THE TYPICAL DISHES OF THE ITALIAN FERRAGOSTO
Each holiday in Italy has its history and dishes. Let's see together those of mid-August holiday, also known as Ferragosto.
Mid-August is approaching, and this year we feel the need to celebrate even more. Whether you are on vacation or at home, the mid-August lunch remains a real institution, and you can pay celebrate with a visit to the restaurant or a packed lunch.
In both cases, you will need advice on the typical dishes of the tradition. Let’s take a trip through the regions of the Italian boot, not before having retraced the birth of this holiday and its evolution in history.
Ferragosto was born as a celebration in 18 BC. as Feriae Augusti, Augustus’ holidays, precisely because it was the Roman emperor who established it. It was held on August 1 and not on August 15, the date on which it was moved from the Catholic Church to match the religious feast of Mary’s Assumption.
When Augustus instituted it, the purpose was the same as today: the rest of workers, and 2000 years ago, the measure was aimed in particular at farmers, alongside the Vinalia Rustica, Nemoralia and Consualia. This was a period of rest, and the Feriae Augusti was conceived not only to glorify the figure of Augustus but also to connect the previous three festivals, which celebrated the end of major agricultural work.
It is in this period that traditions such as races with donkeys, oxen, and horses are born. The Palio of Siena is an example that continues till today (the link is also found in the name and the prize since “Palio” derives from “pallium,” a cloth of fabric that in Siena, as in Ancient Rome, is the prize for the winner of the race).
Lastly, trips out of town with packed lunches were born in the Fascist era. Especially between ’31 and ’39, in fact, the popular trains of August 13-14-15 brought thousands of people to see the sea, the cities of art, or the mountains for the first time.
Ferragosto: typical dishes
Roast pigeons on Ferragosto holiday is a tradition that some trace back to Charlemagne. Today it still resists in different areas of Italy, including Tuscany, where the pigeon is stuffed with finocchiona, a typical salami enriched with wild fennel. Often, then, sausages and potatoes are added. The simpler is the Marche’s roast pigeon, usually baked in the oven as happens with chicken, with plenty of oil, salt, garlic, and rosemary.
The Galluccio Pugliese (Apulian rooster) is a very important tradition for the province of Foggia and the whole Apulia region.
On the other hand, it is a dish that comes from afar, from peasant culture. It is crucial, for example, the rooster’s choice, which must be large (at least 3 kg), raised on the ground, and with black legs.
The most common versions today are those with or without tomato sauce. In both cases, the filling is the same (with the inevitable variations that every housewife considers most appropriate).
The rooster filling is made of an omelet with pecorino, caciocavallo (optional), wet and squeezed bread, raisins, pine nuts, pepper, and salt. The rooster is filled with the preparation, and the entrails are removed, while someone fries slowly on a slow heat stomach and liver which, are added to the dough once minced.
Typical of the Campania region and widespread in some areas of Calabria, the zitoni has been prepared since time immemorial, especially on the Amalfi Coast.
Once, they were prepared on Sundays with Neapolitan ragù, precisely because they needed a special preparation: the zitoni were much larger than those currently on the market. Therefore, the mothers used to break them to make them fit into the pan. The tradition continues today, although there are formats on sale suitable for mid-August zitoni.
The sauce is the one with fresh and dried tomatoes and capers. As mentioned, however, some prefer the recipe with the classic ragù.
Lighter, fresher, and made with fruit: the Gelo di Muluna is the Sicilian dessert par excellence of August 15.
Beware, however, the “Muluna” is not the melon, but the watermelon.
The preparation is extremely simple: sift the watermelon pulp and simmer it with sugar and flour and then put the mixture in the freezer for a few hours. Finally, decorate everything with lemon leaves and jasmine flowers. A teaspoon is all you need to taste it.
The Margheritine of Stresa are biscuits made for the first time in Stresa in honor of the future Queen Margherita. This is the name’s meaning, but the story of this simple and fine dessert at the same time must be told.
In 1857 the pastry chef Pietro Antonio Bolongaro, owner of the pastry shop of the same name, creates this pastry, which is then offered to Margherita when she celebrated her First Communion. As happened with the most famous pizza Margherita, the name and the daisies are successful. They are still made today on August 15, precisely because when the queen organized the reception for August 15 at the House of Savoy, she always ordered several.
The ingredients are simple: sifted boiled egg yolk, butter, flour, starch, vanilla, and grated lemon peel.
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)