Spice it up Calabrian Style!

2018/05/02 - Written by Amanda Fulginiti
Spice it up Calabrian Style!
Spice it up Calabrian Style!
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Heavily influenced by the Mediterranean and often spicy, the cuisine of Calabria is simple yet satisfying. Due to its humid climate and the potential for molding and spoilage, food preservation is important and most of the region’s food products can be found preserved by oiling, salting, curing and smoking. While antipasti are to be found everywhere in Italy, no region can boast the extent to which they are served in Calabria. The best way to prime the stomach before an onslaught of pasta, vegetables, meat and dessert is not to ease into a meal, but rather to launch a full digestive assault. So pull up a fork, knife and spoon and chow down on this list of 14 comforting and classic Calabrian dishes!

1. Crespelle

These elongated fritters are an appetizer eaten hot right out of the fryer. Also written grispedde, the name comes from the Latin crispus in reference to the crisp texture these doughnuts should have. They are also known as vechiarelle – little old ladies-because their wrinkled surface resembles the skin of an old woman.

2. ‘Nduja sausage

‘Nduja sausage is one typical feature of an antipasti buffet. Calabrians do their best to utilize the entire animal letting nothing go to waste. This salami-style delicacy (left alone to cure for an entire year) is made from pig’s fat and organ meats and mixed with liberal amounts of peperoncini. Other salamis such as Capicola Calabrese and Sopressata di Calabria also come from the region and are served alongside local breads and cheeses.

3. Ciambotta or giambotta

Ciambotta or giambottais a typical first or side dish. Stewed eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes seasoned with onion and peppers, it is eaten either hot or cold. Chockfull of summer vegetables that are simmered in a thick tomato-enriched broth, it is very similar to ratatouille and makes for a hearty one-bowl meal.

4. Perciatelli e lumache

Perciatelli e lumache is a very common first plate. Snails are abundant and as such make for a perfect ingredient. This pasta dish typically uses a peppery tomato sauce. Pasta, like in every other region, is plentiful in Calabria. Lagane (flat, long noodles), ricci di donna (lady’s curls), and capieddi ’e prieviti (priest’s hairs) are Calabrian specialties. These pastas are often served with piquant sauces made from vegetables and meats.

5. Pesce spada alla bagnarese

Swordfish is roasted with olive oil, capers, parsley and lemon. Surrounded by water, it is no wonder that the Calabrian diet has fish as its centrepiece. Any catch can be served on the table that evening.

6. Peperoncino

To speak of Calabria and its gastronomic culture, one would be daft not to mention peperoncino. Calabria has a whole line of chilis to offer, from mild to wild. Chili pepper is referred to as red gold. Diamante is the capital of the chili pepper, so much so that it has dedicated an academy to the piparedduzzu (chili pepper in local dialect) and even organizes what is now an internationally-acclaimed annual festival in September. In Maierà (8 km from Diamante), the Palazzo Ducale boasts the Museo del Peperoncino (Museum of the Chili Pepper).

7. Pitta chicculiata

Rich in flavour, this is a local version of pizza, which is filled with tuna, anchovies, black olives, tomatoes, and capers.

8. Morzeddu

Morzeddu is a typical dish from Catanzaro, whose origins date back to the period of Spanish domination in Calabria. A savoury pork and veal liver pie seasoned with tomato and peppers. Made by boiling the cattle entrails, it has become a popular dish.

9. Fileja

Filei are a traditional Calabrese pasta ‘fatta in casa’ (usually homemade). They are similar to pici (Toscano) and other regional styles of eggless pasta that are rolled by hand using a thin metal rod or skewer. It is often served with tomato sauce and cheese, typically local pecorino.

10. Sarde a scapece

Fried sardines rolled in bread crumbs and doused with a mixture of hot oil, vinegar, garlic and mint.

11. Caciocavallo

Calabria is a region that produces a great variety of cheeses made with cow, sheep and goat milk. “Caciocavallo”, which means “cheese on horseback,” gets its name from the manner in which the cheese is always tied together in a rope and dangled over a wooden board to drain and age. This is a cow’s milk cheese produced in the Sila Mountains. Butirro is also a very common cheese which is caciocavallo with butter inside.

12. Chinulille

This is a typical dessert found in Calabria. The name derives from the calabrian word for “full” (chjinu). Sweet fried ravioli stuffed with chocolate, chestnuts, candied fruit and nougat.

13. Bergamot

Bargamotis a citrus fruit, a hybrid of the pear lemon and the Seville orange. Larger and rounder than a lemon, it is cultivated predominantly for its essential oil, which has a floral, bittersweet fragrance. Around Reggio Calabria, at the very tip of the boot, is the world's only major bergamot crop. One can find just about everything flavoured with the elusive fruit: candies, marmalade, liqueur, custard, etc.

14. Cirò wine

The best known DOC wines are Cirò (Province of Crotone) and Donnici (Province of Cosenza). Cirò wine is made in the eastern foothills of the La Sila plateau and out to the Ionian coast, in the Ciro, Ciro Marina, Crucoli and Melissa communes. It is considered one of the oldest named wines in the world. The wines made with Gaglioppo grapes are full-bodied with good structure and a high alcohol content of up to 14%.

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