EVENT DATE: February 20th, 2017

The region and its flavors

Abruzzo is one of Europe’s greenest areas, yet it is also one of Italy’s least-touristy regions. Its mountains attract climbers and hikers and provide the region’s distinct flavors and ingredients, like goat, lamb, pig, wild vegetables, and herbs. As with Italy’s other southern regions like Calabria and Sicily, several kingdoms conquered Abruzzo. When Italy was unified in the 19th century, many of the people of Abruzzo (and throughout Southern Italy), were impoverished and lived off the land, following simple diets and preserving what they did not eat immediately, until conditions began to improve in the 1930s. The tradition of these dishes lives on in Abruzzo today and in the flavors of my recent Abruzzo dinner.

Let’s take a closer look at the menu…


Housemade Cheese, Mortadella, and Croccantini Cracker. Wild-foraged Marinated Yellowfoot Mushrooms, Fried Sage Leaf
Mortadella e Formaggio Fatto in Casa, Giallo Piede Funghi Selvatici, Salvia Fritta e Casa Fatto Croccantini

Sage and mushrooms are central to mountain cuisine. I prepared a local Bay Area yellowfoot mushroom, marinated with sage, garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and packed and canned under Southern Italian olive oil. You can purchase a jar if you’d like to give it a try.


Housemade Chitarra with Ancient Grain Durum Wheat Sicilian Semolina Flour, DOP; Dell’Aquila Saffron, and Pianogrillo 2016 Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Chitarra Pasta Con Antico Grano Duro e Siciliano Farino de Semolino, DOP; Dell’Aquila Zafferano e Pianogrillo 2016 Olio Extravergine di Oliva

Making homemade chitarra was one of the most challenging experiences I’ve had making pasta. The dough must be an exact size to push through the box fitted with guitar strings. I used an egg pasta base with ancient durum wheat from Sicily, however, in most southern areas of Italy, eggs would not be used and all-purpose flour would be suggested, purely based on cost. Dell’Aquila Abruzzo saffron is known as one of the best saffrons in the world, and is hand picked and dried over wood embers, as it was hundreds of years ago.


Braised and Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Mustard Oil/Senape Sauce
Brasati e Ripiene Agnello Con Senape Olio

For this dish, I butterflied a lamb leg, stuffed it with dried sourdough bread, pecorino, garlic, and parsley, then rolled and trussed it, braising it in a high brix (high sugar content) San Marzano canned tomatoes from Italy. I served it with a sauce made from highly-sought-after, essential mustard oil (typically used for mostarda, a Northern Italian condiment made with candied-fruit and mustard-flavored syrup).


Fritters stuffed with Garbanzo, Mandorle Almond, Dark Chocolate, Saba, and Espresso Gelato
Ceci Ripieni con Gelato

These fritters are a typical Christmas treat in Abruzzo. The dough is made from vermouth and lemon peel, rolled through a pasta machine, and stuffed with a paste of garbanzo, Sicilian almond, bitter chocolate, and grape musk—called Saba. The gelato was made with my favorite espresso bean, Vivace—which is roasted in Seattle in a traditional Northern Italian style to create added caramelization and sweetness.