A landlocked area rich in Italian tradition, pretend you are in Umbria and cook a meal with authentic cheese, pork and olive oil.
A central region in Italy, Umbria has a beautiful match of historic tradition and modern influences. The area is know for its beautiful hills and stunning historic towns.
Despite being landlocked and somewhat economically depressed — or perhaps because of these things — Umbria is the quintessential embodiment of all things Italian. This is certainly true of its cuisine, which emphasizes the virtues of Italian cooking: simplicity, tradition and respect for fresh, local ingredients. Any list of the products for which Umbria is famous would include farro, a grain; prosciutto and other pork or wild boar products from the town of Norcia and the well-known black truffle.
Umbrian pigs live on the land and eat acorns and chestnuts that give the meat its characteristic flavor and texture. Umbrians take special pride in how their pigs are raised and treated, especially in the mountainous area of Norcia. Over the centuries, the word norcino, or person from Norcia, became synonymous with butcher. The most important cured meat in Umbria is, without a doubt, Prosciutto di Norcia IGP, followed by pork sausages and mazzafegati, a pork and liver sausage that can be traced back to Renaissance tables.
The best of Umbria’s cheeses are mature pecorino sheep’s cheese and fresh or ripe goat’s milk cheese. The lentils of Castelluccio di Norcia are utilized for soups, main courses and side dishes. Everything is seasoned with the golden and fruity olive oil produced in this region. Umbrian oil of high quality is awarded with a PDO quality mark (Protected Designation of Origin).
Umbria is particularly suitable for wine growing and its mild climate gives this land top-quality white and red wines, including among the many well-known labels, Assisi Grechetto and Sagrantino di Montefalco. The wines of Montefalco have an interesting history, having been identified as important local products. In the 1400s, a city council made it illegal for people who owned grapevines in the area to neglect them and the fruits they produced. As a result, Montefalco wines are some of Italy’s finest wines. Each year, around Easter, the town holds a wine festival celebrating the fruits of its winemaking labors.
Pretend you are in Umbria this weekend and make this dinner for your friends:
First Course: Arugula, Pecorino, Pine Nut, and Pear Salad
Showcase fine olive oils with this fresh salad. Find authentic Pecorino cheese to shave over the top and enjoy the bright, simple flavors of this salad to kick off your menu. Get the full recipe here.
Primi: Tagliatelle with Goose Ragù (Tagliatelle al Ragù d’Oca)
A favorite dish of a winery in Umbria, fresh tagliatelle sits amidst sweet tomato-based sauce and is spiced up with chili flakes. Goose and goose liver adds a beautiful richness to another uncomplicated dish. If goose is difficult to find, you can certainly substitute duck. Get the recipe here.
Secondi: Pork with Juniper Berries (Filetto di Maiale con Bacche di Ginepro)
Traditional flavorful pork with fresh herbs should be cooked with a local Italian wine to mirror the flavors of the meal. Enjoy with potatoes and other seasonal greens. Get the recipe here.
Dolci: Umbrian Snowflake Cookies (Biscotti ai Cereali)
A corn flakes cereal makes its way into this fun cookie batter and adds a crunchy garnish on top. In Umbria, you will see this favorite cookie served at festivals and at other gatherings around the area. Get the recipe here.
I was born in New Jersey to first generation Italian parents. Both sets of my grandparents were born in Italy and emigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. They brought with them a love of the Italian culture and cooking. I have 2 brothers and 1 sister. I learned many of my cooking skills from my parents and grandparents, but I also studied Italian cooking and made many of the recipes for my children as they were growing up. I am married with three children and six grandchildren. Besides New Jersey, I have lived in Pennsylvania, Michigan and now on the Gulf Coast of Alabama. I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Masters of Science Degree and I have taught high school English and special education. I have also been an administrator in the public schools at the district and county levels. Now that I am retired from the teaching profession, I have the time to write a blog and share my information about Italian American cooking and culture. Because I am a teacher by trade, I feel that I have the skills to share with readers the techniques for preparing authentic and healthy meals.