The Historical Regional Cuisines Of Italy - Calabria Part III
Pasta is an unfailing presence in Calabria and is traditionally made at home. Tradition states that a woman is not worthy to marry if she does not master at least fifteen ways to knead the dough to make various pastas, a tiny bit of information that I'm sure will soon find its way onto countless profiles on match.com. By wrapping the dough on an iron, called "firrittu" you can produce "fusilli" which are traditionally seasoned with tomato, ham, garlic, oil and the standard red hot chili pepper. In addition to "fusilli", are "maccaruni", "filatieddi", "canneroni", "ricci di donna", "sciliatelli ", "schiaffettoni" and countless other varieties always made with semolina flour or durum wheat. Of course we can't forget the lasagne, filled with artichokes, pork, mushrooms, and oodles of cheese.
Perhaps the most exemplary soup of traditional Calabrian cuisine is the "maccu" of fava beans, which are the standard fava beans cooked without seasoning, then ground up and flavored with extra virgin olive oil, grated pecorino and a lot of pepper: an ancient dish which can also be found in Sicily just across the strait, due to its sublime essence and the ready access to its ingredients.
Given the economy of the region, beef is practically absent and pork the king of the Calabrian table. In tradition the killing of the pig was a popular festival governed by a precise, complex ritual, but these days factory farming and massive slaughterhouses have put an end to all that. The traditional huge banquets, where family and friends would meet after a long period of working in the Calabrian sun and the intestines of the pig would be brought to the table in order to divine the future, has been replaced by a faster and more sterile form of lunch. Fortunately, many Calabrian kitchens still contain the copper boiler which holds a variety of pig's feet, pork rind, head, belly and all other scrap pieces of the pig which produce the "Frisali", almost always served with vegetable pickles to temper the overwhelming amount of rendered fat the chunks of meat swim in.
The consumption of pork, both fresh and cured, is still huge in the region: capocollo, hams, soppressate, and sausages are very popular dishes from Calabria which are enjoyed around the world. Among the most typical salami are the "soppressata" with its characteristic bright red color (due to the presence of red chili pepper and blood from the pig), and the "ndugghia" sausage made from tongue, tripe and other pork bits, which is a prime ingredient in the so-called "minestra maritata" or married soup alongside with domestic herbs and wild vegetables. Pork and pasta come together in the "morseddu", a thick bun which is cut in two and is filled with a savory sauce made of pig intestines with tomato and red chili pepper. A specialty of Catanzaro, this sandwich is extremely energetic and fiery, and an asbestos tongue is generally called for in order to eat it. The "morseddu" goes by the name of "suffritto" in Cosenza and Reggio, but regardless of the name, it's still somewhat akin to eating magma.
There is nothing that can prepare you for the amount of salt that Calabrians use to season their foods. If it was true that high sodium intake is responsible for heart attacks, there would be no Calabrian alive over the age of 16. It is not at all unusual for a housewife to go through a pound of salt a week to feed her family, and one bite of the local food and you'll understand why. While it is common kitchen practice around the world when preparing salted foods such as preserved cod to rinse them off prior to cooking, that rule does not apply to Calabrians who gobble up the cod salt and all. Some of the local cheeses are also so salty that they crunch when you eat them. It is interesting to note that some historians claim that Roman Empire citizens consumed over one hundred times more salt than today's diners, and if that is the case, the legacy of Empire clearly lives on in Calabria!
Continued in Calabria Part IV
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