Living off the land is a vital aspect of Molisani tradition and thus cuisine is simplistic in nature. Most people live in rural areas where farming is both traditional and necessary to keep families alive and healthy. Livestock like sheep, goats, pigs and cattle stock have been cultivated for centuries, but have historically been raised as a form of currency rather than food. The tradition of travelling with one’s livestock to Abruzzo or Puglia for sale at the markets means that Molisani recipes are often vegetarian or use very small amounts of meat, just for flavouring. Beans, potatoes, grapes and olives are their primary crops, and in true Italian fashion, liberal use is made of olive oil, chilies and garlic. Durum wheat is also important to the region, so pastas are both hearty and abundant. Like most of Italy, cuisine is an affair to remember with many dishes to try and savour as you make your way across its breathtaking mountainous landscape.
Baked lamb intestines filled with chopped liver, sweetbreads, and in some variations hardboiled eggs.
Brodetto termolese (di Tornola)
A fish stew hailing from Termoli, a town on the Adriatic coast devoted to fishing. The broth uses whatever is not sold from the fresh catches of the day and is categorized by a wide range of fish. It can include everything from mussels, calamari, red mullet to shrimp (Cicale, seppioline, merluzzetti, triglie, scorfani, lucerne, zanchette, razze, pannocchie, etc.).
Cavatelli molisani fatti a mano
Short homemade pasta using flour and water, twirled with the tip of one’s finger, similar in appearance to gnocchi. Often pork liver sausage (fegatazzo), a typical product of the region, is used in tandem with this pasta to accentuate the flavour of the dish.
A firm textured, pear-shaped cheese similar to mozzarella, made from cow’s milk.
A soup of pork, seven types of dried and fresh beans, seven types of mixed pasta shapes, spring vegetables, and seven types of herbs. It is eaten on May 1 to signify the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
Baccalà alla cantalupese
A salt cured cod with olives,grapes and peppers seasonedwith capers and garlic.
Signora di Conca Casale
This pork sausage is a staple of Conca Casale, a townlocated above Venafro. This centuries-old tradition is prepared by a group of old ladies in the winter to be enjoyed in the summer. Unlike other salumi, the Lady is not part of the cucina povera tradition, but it is considered a valuable product and traditionally intended to be given to gentlemen (doctors, notaries, etc.) as a way to repay a kindness or favour. The cuts used are the loin and shoulder for the lean part, and most of the bacon fat and back. As such, only one Lady can be drawn from each pig.
An Easter treat that has both savoury and sweet versions. The former is baked and filled with Pecorino, Parmigiano, eggs and black pepper. The latter is filled with sweetened ricotta.
Pork pancetta dried with peperoncino, soaked in wine and cut into small pieces. Pampanella is used to flavour sauces, in particular the sauce for dressing the tacconi (rustic pasta made with flour and water).
Fried fish (ray), palombo (smooth-hound), octopus or squid, covered with flour and then marinated in vinegar, oil, salt and saffron.
Tartufo del Molise
The second largest producer of truffles in Italy, Molise is known for its white truffles and scorzone truffles.
A liqueur made from 100 herbs containing70% alcohol content.
The four DOCs of the region are Biferno (namedafter the largest river in Molise), Molise (a.k.a.Del Molise), Pentro di Isernia and Tintilia delMolise. Biferno wines can be red, white or rosé.The whites are predominantly made from theTrebbiano grape along with Bombino andFalanghina in smaller proportions. The reds are ablend of mostly Montepulciano with some of theAglianico grape and Sangiovese. Recently, therediscovery of the Tintilia grape, the area’s onlynative varietal, has been attracting considerableinterest among Italian wine aficionados.