These are some of the life-saving questions which Italians love to argue about, until the end of time.
In our Quest for Food Truth we explored the green heart of Italy, from Lazio to Umbria: a land of saints of hams.
Spaghetti all`Amatriciana are one of the staples of traditional Italian cuisine: fast, simple, tasty, they epitomize the hearty Mediterranean cooking style. The village of Amatrice in the region of Lazio proudly calls itself the birthplace of the dish, which then became famous in Rome with the “bucatini” variations, a thicker form of spaghetti with a longitudinal hole that guarantee a whiplash of sauce on your Sunday´s shirt.
Even about bread we can open a dogmatic symposium: in the regions of Umbria, Toscana and Marche, the local folks bake bread without salt, according to a centuries-old tradition introduced when the local rulers imposed an excessive custom duty on salt sales following ancient rivalries between Firenze and Pisa, Perugia and the Pope, and basically every village versus the neighbour in the best Italian habit. Locals say that this deficit is counterbalanced by the salty taste of cured meat like boar ham, however in our opinion it taste like sandpaper, being aptly called “pane sciocco” (literally "foolish bread").
As soon as you cross the city door you are greeted by a reception committee of stuffed boars, with chandeliers of salami and salsiccia hanging from the ceilings of the many butchers´ shops aligning the pedestrian streets. Even the statue of San Benedetto da Norcia, the patron of Europe and leading figure in the history of European civilization thanks to the educational role played by the Benedictine monasteries, looks like blessing this feast to earthly pleasures.
His recommendation to visit the butchery “La boutique del pecoraro” (the sheep shepherd boutique) wins us a tasting of the local delicacies prepared by Mario , a master of knife-shaving: “coglioni di mulo” means literally “mule´s testicles, due to their typical shape of salami ovals filled with a white lard core , a king-size “panino del sindaco” (“major´s sandwich” with triple ham filling),smoked ricotta cheese and the winner of them all, a truffle-flavoured cheese.
As every Italian, I also think that the truffle from my homeland Piemonte is the best in the Galaxy, but the locals have their valuable opinion for the Umbrian black type, to which they dedicate (as we do in Piemonte) a chocolate praline with truffle scent, said to be proudly supplied as well to the English royal court.
With 2 drops of truffle scent number 5 on our neck, it is time to head downhill towards the sea and Ravenna, world famous for its “piadina” street food and the most magnificent mosaics ever seen by human eye.