In this new series, we’ll look more closely at a lesser-known region of Italy in every issue. As consumers continue to clamor for authentic, regional foods from Italy, it pays to be in the know! This month, we travel to Northern Italy and to Trentino Alto Adige.
Trentino Alto Adige is located in Northern Italy, in the Dolomite Alps. Here there are aromatic pine forests, alpine lakes and vine-covered hills that lead down to the plains of Veneto and the coast. The cuisine is a mix of central European and ancient Tyrolean cultural influences, with as many similarities to Austrian cuisine as Italian. So much so, you might think you’re looking at an Austrian dish as an Italian one! Think forest mushrooms, cow’s milk cheeses, cured and smoked meats, and you’re on the right track. But even foods and flavors like sauerbraten, and a version of Austrian knodel called canaderli are typical of the region.
The region’s harsh winters and rugged terrain meant nothing was wasted – so preservation methods of all kinds are in regular use, from pickling, smoking and fermenting to finding uses for stale bread in the canaderli. It’s the reason for the region’s signature smoked ham product, speck. Similarly, traditionally pasta was made from all kinds of ingredients, from chestnuts to whole wheat – the bran was too precious to be refined away. Food waste may be trending now, but it’s been in fashion in Trentino for centuries!
Brooklyn’s al di la Trattoria restaurant features a number of regional dishes from across the Northern Italian region, but their Casunziei is pulled straight from the Dolomite mountain region. It’s a beautiful yet simple filled pasta with beets, ricotta and a surprising addition of poppy seeds.
This dish from Barilla Chef Lorenzo Boni highlights the cow’s milk in the cream and cheese that is typical of the region. The mushrooms are also a local favorite, and provide an ideal pairing with the whole grain pasta, with earthy, nutty, umami flavor notes to complement the natural flavor contributions of the pasta.