The remarkable variety of flavours and aromas, the produce of uncontaminated mountain areas, the agricultural and pastoral tradition of its mountain and hill areas and the abundant variety of fish from the Adriatic Sea make Abruzzo a unique region from the culinary point of view.
Land of flavours
In the kitchen as in nature, Abruzzo is a rich and generous land.
The extra virgin olive oil
The olive tree shapes the landscape of the entire region: it is a historical crop not only as regards culinary tradition but also as regards the role it plays in the culture and lives of the people of Abruzzo. Many producers are committed to enhancing local varieties considered among the best in Italy, such as the “Dritta” of Loreto Aprutino, the “Gentile” of Chieti, and the “Toccolana”, the “Carboncella”, the “Tortiglione”, the “Castiglionese” which go to join the more widespread “Leccino”. These varieties give rise to three Protected Designation of Origin oils: the Aprutino-Pescarese, the Colline Teatine and the more recent Pretuziano Colline Teramane.
Red gold: saffron
Abruzzo is well known for the cultivation of one of the most precious spices in the world: saffron. This spice is grown in the L’Aquila area on the plain of Navelli, between Gran Sasso and the Sirente massif, and recently obtained PDO. A product unique in Italy is red garlic, grown for centuries in Sulmona, the particularity of which is its red color, the richness of essential oils (which give it a wonderful aroma and recognized healing properties) and the fact that it is the only ecotype in Italy to produce flower spike.
The lentils of Santo Stefano di Sessanio
Thanks to a mild climate and favourable environmental conditions, production is also widespread of various varieties of cereals and legumes in Abruzzo, such as beans, cicerchie and mountain lentils, especially those of Santo Stefano di Sessanio. Spelt is cultivated not only in the mountains of L’Aquila, but also in the hills of Corvara, Guardiagrele and in the upper Teramo area.
Fara San Martino. Homeland of Pasta
And how can we not mention one of the Italian capitals of pasta production: in Fara San Martino, a small village at the foot of the eastern slope of the Maiella, through which flow the pure water of the river Verde, a flourishing pasta production industry exists which uses traditional centuries-old manufacturing methods and distributes its products on markets around the world.
From the woods to the plain.
Furthermore, the forests of the mountain and foothill areas are rich in excellent varieties of mushrooms and truffles, so much so that Abruzzo is one of the most important regions in this respect, even though many people are not aware of it.
Among the many wild vegetables used in cooking, worthy of mention is the òrapi of Marsica, tasty wild asparagus used in the preparation of pasta and omelettes, and the artichoke of Cupello.
Completing the rich Abruzzo food basket are fruits, such as the cherries of Raiano and Giuliano Teatino and the grapes of Tollo and Ortona.
Excellent and fragrant, honey is produced almost everywhere in Abruzzo.
Meat. An ancient pastoral tradition.
Agro-pastoral traditions have always boosted a flourishing economy ensuring the preservation of genuine produce, starting with meat.
Famous for its flavour mixed with an unmistakable tenderness, Abruzzo lamb is widely used in many traditional regional dishes: lamb, cheese and eggs, stuffed lamb, roast mutton (tasty meat skewers). Equally important is pork, considered the true wealth of farmers, uses to make numerous specialties such as roast suckling pig (present in all the festivals of Abruzzo), hams and a wide variety of sausages. In addition to salami and sausages, among the most typical are the mortadella of Campotosto in L’Aquila and the Ventricina of Vasto, produced in the Chieti mountains.
Cheeses and dairy products.
Cheese production has always played an important role in regional gastronomy. Among the most popular specialities: pecorino, fresh or seasoned, which is produced in Farindola in a unique and original way with pork rennet; sheep’s ricotta, which can also be bought directly from the shepherds; the fresh and fragrant giuncata, typical of the mountains of Teramo. At the foot of the Gran Sasso cacio (or pecorino) marecetto is made. Cows’ milk on the other hand is used to prepare the traditional scamorze to be eaten raw or cooked (over a fire or in the oven). On the larger plateaus, in particular in the area of Rivisondoli and Pescocostanzo, excellent caciocavallo and dairy products are made, such as trecce, bocconcini and fiordilatte (very similar to mozzarella). Finally, especially in the Chieti area, burrelle or manteche are prepared.
The fish of the Adriatic Sea
From the point of view of quality, the fresh fish of the Adriatic Sea is as equally delicious as meat and finds its maximum expression in “brodetto”.
Traditional sweets and liqueurs
Finally, traditional desserts are readily available. The most famous are the ferratelle or neole, wafers cooked on a hot and toothed plate; the cicerchiata, a ring-shaped cake made up of little balls of fried dough, held together by honey; the teramo pepatelli, biscuits with a spicy flavour made with bran flour, almonds and honey; Guardiagrele produces characteristic sise delle monache, made with soft sponge cake and custard; the frentani almond and chocolate bocconotti; sugared almonds of Sulmona; soft chocolate nougat of L’Aquila and croccante, a type of nougat made with almonds and caramelized sugar and flavored with lemon. All of these are among the most popular sweetmeats together with Parrozzo, undoubtedly the most characteristic dessert of Abruzzo.
Among the typical liqueurs of Abruzzo, the most famous is definitely Centerba, a very strong (70°) infusion based on wild herbs and typical of the area of Tocco da Casauria. Other characteristic alcoholic beverages are cooked wine, genzianella, nocino and ratafia, the latter made from sun-fermented black cherries