Italy is renowned for its delicious cuisine, which uses the very best locally sourced ingredients. Each region has its own specialities and delicacies and Italy’s newest region, Molise, is no exception to this rule. As with anywhere in Italy, the food is influenced by its history. Molise was once under the rule of Sicily and Sicilian influences are very clear to see. Molise has also been a poor region historically and this has led to a clear emphasis on simple dishes made with fresh local ingredients. Molise is bordered on one side by the Adriatic Sea and on the other by the Apennine Mountains. The green rolling hills in-between is fertile land, perfect for agriculture.
For the second time this month, the Bookings For You team have called on the expertise of Loriana De Sanctis from Molise Cuisine to shed some light on this little known region for our readers. She has shared with us some of the top 10 most well known and popular dishes from Molise.
The pampanella is one of the most common meat dishes of traditional Molisan cuisine of Molise. A pork dish cooked with chilli, garlic and vinegar, pampanella is a special name for a dish whose origin is actually not very clear. One of the few certainties is that, despite today being produced in many different locations in Molise such as San Martino in Pensilis, Portocannone and Ururi, originally it was prepared exclusively in San Martino in Pensilis in the province of Campobasso Molise. This is where you will still find very capable masters who prepare it.
Pezzata are pieces of tender lamb shoulder served with potatoes and tomatoes. The dish is cooked at length at a low temperature to ensure that the meat is really tender. One of the best places to try this is on the first Sunday in August in Capracotta, at the Antica Festa Pastorale di La Pezzata.
Torcinelli are sausages filled with sheep liver or offal which are usually grilled but may sometimes be stewed. It was traditionally made as a way to use up all the leftovers from the lamb, ensuring absolutely no part of the animal was wasted. Nowadays, it’s arguably a dish for those with braver palettes.
The specialty cheese of Molise is caciocavallo, which is tied with a knot and hung from a cord. This gives it a distinctive teardrop shape which, combined with the fact it oozes deliciously when you bite into it, has earned it the nickname ‘lachrymose’. It’s made from raw cows milk and is typically aged for a couple of years before being consumed. The longer it’s left though, the spicier the flavour.
Another dish to be savoured in Molise is the brodetto, a gigantic sweet and spicy fish soup, swimming with fish and shellfish. Our favourite place to serve this dish is at the Da Nicolino restaurant in Termoli where it will be served up in a giant terracotta bowl and accompanied with a paper bib at. Gulping it down without spilling any is a challenge!
This is a delicious dish and consists of cod baked in the oven and seasoned with an array of breadcrumbs, pine nuts, walnuts, raisins, olives and cherry tomatoes. Historically it was a dish that was often served up on Christmas Eve when Italians traditionally eat fish. And, in fact, a true Baccala Arracanto will be cooked not in an oven but in an open fireplace covered with ash.
A sweet treat not dissimilar to a doughnut but with its own very unique twisted shape and appearance, scarpelle is made from a basic flour, yeast and water dough and then deep fried before being served with plenty of sugar. We think they’re best eaten when still warm!
This is a jam made with both fruit and vegetables that have traditionally been grown in the olive groves, vineyards and orchards of the Molise region. It typically includes pears, grapes, tomatoes, onions, peppers and carrots. These are chopped and prepared before being put in earthenware jars and left to marinate for at least a month before eating, when it is then usually served on taralli (traditional biscuits) as a starter or antipasto. So popular is the delicacy that it can even boast its own festival!
Signora di Conca Casale
The Signora di Conca Casale is a traditional salami from Molise. Conca Casale is a small town in Molise with only around 200 residents, all of whom carefully guard the recipe. The salami is traditionally made in the Winter months and left to age for at least 6 months before consumption. Historically it would have been given to the signori (gentlemen) in town since it contained the very best cuts of the pig (the lean thigh, loin and shoulder as well as fat from the belly and back) flavoured with fennel and other spices.
We absolutely love our truffles but were surprised to recently learn the little-known fact that Molise is actually the second biggest producer of truffles across Italy. These thrive in the woods. The Nero Preggiato and Bianco truffle varieties are the most popular varieties here and are found between the months of October and February. However, other truffle varieties such as Scorzone and Bianchetto can also be found throughout the year.
If you fancy tasting some of this delicious cuisine for yourself, get in touch with Loriana at Molise Cuisine. Their array of tours and experiences will allow you to savour the very best flavours that the region has to offer. Whether you are looking for a chef to whip you up a delicious meal or want to learn how how to create these amazing dishes for yourself in a private cookery lesson, Lorianna and her team at Molise Cuisine have a range of options for you to choose from.