical realism that are always present in his work. In this film in particular, Fellini shows plates laden with every type of delicacy, all the things a ravenous person would dream of eating.
Break Free (2003) by Gianluca Tavarelli was shot entirely in Abruzzo, in Bussi sul Tirino, Pescara, Montesilvano and Francavilla al Mare. After thirty years working in a factory, Cenzo (Luigi Maria Burruano) is fired and later left by his wife. His son Vince (Elio Germano) also leaves, heading to Pescara to work as a sous-chef in a beach restaurant. Here, the cook (Rosa Pianeta), the mother of Genny (Nicole Grimaudo) with whom Vince will fall in love, reveals the secret to Pescarese fish soup. Genny suffers from panic attacks and Vince will lovingly and patiently help her to overcome them so they can live together, free and happy.
Roberto Rossellini began shooting Desire (1946) in 1943 with the intention of recreating the look and feel of Obsession, a film which had stunned and inspired him. Work was interrupted by the bombing of the San Lorenzo neighbourhood in Rome (where the film was originally set) and later continued in 1945 with Marcello Pagliero directing because Rossellini was busy on Rome Open City. This moved the production to Tagliacozzo in Abruzzo. The film did not have an easy debut, with several scenes cut by the censors (including a bared breast on the main character played by Elli Parvo). It was actually withdrawn from cinemas following an intervention by the Centro Cattolico Cinematografico. Today the film is considered one of the lost titles of cinema, although it was a project where Rossellini laid the foundation for several of his later films, such as Germany Year Zero and Amore. It was one of the most revolutionary films of its time and, if it had been released in 1944 as originally intended, would most certainly have proved very inconvenient for the Fascist regime, so inconvenient that even the post-Liberation democratic Minister of Culture censored it. Scenes in the house in Tagliacozzo evoke the scent of the braided Sulmona garlic and Avezzano potatoes that fill the sacks stocked in the large larder.
Mario Monicelli’s Parenti serpenti (1992) was shot almost entirely in Sulmona, even if the screenplay specifies Lanciano. The film recounts a family psychodrama during dinner on Christmas Eve and opens with the elderly mother (Pia Valsi) who is making spaghetti alla chitarra, using a rectangular tool with fine metal chords strung close together (the “chitarra”) where sheets of pasta dough are placed and then pressed down with a rolling pin to produce perfectly square spaghetti. She prepares a dinner worthy of Lucullus with chitarrine alla teramana, mantis shrimps, capitone scappato (eel), codfish all’abruzzese with onions, tomatoes and potatoes and a typically Lanciano dessert: bocconotti.
The traditional cuisine of the region is very varied, although it has not featured famous cooks or exponents of culinary treatises until recent times. The recipes of the region were handed down orally from mother to daughter for centuries. However, from the early 1900s, the region began to produce cooks who would become famous, working in the White House and for the Emperor of Japa.
The apex of Abruzzo’s proverbial legendary hospitality is the panarde, a communal feast featuring many, many courses.
On further examination, the traditional style of cooking is deeply linked to the production methods in this arid, fascinating land, which seems to be suspended between mountain and sea, more so than in other regions. Another of the unusual characteristics of Abruzzo is the isolation it has experienced for so many centuries, which was not limited to geographical reasons. It is not hard to identify the link between traditional recipes and the prevalent agricultural business of sheep breeding in the hinterland and the specific nature of the Adriatic sea in the coastal areas.
Yet, just like its neighbours, the region has seen many colonisers during its long history. From antiquity, the Sabines, the Marsi, the Marruccini, the Frentani and Samnites have all lived here. And, after the Roman era when Abruzzo enjoyed a certain prosperity, there were occupations by the French, Norman and Aragonese who all focused on the coastline neglecting the inner areas.
This is the original recipe from the Gran Consiglio della Forchetta.
Chitarrine alla teramana is a dish typical of Abruzzo and an excellent demonstration of its tradition, especially in the chitarrine or small spaghetti alla chitarra which are a type of fresh pasta found only here. With a shape similar to spaghetti, the strands are square shaped and particularly well-suited for many different sauces, both with or without tomato. Their particular shape and name derives from the chitarra, a tool where the fresh pasta dough is pushed through a grate of taut metal wires to produce square shaped spaghetti, the chitarrine. This recipe suggests dressing the chitarrine with an excellent tomato sauce and lots of little meatballs, known as pallotte.
INGREDIENTS for 4
Sieve the flour onto a flat surface to make a volcano. Crack the eggs into the centre and add a handful of salt. Knead the dough until it is compact and smooth. Make a ball and let it sit for twenty minutes wrapped in clingfilm. Roll out sheets of fresh pasta, several millimetres thick. Cut with a pasta machine or fold the layers over and then cut very narrow ribbons, to make chitarrine.
Now for the meatballs. Place all the ground meat in a bowl and add the cheese and a generous sprinkle of nutmeg. Add a pinch of salt.
Mix the ingredients, then roll out little balls no larger than 1 cm diameter.
When the pasta and meatballs are ready, it is time to make the sauce. Cook the finely chopped onion and carrot with a half moon in oil.
Cook the onion until lightly browned, then add the tomato passata with salt to taste. If you wish, add basil to add flavour and cook the sauce on a low heat. Add half a glass of water to the sauce to make it somewhat liquid. This will make sure that the meatballs cook well once they have been added.
After 10 minutes approx., the sauce will be well mixed with the mirepoix, then add the meatballs, taking care not to break them. Cover with a lid and keep cooking for another 30 minutes. Check the mixture every now and again making sure that the sauce is reducing.
Now that the sauce is ready, boil water. Add rock salt then cook the pasta.
Once cooked and drained, add the sauce, then pour the meatballs on top and serve.
Then for the final touch, a generous handful of grated pecorino cheese.
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