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The Historical Regional Cuisines Of Italy - Abruzzo Part V

Updated on March 29, 2009

One of the most fascinating aspects of ancient, almost prehistoric, shepherd cuisine is the extensive use of castrated animals, whose meat is more tender and less gamy than the testosterone equipped natural males. These animals are usually identified by different names:

  • Barrow (pig)
  • Bullock (cattle)
  • Capon (chicken)
  • Dinmont (sheep, goat)
  • Gelding (horse)
  • Gib (ferret)
  • Havier (deer)
  • Hog (pig)
  • Lapin (rabbit)
  • Ox (cattle)
  • Steer (cattle)
  • Wether (sheep)

In Abruzzese shepherd cuisine, the sheep is dominant: sheep, mutton, and lamb meat is cooked in many different ways throughout the Abruzzo region, although the area's shepherds traditionally use the "catturo", or "capture" method whereby the sheep is cooked in a large boiler made of copper supported by a chain to an iron tripod, which is hoisted outdoors over a fire reduced to embers. The meat is usually cut up into chunks and is placed in the pot together with oil, lard, parsley, sage, onion, red chili pepper and cooked for a long period of time over a very slow fire. It is traditionally enjoyed with its fragrant sauce soaking into large slices of the amazing crusty local bread.

In our modern age it is now difficult to find now lamb al catturo, so it is easier to taste lamb prepared "casce e ova" with cheese and scrambled eggs, or arrabbiata, which is sauteed in a pan with a large amount of the fiery red chili peppers that the Abruzzesi are so passionate about. The shepherds of Dell'Aquila area traditionally practice the "incaporchiano", where a goat is held in a special closed container made of wicker which forces the animal to remain immobile and thus fatten rapidly, as is traditionally done to veal. This inhumane process does produce a meat that is of an exceptional smoothness and tenderness, as much as the more sensitive reader may find the process little more than repugnant animal torture.

Even the internal organs of lamb or goat are often used a base for various robust dishes which are very popular in the region: Cut into strips, divided in small bunches and flavored with various flavorings (almost always with an abundance of that lava hot Abruzzese red chili pepper), then tied up into parcels with the intestines of the animal, they are cooked with oil, tomato, and white wine. Many different variations are eaten throughout the Abruzzo, where they are known by names like "tuncenelle" (Chieti), "mazzarelle" (Teramo), and "marro" (L'Aquila).

Abruzzese cuisine consistently honors the pig, which provides excellent cold cuts, including the "ventricina", a salami which is extremely aromatic and spicy. A delicious dish that is often sold on the street in small kiosks known as "posticini" is skewers of grilled lamb and pork. A typical dish is also the Neratese goat to which is the thigh of the animal cut into pieces and boiled with herbs. The Chietino rabbit is cooked in the oven after it is stuffed with slices of prosciutto, rosemary, and bits of butter. The chicken Franceschiello, named in memory of the great King of the Two Sicilies who was a profound lover of hunting, is prepared by cooking a chicken cut into pieces and then combined with olive oil, spices, olives, and very surprisingly, pickles.

Continued in Abruzzo Part VI

Check out the entire tour of Italy's Historical Regional Cuisines!

Emilia Romagna - Coming Soon
Friuli Venezia Giulia - Coming Soon
Lazio - Coming Soon
Liguria - Coming Soon
Lombardia - Coming Soon
Marche - Coming Soon
Molise - Coming Soon
Piemonte - Coming Soon
Puglia - Coming Soon
Sardegna - Coming Soon
Sicilia - Coming Soon
Toscana - Coming Soon
Trentino Alto Adige - Coming Soon
Umbria - Coming Soon
Valle d'Aosta - Coming Soon
Veneto - Coming Soon


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