By Alessandra Bianco, Marist Italy MA, 2013-14
Molise is a small region in southeastern Italy that was a part of a larger region called Abruzzo e Molise until the early 1960s, when it was split into two. We wrote about Abruzzo here, but today we will focus on the smaller, but no less delicious Molise region, which is an ancestral home of your intrepid blog editor. The food here reflects the region’s highly agricultural economy, and though it shares many dishes with Abruzzo, the region puts its own unique flair on the cuisine.
A Little History
Sheep, goats, pigs and cattle stock have been cultivated for centuries in Molise, but have historically been raised as a form of currency rather than food, giving rise to the transumanza tradition of traveling with one’s livestock to Abruzzo for sale at the markets. Because animals have been generally raised for sale, Molisani recipes are often vegetarian or use very small amounts of meat just for flavoring. Most dishes are prepared simply and with few ingredients, and work well within the region’s lingering transumanza mindset.
Beans, potatoes, grapes and olives are primary crops of the region, and the culinary tradition is quite similar to that of nearby Abruzzo with liberal use of olive oil, chilies and garlic. Durum wheat is also important to the region, so pastas are both hearty and abundant. Of the few distinct dishes native to Molise, p’lenta d’iragn is the one gracing almost every Molisani table when simple, pure comfort food is in order. A humble but delicious dish, this polenta variation is made from potatoes and wheat and is topped with a tomato sauce. Other polenta dishes are common throughout the region, and many recipes bear the markings of influence from surrounding regions. Even the flavors of nearby Croatia have made their way into the Molisani melting pot.
The historical perspective is taken from and © by http://www.delallo.com/articles/molise
The Italian Cheese Balls
Pallotte – made from the locally-grown produce, these round balls combine egg, cheese topped with a tomato sauce.
Dairy products are extremely popular in this region, in particular the caciocavallo and stracciata cheeses of Agnone and Alto Molise, fior di latte cow’s milk mozzarella from Boiano, buffalo mozzarella from Venafro and pecorino sheep’s cheese from Matese. Scamorza cheese and burrino, a butter-filled cheese, are produced everywhere in Molise.
The Turcinelli are individual portion size roasts of lamb.
Wines and Desserts
The most popular wines of this region are Biferno and Pentro
Among the typical desserts of Molise, top place goes to mostarda d’uva (jam made with grapes from the Molise countryside). Other great ways to end a good meal are cauciuni (pastry filled with chickpeas), ostie farcite (wafers filled with walnuts and almonds), peccellate (pastry filled with grape syrup or jams) and cippillati (baked ravioli filled with sour black cherries).
For more info check out: http://www.italia.it/en/discover-italy/molise.html
Photo by Geodus