Treasures of Basilicata
Though the sweet local pepper called peperone di Senise (see Sweet Heat) may be the holy grail for some food-focused visitors to the southern Italian region of Basilicata, the area's hills and valleys also lay claim to many other distinctive specialties. Among them are flavorful cured pork sausages, an especially hard variety of durum wheat that yields famously crusty breads and excellent pastas, and a multitude of handcrafted cheeses. Some of our favorite Basilicatan ingredients (all available in the United States) include:
1. Strascinati, a fresh flat or rolled pasta with a rough texture (achieved by rolling the dough over a grooved wooden board called a cavarola); the pasta takes beautifully to the region's robust meat and pepper sauces.
2. Basilicata's prized pistachios are ground with sugar to make crema di pistachio, a sweet paste that's served with cheese for dessert, along with local honeys and fruit preserves.
3. Basilicata's spicy caciocavallo is similar to provolone and is made from the full-flavored milk of the Podolico cows that graze in Basilicata's mountains.
4. Fagioli di Sarconi, the local varieties of cannellini, borlotti, and other types of bean, are beloved for their velvety texture and earthy flavor.
5. Our favorite canestrato, a rich, round pecorino-style cheese made from sheep's and goats' milk that is also produced in the neighboring region of Puglia, hails from the small Basilicatan town of Moliterno; aged for up to ten months in reed baskets, or canestre, it's best grated over pasta.
6. 7. and 8. Antipasti platters in Basilicata include a range of preserved vegetables, such as roasted peppers; small, hot peppers filled with anchovies; and eggplant involtini.
9. And while Basilicata produces excellent cured pork sausages, we love the fresh coiled sausage known as luganeghe, a variety that's often sold at butcher shops in the States.