I have just returned again from my ‘pied a terre’ in the mountains of Abruzzo, just about an hour away from Rome. Still emotionally drunk with all the food, wine and beauty this little spot (well not really so little) has to offer. I know most get to travel only the well known places in Tuscany or Rome or Venice..not that there is anything wrong with that. But you are missing a true experience, an old world experience..
Abruzzo is considered the ‘greenest region of Europe’ for its’ natural beauty. The beauty of Abruzzo, is that we have mountains (Appenines) on one side and the Adriatic sea on the other, and lush parks in between. It is a place where the mountains co-exist harmoniously wiht the sea. The beach stretches for 130 kilometers (approx 80 miles) with the sea cliff serving as a continuous backdrop.
For many years famous writers have used the words ‘forte e gentile’ (strong and gentle) to describe this beautiful region.
Some streets are still filled with cobblestone. My favorite towns are Tagliacozzo, Avezzano, Pescara, and L’Aquila. I am in close proximity to them all and although each of these towns do hold some sentimentality for me, they also hold some great culinary experiences, too many to include all at once. So let’s start with some delights in and around Pescara.
In the US, the San Marzano tomatoes are considered ‘king’ but if you are a food insider in Italy and a true”Abruzzese” you know about the tomatoes from Francavilla-right near the biggest city in Abruzzo-Pescara. They are even more delicious than the San Marzano and in August they are sold everywhere in Abruzzo. Everyone jars them for sauce ( ‘sugo’) all year around. They just don’t have the publicity surrounding them that the San Marzano do and they are difficult to find outside certain parts of Italy but a true treat to behold. The ‘pomodoro of Francavilla’ are deformed in shape and not perfectly round or oval-but they are a gourmet delight. A pound of these tomatoes with some olive oil (see below), fresh basil, 2 cloves of garlic, slice of onion makes a tasty ‘sugo’ to top penne or spaghetti.
Near Pescara is my favorite little town to buy olive oil-Loreto Aprutino. A beautiful little town that was once owned by the family of St Thomas Aquinas. The drive up the hill to Loreto-Aprutino is a sight to behold. The landscape covered with olive trees and dotted with little churches that are filled with thousand year old frescoes. Here you can find olive oil made from olives picked by hand, another taste like no other, an old world treat.
Then you will need some wine to go with that meal and in the same vicinity you will find Pasetti vineyards and a superb Montepulciano D’Abruzzo to go with that pasta. Dessert is next with a trip to the locals’ favorite gelato bar in Pescara. Although the tourists opt for the glitzy, ornate gelato bars in center of town,you will find the locals standing out the door at the little Bar Bologna for their artisan produced gelato.
Going to the beach and being near the sea always makes me hungry. But that is no problem here with plenty of ways to satisfy your hunger..in fact ,too many ways.
Here is a traditional recipe from Pescara..you will also find it in my best selling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking. A desert made with a type of sponge cake, almonds and dark chocolate called Parozzo.
Parozzo (serves 4)
1/3 cup melted dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon of almonds
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup potato starch
10 toasted almonds (for decoration)
Grind almonds with 1 tblsp sugar. beat egg yolks with remaining sugar. Add in ground almonds, then flour and then potato starch. Add in melted butter.
Whip egg whites till peaks form and fold into flour mixture. Place in a round cake pan and bake in a preheated oven for 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, cool, take out of pan and cover with melted chocolate and decorate with 10 toasted almonds. Let chocolate harden before eating.
If you would like to get to Pescara, the easiest way to get there is by train from Rome at Termini Station. There are buses that go to many points as well ,the bus system in Abruzzo is known as ARPA. Or if you want to drive for a true Italian adventure, from Rome take the A24 going North and then the A25 going East follow indications for Pescara.
Next we will take a trip to the mountains, which makes me hungry as well, but there will be plenty of culinary delights to find along the way to take care of that.
Ciao for now.
For more recipes get your copy of the best selling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking at http://www.marialiberati.com