Umbria: Hidden Italy

One of the many problems with being a virtual tourist is trying to find that one thread of connection between what I’ve experienced versus what I imagine. As I read site after site, book after book about Italy, I can usually get a good idea of what the writer is talking about,even if only roughly.

Not so with Umbria.

Part of that is due to the fact that Umbria is the only landlocked region on the Italian peninsula. There are no coastlines for me to imagine. Instead, it’s full of peaks and valleys, meadows and pastures, woods and streams. With all of these different environments, I can imagine many different foods.

Olive oil is plentiful here, as well as wheat (which means plenty of pasta, cakes and cookies). The farms in the region mean beef, pork and lamb.

But really, when it comes to Umbria, think mushrooms. More specifically, think truffles. Black truffles (as the white ones are found in the Piedmont area, which I’ll get to later). Also available in Umbria are porcini, sanguinacci, ovoli and many others. Fungus is definitely dominant in the area.

There are many dishes that can be talked about as almost explicitly Umbrian; Porchetta for one, which I won’t be making as a spit-roasted suckling pig is hard to pull off in a studio apartment. I will be looking for Sausages done in an Umbrian style norcino, which means that the pigs used in the sausages were fattened almost exclusively on acorns. This will lead to a simple dish called Rigatoni alla Norcino, which I think I will make.

Wait a second…Hills and valleys, wheat, pork and beef, crayfish and trout, and mushrooms? This almost sounds like…Western Pennsylvania!

Okay, maybe not.

Expect several recipes in the next few weeks based on Umbrian cuisine. If you have any recommendations, feel free to let me know. I think I’m gonna enjoy this.

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