The hearty, rustic cooking of Abruzzo is based on the region’s superb lamb, as well as some of the best-quality pasta in Italy, pulses (beans, chickpeas and lentils) and sheep’s and goat’s milk cheeses. Here are five specialties to look for.
Fried balls of cheese and coarse breadcrumbs, bound together with egg and usually served in a tomato sauce. This iconic Abruzzese dish is in the cucina povera (peasant cooking) tradition, recently made fashionable by chefs such as Cesare Casella.
Lamb or mutton, chopped into cubes, skewered and then grilled over charcoal. Arrosticini are often accompanied by slices of bread soaked in extra-virgin olive oil, plus peperoncino (hot chile peppers). Arrosticini were originally eaten by mountain shepherds, especially from the villages of Civitella Casanova, Carpineto and Villa Celiera. The traditional accompaniment is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo red wine.
Broad strips of pasta, mixed with cooked borlotti beans in a light tomato sauce. Some recipes also include diced ham.
Boned suckling pig, slow-roasted with rosemary, garlic and pepper. (Porchetta from neighboring Umbria is stuffed with the pig’s chopped entrails mixed with garlic and wild fennel.)
Square-edged spaghetti-like strands of pasta, made with durum wheat semolina, eggs and salt. After cooking, it is served with ragù d’agnello (ragu of lamb), although in some areas of Abruzzo the traditional condiment is tomato sauce with pallottelle (veal meatballs). The name of the spaghetti comes from the tool, the chitarra (meaning “guitar”), used to produce it.