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Italian Food: Mugello Region

I just drove along the country road and discovered this motive: An old Fiat 500 in front of an old country house. This moment opened my heart and wanted me indulge in la dolce vita.
I just drove along the country road and discovered this motive: An old Fiat 500 in front of an old country house. This moment opened my heart and wanted me indulge in la dolce vita.

Italy has a deep place in my heart. 

 

Since I can remember, my family and I went to Italy during the holidays. Sometimes even twice a year. A reason is for sure that my dad loves Italian cuisine, wine, the beautiful landscape & the culture. As he also works for an Italian company and speaks Italian - so traveling to Italy was evident.

 

Be that as it may, since I was little I have had many rich emotional memories connected to Italy. Sun, the scent of pine forests, the sound of the sea, pizza, pasta.  When I think of Italy, I think of sun, tomatoes, mozzarella and refreshing cold white wines. 

I think of a food that lives from its ingredients. A kitchen that succeeds or fails depending on the quality and aroma of the food. A very down-to-earth cuisine that has its roots in poorer times. Pizza, for example, was used to be a leftover meal in which the leftovers were rearranged. Nowadays, pizza is a worldwide enjoyed and loved culinary delight.

Due to the unique climate, the love of the Italians for food, and the millennia-old culture, an excellent eating culture has developed in this charming country. This food culture is so diverse - each region has different specialties and approaches to traditional recipes such as pasta with meat sauce (al ragù) or previously mentioned pizzas. 



Tortelli di Patate. A local speciality: pasta filled with a creamy paste made of potatoes and Parmesan cheese.
Tortelli di Patate. A local speciality: pasta filled with a creamy paste made of potatoes and Parmesan cheese.

In this article, I would like to focus on a region that is hardly known and often underestimated, because it is part of the most famous Tuscany. I am talking about the Mugello region, which is located in the north of Tuscany and borders on Emilia Romagna. To the geographical clarification: Mugello and Alto-Mugello can be found somewhere between Florence and Bologna. 

Officially, the Mugello still belongs to Tuscany but has developed quite a variety of dishes. 

Its cuisine is much more influenced by the earthy aromas. People there often cook wild boar, gamey meat, lots of mushrooms, truffles, potatoes, and cereal products. Entirely different from southern Tuscany, where there is a much stronger focus on seafood and fresh fish. 

 

The Tortelli di patate Mugello, for example, is a delicate delight and unique for that area of Italy. The tortelli are rectangular shaped and filled pasta, stuffed with a wonderfully mild, creamy mousse of aromatic potatoes. Freshly grated parmesan is added to the potato cream. The tortelli are boiled briefly so that they still have a bite (al dente) and served with warm, liquid butter. The butter is often lightly flavored with garlic and sage. Before serving, fresh parmesan cheese is added to the tortelli. A heavenly dish. So simple. So aromatic. The cuisine lives on its three main ingredients: potatoes, cheese, and butter.  



The moment, before digging into this culinary delight: Pizza bianca con porcini. Pizza with local, fresh mushrooms. So cheesy and aromatic.
The moment, before digging into this culinary delight: Pizza bianca con porcini. Pizza with local, fresh mushrooms. So cheesy and aromatic.

Another great dish is the Pizza bianca con porcini. The pizza dough is not quite as thin as in the Neapolitan pizza, but also has a nice toughness and a wide rim that is nicely fluffy and fine-pored. It is essential that the pizza comes from the wood stove. This gives it this unique aroma, the extraordinary tough and juicy texture of the dough. Besides, the high heat of the wood fire creates these beautiful little black spots on the top of the pizza — these aromatic, roasted bubbles, which I particularly love.

The pizza is called bianca, which is white in Italian because there is no tomato sauce on the bottom, but pecorino and mozzarella di bufala.

On it comes fresh porcini mushroom from the surrounding soft forests of the Mugello. So much taste, thanks to the soft, rich and moist forest soils of the region.

The pizza is perfect with a dash of local olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and a little pepper.

 

It goes well with a glass of heavy, full-bodied Chianti, with a note of wild berries. Those who like it easier can also try the Riesling of the region. It has beautiful notes of apple and pear due to its location. This taste of sweet, ripe stone fruit goes so well with the heavy cheese and the earthy mushrooms on the pizza.

 



Dinner with my host. Grilled chicken, crispy ciabatta, salumi, locally farmed olives and tomatoes. What a dinner. Simple and delicious.
Dinner with my host. Grilled chicken, crispy ciabatta, salumi, locally farmed olives and tomatoes. What a dinner. Simple and delicious.

Of course, you don't only have to eat in restaurants. The nice thing about Italy is that the supermarkets have such excellent ingredients. That's why, of course, I went to all kinds of supermarkets and bought some food there. Since I was in an AirBnB during my penultimate stay when the pictures were taken, I was even able to cook properly. Nevertheless, I often prefer salumi, cheese, crispy, fresh ciabatta, and of course small tomatoes, artichokes — everything the surrounding agriculture has to offer.

You can find the pictures at the end of this article. I have included: prosciutto cotto, pecorino, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, good wine and a lot of joie de vivre.

 

My host was even so nice and sat down one evening with me in front of his country estate and indulged in the food together. It enjoys itself best together. He also opened a bottle of very tasty Chablis for us.

 



City center of Scarperia in the early morning.
City center of Scarperia in the early morning.

When I visited the Alto Mugello in February this year, I was in a cute little hotel in Scarperia (Locanda San Barnaba). When I arrived late in the evening, it was already 9 pm, the chef was so kind and conjured me a formidable menu.

I ordered a starter plate, with cold specialties from the area — food from regional butchers, cheese dairies and so on. The chef preliminary warned me that this was something too much for one person. I just laughed kindly and told him he better bring me a bottle of white wine so I can flush it all down.

 

I loved the appetizers. The highlight was the small roasted Ciabattini with a spread of warm roasted liver pâté and a hint of fresh truffle. What a great dish. Besides mature cheese, with a tangy aroma, a subtle saltiness and a milky taste that only raw milk can produce. The best thing about the appetizers was their generosity. For only 20 USD I got an appetizer plate that easily satisfies two to three people. Or just one single Sara. 

But of course, I had to keep eating. When I asked him what he could cook particularly well and, he recommended pasta stuffed with duck and orange butter sauce. So, I tried the Tortelli all'anatra al profumo d'arancia. This is pasta filled with tender, juicy duck breast. The tortelli swim in butter that has been perfumed with orange juice and orange zest. A small portion of roasted, chopped hazelnuts and pine nuts and a large portion of parmesan are added to the dish.

 

After that, I was full and drunk, from the bottle of wine I did not want to spare. And very happy.


Some more impressions which did not fit into the article:

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