Traditional dishes of Tuscania
Our adopted home of Tuscania is about 80km north of Rome and 30km south of Tuscany, in an area known alternatively as Tuscia, Maremma, or that stuff you pass as you leave Rome to go to Florence. As such the culinary roots of the area are an extensive tangle of Roman specialities like pasta (cacio e pepe, amatriciana and our favourite mystery, carbonara) combined with some of the canonical Tuscan dishes like cacciatore, acquacotta and porchetta. There are also some pretty incredible offal and organ dishes within this library that, while not for everyone, are still a really worthwhile thing to try out.
For a little town there's a lot to choose from, and recipes will very according from one family to another. And trust us, this is in no way a definitive list; we'll keep adding as we go and if anyone has a dish that is a must, we'd love to hear from you.
Due to the volcanic soil and beautiful summer sunshine, tomatoes from Tuscania are as bursting with flavour and colour.
Peeling them, drying slightly under the sun and preserving them under oil makes this a great treat in those long, cold winter months. Recipe
Coniglio alla Porchetta
Porchetta is king in many areas of the Maremma and Tuscania is no different.
A style rather than a type of meat, porchetta describes the technique of removing the bones from an animal, seasoning with Finocchietto, (fennel pollen) rolling up the meat and slow roasting it whole.
A variation (pictured left) uses rabbit and is a great way to add flavour to a lean meat; plus, you can cover the entire thing in pancetta!
Trippa alla Romana
However when properly cleaned (and by properly cleaned I mean thoroughly cleaned like more than you have ever cleaned a thing and then two times after that) and left to stew with onions, tomatoes, cloves and mentuccia (a wild form of mint) for a couple of hours, Trippa is something really special. It becomes a supple and rich stew with a hint of pleasant acidity, and the mint essence blends incredibly well with freshly grated pecorino. (But don't forget to clean it. A lot though.)
Pappa al Pomodoro
Sometimes as thin as a soup and at other times like a tartar Pappa al Pomodoro is another lesson in simplicty.
Made all over the Tuscia area and beyond, this dish involves, tomatoes, garlic, bread, olive oil and basil being either stewed together or simply combined raw. Both versions make a light and delicious antipasti.
A globally renowned dish, Carbonara is as popular in Tuscania as it is in Rome, the city which claims it as its own.
However, controversy haunts Carbonara at every step, from it's unclear and probably very brief history. One can literally spend days debating the use of whole eggs versus egg yolks, pecorino versus parmigiano (or a mix of both); tempers can even boil over the 'correct' pasta shape.
Tuscania generally goes for guanciale, egg yolks and pecorino; the pasta shape can still vary.
We agree, and because we're impertinent, we sometimes serve carbonara with some toasted flour fettuccine.
Another dish not for the squeamish.
Nerveti are beef tendons, gently boiled in aromatics until tender. This is a real low and slow process, as the tendons must be, well, tender, before they can really be enjoyed. The best way to serve is cut into bite sized pieces, and marinated in olive oil, garlic, parsley and vinegar. Room temperature is best, and they make a fantastic topper for bruschetta.
Some of you might want to skip this one.
Pajata is the intestine of a un-weaned, milk fed calf. The combination of digestive enzymes and naturally occurring rennet give this dish it's unique flavour and texture.
Cooked very simply in tomato sauce and finished with Pecorino Romano, Pajata can be eaten alone or with a short pasta (rigatoni works really well).
Pajata is a real love it or hate it dish (I don't go for it but Ginger really likes it) but regardless of your tastes, respect is due to a delicacy that has survived here since men wore sandals and togas.
Made during the summer months when tomatoes and spicy peppers are growing side by side.
With the addition of garlic and fresh basil, All'arabbiata lives up to it's 'angry' name with it's spicy pepper kick.
While its usually served with penne we prefer some handmade garganelli (pictured left).
Brought to Tuscania by Sardinian shepherds passing through on their 800km trek to Marche, coratella might be the one dish that is better to eat without asking whats actually in it.
Coratella is the heart, liver, lungs and kidneys of a lamb stewed with plenty of onions, making a rich, sweet plate with varying textures and a thick meaty sauce worthy of scarpetta. The onions are what make this dish, and if it freaks you out to think about all of those organs, just picture yourself eating lots of onions. Focus on the onion.
Although Tuscia's not a sweets heavy area, there are some real gems here for dessert. Still often made with strutto (pork fat; pay attention vegans and vegetarians), tozzetti are packed with nuts (usually walnuts, hazelnuts, and or almonds), chocolate and raisins and are a traditional treat at the end of the meal.
Tozzetti are satisfying and delicious, and best of all, are often accompanied by a glass of sweet wine for dipping. Wine and cookies, not a bad life...
*Recommended pairing for this article: Bacon, Egg and Toast (Carbonara)
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