The cuisine of this northernmost Italian region combines Germanic, Hungarian, and Italian touches, and includes such delicacies as beef goulasch and fruit-stuffed gnocchi with browned butter and bread crumbs. Rather than pasta or risotto, cooks in Trentino-Alto Adige prefer to prepare polentas made of cornmeal or buckwheat, or hearty soups studded with bread dumplings. Speck, the region's prized smoked ham, flavors numerous dishes, from braised cabbage in red wine to long-simmered pork stews.
Sweet Ricotta Omelette Souffle with Rum-Soaked Raisins
This homey sweet is typical of Trentino-Alto Adige. They don't usually plump the raisins in rum before cooking, but it does add a nice layer of flavor.
- 1 ounce raisins
- ¼ cup dark rum
- 9 ounces fresh whole milk Ricotta
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- scant 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Confectioner's sugar for dusting
Soak the raisins in rum for 30 minutes. Drain and blot dry; reserve the rum for another use.
Place the ricotta in a large bowl. Using a whisk, beat in 3 egg yolks and the sugar until smooth and fluffy. Whisk in the milk and vanilla extract. Add the flour and whisk again until smooth and lump-free. The Ricotta mixture can be made to this point up to 12 hours ahead of time, covered, and refrigerated.
When you are ready to serve, stir the drained raisins into the Ricotta mixture.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into the Ricotta mixture without deflating.
Melt the butter in a 12-inch nonstick pan over medium-high heat until foaming. Pour in the batter and cook until set and golden on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, loosen the omelette from the pan and flip. It is ne if it breaks into pieces; it will be served in small, fluffy bite-size pieces anyway. Cook until the second side is golden too, and the inside is set and no longer wet, about 3 more minutes.
Using the rubber spatula, break into large fluffy pieces. Spoon onto a large platter and dust with confectioner' sugar. Serve hot or warm. Serves 4
Flaky Apple Strudel
Apples are one of Trentino's main crops, and are used in many savory and sweet dishes, including this delectable strudel with homemade pastry.
For the dough:
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing the baking sheet
- 2 tablespoons sugar
For the filling:
- 1/4 cup Sultana raisins
- 1 pound Golden Delicious apples, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cubed
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup coarsely chopped raw almonds
- 2 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs or almond flour
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Make the dough: Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Work in the egg and 1 tablespoon of the butter until a dry dough forms, then add 1/4 cup of room-temperature water. Turn out onto a floured counter and knead into a supple dough, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking, about 10 minutes, slamming the dough onto the counter a few times. Dust with flour, shape into a ball, wrap and let rest 30 minutes. Kneading the dough a long time renders it supple and elastic, easy to roll out thin later.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Soak the raisins in cool water to cover for 30 minutes; drain and blot dry. In a bowl, toss the raisins, apples, butter, sugar, almonds, bread crumbs, and cinnamon.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured counter into a 10- x 14-inch rectangle. Draping the dough over the knuckles of your two hands, stretch it until it is almost transparent into a 17- x 25-inch rectangle. Don't panic if you make a hole, since the dough will be rolled over itself.
Place the dough on a clean, dry towel. Spoon on the filling, leaving a 1 inch border all around. Pull the edge of the towel up to roll the dough over the filling, forming a log. Gently transfer to an oiled 11- x 17-inch baking sheet, using the towel to help. Remove the towel and rotate the log so the seam faces down. Curve into a horseshoe shape.
Brush the top of the log with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and sprinkle with the sugar. Make 3 diagonal slashes with a sharp knife and bake in the preheated oven 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden and crisp. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 8
Speck and Asparagus Scrolls
Speck, a smoked Prosciutto from Trentino-Alto Adige in northeastern Italy, is typically served with rye or whole-grain breads and sweet farmhouse butter at the start of a meal. These savory bundles are a fun finger food, ideal for cocktail parties. If you like, try topping the bundles with smoked Mozzarella and warm them in the oven for 10 minutes, then serve as an appetizer instead, as in the photo here.
- 12 thin asparagus spears, woody ends trimmed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 thin slices Speck, halved
Bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and salt; cook 5 minutes, or until the asparagus is crisp-tender. Drain and place in a bowl of ice water. Drain again. (This can be done up to 1 day ahead; refrigerate until needed.)
Lay the slices of Speck on a counter. Top each with an asparagus spear. Roll into bundles and arrange on a platter. Serve within 30 minutes. Makes 12
Braised Chicken with Juniper Berries and Potatoes
Juniper berries have a lovely, woodsy aroma; if you prefer, you can tie them in a short piece of cheesecloth so you can retrieve them easily at the end of cooking.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 skinless chicken thighs
- 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 8 spring onions or scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon juniper berries
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 16 baby carrots
- 16 new potatoes, halved
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a deep 14-inch saute pan over a medium-high flame. Dredge the chicken in the flour, shake off the excess, and brown on all sides in the olive oil; remove from the pan. Discard the oil in the pan.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan. Add the spring onions; cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until wilted. Add the thyme, parsley, bay leaves, and juniper berries; cook 5 more minutes. Return the chicken to the pan; pour in the red wine. Season with salt and pepper, bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium, and cook 25 minutes.
Stir in the carrots and potatoes; cover and cook 45 more minutes, or until the chicken and vegetables are tender. Adjust the salt if needed and serve hot, preferably with steaming polenta. Serves 4
Additional Recipes from Trentino-Alto Adige
Published in Rustico: Regional Italian Country Cooking by Micol Negrin, published by Clarkson N. Potter:
- Grated Potato Pancakes
- Asparagus in Egg-Horseradish Sauce (pictured)
- Rye Pasta Squares Filled with Spinach and Caraway Seeds
- Speck and Chive Bread Dumplings in Aromatic Butter
- Fresh Egg Dumplings in Poppy Seed Butter
- Swiss Chard and Bread Crumb Gnocchi
- Pork and Apple Strudel
- Beef, Potato, Onion, and Paprika Stew
- Braised Goat with Blueberry Compote
- Plum-Stuffed Buns