Cooking in Umbria

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Daniella & Luca

We hired a local couple to come to the Villa to teach a basic Umbrian cooking class. Daniella, head chef and her husband Luca, chef in training are owners of a growing family business. Luca was originally from Perugia and Daniella grew up right here in Umbertide. We enjoyed some of their own family’s 0live oil – which was amazing!

The Villa sports a fully stocked kitchen and a brand new chef-quality range. The theme of the class was “Our Food Our Roots: Preservation of Umbrian culinary traditions.” Basically, Umbria, a rural region boasts simple, flavorful and seasonal dishes.  A rather poor area of Italy, Umbrian cooks always make the most of simple ingredients, recycle leftovers and only add luxury ingredients like eggs and meat for special occasions. Umbria brings to Italy’s many culinary traditions ingredients such as olive oil, pork, lentils, truffle, salami and of course, wine.

The menu:

Appetizer: Pannpasato stuffed with Salami and Italian cheese w/Arugula.

Salad: Faro Salad and Chickpea Salad

Main: Roasted chicken with Potatoes

Desert: Strawberry cake with whipped cream

“A Kitchen without salt, a counter without bread, a cellar with no wine makes a bitter morning time”

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Wine is used to enrich nearly every dish and according to Daniella, Umbrians used to pour wine all the way to the top of the glass believing that otherwise the devil would dance inside. That’s my kind of pour! Umbria’s Docg wins include: Torgiano, Monefalco, Colli del Trasimeno and Orvieto.

“ A meal without wine is like a cloudy day”

Well, most of our days here were cloudy so we had plenty of wine on this trip! Below are the wonderful recipes shared with us, some of which we cooked and enjoyed over many days.

Pork Cuts with Apples and Grapes

Cut 800g pork meat into tiny cubes and roll them in flour

Cook on stovetop with an onion cut in pieces, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and white wine and salt – for about 20 minutes

Add 400g apple cubes and cook again for 10 minutes

Add 100g grapes (red and white) and leave on stovetop for 5 more minutes

About Onions

The “Cipolla di Cannara” is the most famous onion in Umbria. It is cropped twice per year, during summer and autumn and gathered into braids. This onion dates back to the 1600s. The onion is a core staple used in salads, sauces, omelets, pizza and so much more. Onions are said to heal a cough if baked, mashed and eaten with sugar, honey and cognac! Onion juice is thought to prevent acne if rubbed over the face and cheeks.

Trevi Black Celery 

Celery needs a wet soil to grow and grows from May to September. Celery is believed to help digestion and is good for the skin as it is a diuretic. Rich in vitamins, mineral salts it can help with sunburn and in some places has been thought to be a good aphrodisiac (so that told us anyway!). Trevi Black Celery is a typical plant cultivated near Trevi, a medieval Umbrian town, starting in the XVIII century when a cardinal decided to reclaim plain lands. According to tradition the black seeds of celery are planted the day before Easter and extracted when the plant has reached 30 CM. In Trevi, there is a fair of the Celery on the third Sunday in October. During the fair season the traditional breakfast is Black Celery in cassimperio (oil, salt and pepper) along with grilled sausages.

Boil celery and mix with sausages paste

Mix with flour and then roll them in one mixed egg

Fry in hot oil

Put them in a pot along with a meat sauce and bake for 45 minutes

Add Parmesan cheese and bit of butter and then grill for a few minutes

Lentil Soup

Lentils are one of the most ancient plants, originating in Mesopotamia at the beginning of rural civilization. In Umbria they are grown in Castelluccio, Colfiorito, Annifo.

Wash Lentils in cold water and oil.

In another pot, warm olive oil, garlic, sage and tomato sauce.

When lentils are soft, mix together and add salt, hot pepper and serve.

“Pans Bring Peace to your home”

IMG_2772Panpassato (Bread)

Umbrian bread is very simple, consisting of flour, yeast, salt, olive oil and water. It is cooked in a skillet and often sliced open and adorned with yummy ingredients: cheese, arugula, onions, and salami – just about anything.

Mix together:

25 g. yeast

300 g. all purpose flour

1 large pinch of salt

 Knead the dough for 5 minutes

Add large spoonful of olive oil

Roll into a ball

Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

 Roll out the dough in a flat disc (about 1” high) and about 8-9” diameter

Heat cast iron skillet

Cook the bread on each side till brown and cooked through (about 5 minutes)

Slice bread open and fill with anything yummy!

Serve with olive oil or balsamic vinegar

Faro Salad (also known as Spelt)

Faro is an ancient grain and was a staple of all Umbrian meals for ages. Once thought to be a poor mans grain, Faro is making a comeback. Filled with goodness it is one of the best grains for health)

Cut in quarters a pound of ripe cherry tomatoes

Add into cooked Faro (~4 cups)

Add healthy pinch of salt

Add fresh thyme or basil

Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Sprinkle in ample grated Parmesan cheese

Add fresh Arugula (baby preferred)

Toss and serve

Chickpea Salad

 Soak and cook chickpeas

Add finely chopped garlic

Add finely chopped rosemary

Add salt, olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Toss and serve

 Roasted Chicken with Potatoes 

Create bouquet garni of rosemary, sage and marjoram and stuff in cavity

Add 4-5 whole garlic gloves to cavity

Sprinkle chicken with healthy portion of salt

Sprinkle with crushed wild fennel seed

Pour olive oil and balsamic vinegar over chicken

Pour ample white wine over chicken and fill pan about 2-3 inches

Add diced potatoes

 Cook @ 400 degrees for about an hour

 Fresh Pasta (with egg)

250 g. Farina (aka Semolina)

250 g. Faro Flour

Mix flour and create a well in the middle

Add 50G All-purpose flour

Add 3 eggs

Add pinch of salt

Add 1 large spoonful olive oil

 Mix from the inside, slowly incorporating flour into liquids

Let rest for a least 30 minutes

Roll out very thin (flour often to prevent sticking)

Cut pasta into desired shape

Boil for 3-4 minutes

For egg pasta, a simple sauce of butter and sage will do. Eggless pasta requires a more robust sauce – tomato Ragu, Bolognaise

Strawberry (or any berry) cake with whipped cream and strawberry sauce

Make the Cake:

Dice strawberries (for sauce)

Slice strawberries (for cake)

Mix 150g sugar and 2 eggs

Whip until creamy and color lightens

Add lemon zest

Add 200g all-purpose flour

Add 1 package of cake yeast (or baking powder) – vanilla flavor or add a little vanilla

Flour a 10” spring form pan

Pour in batter

Add sliced strawberries on top

Put plenty of butter flakes on top

Sprinkle sugar on top

 Bake for 30 minutes at 350 for 3o minutes

Make the syrup

Put diced strawberry, sugar and water in a small sauce pan

Cook on stovetop on low temperature until syrupy consistency

Serve with whipped cream

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2 Thoughts on “Cooking in Umbria

  1. I have been there and it is outstanding. And The Owner is really nice! So be gratefull!

  2. Barbara Spitzer on May 29, 2014 at 2:19 pm said:

    Yes, Sebastian, you Father seems like a very nice person. The Villa is fantastic and we enjoyed it very much!

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