Tag Archives: Venetian food

A Venetian Crema with Almonds

If I had to pick a sweet I am particularly fond of – and I am not fond of any sweets in particular – I would go for something creamy. Pannacotta, gelato, zabaione. Something where the airy texture can make up for the sweet punch.

It must be in my genes. The women in my family have never been great pastry chefs, yet they could always crack a good pudding. My mum’s mum, for example, was known for making the best zuppa inglese in town, with layers of chocolate and marsala cream between cookies drunk with alchermès. My mum for her part, although she has never been the most keen baker, managed to pick up her mum’s crema-making skills. So, whenever there is an occasion requiring un dolce – something sweet – she would usually skip the baking altogether, and go for what she was well-known for in our family: tiramisù. Such occasions were usually birthdays and the random ferragosto dinner, which, being on 15th August, automatically called for a chilled dessert.

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Sparasi e Ovi: A Venetian Easter Tradition

sparasi e ovi


Sparasi e ovi is a quintessentially Venetian springtime ritual, often consumed around Easter time.  The ritual seems to be originating from the town of Bassano del Grappa, in the Vicenza province of Veneto, where the time-honoured tradition of growing white asparagus has in time reached peaks of perfection.


Many works of art witness the presence of white asparagus in the area: a famous painting by the Venetian artist Giovanbattista Piazzetta called La Cena di Emmaus, for example, portraits a dish of white asparagus as part of the Last Supper, prepared following the local tradition.


A classic sparasi e ovi feast is nothing fancy. It basically entails dipping the steamed white asparagus in a condiment made with oil, salt, pepper and vinegar, in which the egg has been previously crumbled (mimosa-style). The result is not just delicious, but joyfully messy, too. It’s a good way to kick off a springtime meal, as well as a lovely idea for a seasonal picnic.

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Pasta e Fagioli (Bean Pasta Soup)

Pasta e Fagioli beans-4beans-2

 Unsurprisingly, most of my family tales have food at their core. No matter if it’s about my dad’s tribulations as a high school student, with only enough lire in his pocket to buy a dramatically small bread roll and three slices of salami for lunch. Or about grandma going to the communal mill/oven to make bread, on a bike loaded with branches and bags of flour; or about grandpa, who spent years as a captive in Germany during World War II, and had been dreaming of polenta e baccalà for months even after he made it home. Food permeates all our personal stories and intersects with our collective memories.

From all these stories, though, one truth emerges clear and sharp: the women in my family were and are some really good cooks, able to put on the table meals for dozens after spending long days in the fields, and taking care of the house. Strong women who could prepare nutritious, filling, if only a tad repetitive food out of humble ingredients. Women whom, in part, I didn’t get to meet, and whose cooking I heard so many times about but sadly didn’t get to experience.

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Bigoli in Salsa

bigoi-in-salsa

 

Few things feel more festive to me (as to most Venetians) than bìgoli in salsa. As strange as this might sound, this poor, anchovy- and onion-based pasta dish is hands down the most popular Venetian Christmas Eve’s first course. A big classic in the cuisine of Veneto, bìgoli in salsa used to be enjoyed on giorni di magro (fasting days) such as Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and Christmas Eve. Nowadays, you can find all year round in traditional osterie and local restaurants all over the region. However, it remains very much linked to fasting days in the local tradition.

Context. Bìgoli is a type of thick, fresh spaghetti that is originally from Veneto. Their origin seems to date back to the 1600s, when the whole region was under the domain of la Serenissima. A pasta maker from Padova designed and patented a machinery (called bigolaro) apt to make different shapes of pasta. Among them, thick bìgoli gained people’s preference, and fast became the signature pasta shape of the Venetian republic.

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