Chill is in the air, snow has covered the mountains, wood stoves are on. It is November, time to enjoy tasty hearty dishes, and there are plenty of them in Italy. Here is my favourite Italian food this time of year.
1. Anything with chestnuts! Castagne (chestnuts in Itallian) are everywhere on the menu this time of year. Street vendors in Rome charge a fortune for a small paper cone filled with roasted castagne. In Abruzzo, you will often find wild boar cooked with chestnuts. In Tuscany, in smaller, more traditional trattoria, chestnut polenta is served with local juicy sausages or ricotta cheese. In Piedmont the most traditional way of eating chestnut polenta is with a raw egg, parmesan and a few shavings of white truffle. Pappardelle pasta with castagne and pancetta is another delicious dish from Piedmont that has me drooling while I am writing this.
2. Soup with lentils (lenticchie) of Santo Stefano are highly prized in Abruzzo and among some famous international chefs. New season lentils were harvested in early autumn and made their way to pantries and local restaurants where they are turned into tasty soups and stews. In Umbria, you can taste lentils of Castelluccio, served with polenta and sausages. 3. Fondue with white truffles (Fonduta al Tartufo Bianco) is a rich fragrant concoction made with Fontina, a typical cheese from Piedmont, butter, an egg and jazzed up with shavings of white truffle. Dishes with new season tartufo bianco are devoured in frightening amounts in Piedmont this time of year. The famous International White Truffle Fair is held in Alba this month and astronomical sums of money are paid for the precious Tuber. Restaurants serve such delectable local fare as eggs with white truffles (uova tartufata), tajarin pasta all’Albese, carpaccio of raw meat with truffles.
4. Chard (bietola) with cannelloni beans cooked in a tomato sauce is one of my comfort dishes in cold weather. In Campania you can find a hearty soup of chard with meat balls (Minestra di bietole e polpettine). The savoury pie with rice and chard (torta di riso e bietole) from Liguria is mouth-watering.
5. Vin brulé season has begun! Yesterday I saw a sign near a small bar saying that they served vin brulé, which is an equivalent of mulled wine. The wine used is normally not the best but, hey, when it is hot and slightly spiced, accompanied by roasted chestnuts and a good conversation by a fire, who really cares about the bouquet?