Picture the green of winding valleys, mountains, hollows and plains which extends along the Tiber’s central basin. Located at the heart of the boot is where you will find Umbria. The charm of Umbria draw from from its combination of art, scenery and tranquillity behind its various localities that comprise Renaissance masterpieces and small medieval towns embedded in the hills.
A small region with such large tastes satisfies all palates drawing visitors to Umbria for its land based food. Many dishes rely on cooked and raw vegetables which are locally grown, such as lentils, cardoons, porcini mushrooms and chestnuts. The region’s olive trees are responsible for making some of the best extra virgin olive oil in Italy. It is a fundamental ingredient in Umbrian cooking.
The cuisine of Umbria originates from its Etruscan roots generally very rustic but still built on traditional dishes created with minimal ingredients and methods of preparation that rely heavily on local products. Starting the meal generally consists of generally salumi where the practice of pork butchery is an art. Umbrian pigs lived in the forests and ate acorns and chestnuts which give the meat its characteristic flavour and texture. Accompanying salumi are the most famous cured meats like Norcia cured ham and ciauscolo which are made with the shoulder cut of the pork, bacon and pork fat all minced three times – ideal to spread over bread.
Spaghetti is the most common pasta and is used to make spaghetti alla norcina is served with black truffle sauce lightly seasoned with the flavours of anchovy and garlic. Other pasta dishes include umbricelli in salsa di Trasimeno which is a dish based sauce made from lake perch fillets, shallots, garlic and chilli pepper.
Meat is a large component of the regions cooking with poultry, wild game and roasts are cooked over pans filled with herbs. Cooking on the spit in a wood oven is also another method, generally a pig is stuffed with liver, heart and lungs, diced with pepper, garlic, salt and wild fennel. The dripping’s are collected and made into a sauce after the meat is finished cooking.
The area around Orvieto is famous for a dish which is commonly called the ‘drunken hen’ (gallina ubriaca) which is chicken cooked in plenty of good Orvieto wine. Being a region which is not close to the shoreline, Umbria is not known for any seafood dishes – although regional lakes supply a variety of fresh lake fish such as carp, trout and mullet.
Truffles are also known as tartufo which are harvested in the wild from the forests of Umbria which apparently has the right conditions for growing truffles. Black truffles are more common in the regions which means that they are less expensive. White truffles are normally harvested between October and December and are found around Orvieto, Gubbio, and the Tiber Valley. The truffles can be found around the roots of oak, linden, willow, and popular trees.
Umbria has a history of producing delicious chocolate which was first founded in 1907 by the Buitoni family. The Perugina chocolate factory became an international success with its famous Baci chocolate which is made with ground hazelnuts and dark chocolates. Each year the city of Perugia holds Eurochocolate which is an international chocolate fair which draws visitors from around the world.