Saturday, February 22, 2020
Traditional recipes


The trabaccolara, a pasta dish with fish sauce. We tell you about ingredients, recipe, and history of an incredible dish: born in San Benedetto del Tronto and exported to Viareggio, it is typical of the Tuscan city. In the Marche region, however, practically does not exist

Summonti, Duchen, Anselmo, Mosca. All characters from “Il Clandestino” written by the writer Mario Tobino from Viareggio. Invented names for real people, who used to meet at the “Da Giorgio,” a restaurant opened by Giorgio Lombardi in 1949.

Among them, Adriatico Mosca, who between a story of GAP and the others probably boasted that the pasta that everyone liked and which was so good in “Da Giorgio,” was brought to Viareggio by his ancestors, only 20 or 30 years before.

The trabaccolara: a history of the sea and integration between the two wars

In Tobino’s novel, the epic of the Resistance comes into contact with a group of young Viareggio.

The history of trabaccolara, simpler to talk about it but no less epic in its maritime stories comes from the relationship between Viareggio and San Benedetto del Tronto. This relation began after the Great War when the sambenedettesi (inhabitants of San Benedetto) left the dangerous and impoverished Adriatic to reach the Versilia (northwestern area of Tuscany) with their “lancette,” a type of fishing boat identical to the trabaccolo.

The reception in Viareggio was excellent, also because the sambenedettesi were fishermen, while the viareggini (inhabitants of Viareggio) are and were sailors and workers employed as a hobby in shipbuilding industry (the famous barcobestia produced in the 50s, whose name came from the English expression “the best bark “, which indicated the 3-masted schooner).

The trabaccolara: born in San Benedetto. Forgotten by San Benedetto

The poor dish that today is called trabaccolara was born on board of the trabaccoli, just like happened to the brodetto alla sambenedettese: spaghetti or paccheri flavored with a sauce of white and fish leftovers. A recipe that Lombardi in “Da Giorgio” always wanted to keep on his menu, even in the years of lobsters, the rich and roaring years going from the ’60s to’ 80s.

However, if the broth in San Benedetto has been considered a flag to bring to the Expo 2015, there is no trace of trabaccolara. None of the riparian restaurants proposes it.

It is a fact that does not diminish but instead amplifies the sign left by the Sambenedettesi in Viareggio, a city no longer chosen by necessity but a place that is really loved, so dear as to give it something that will not return to the land of the fathers. A real gift, therefore, that of the Palestinis, the Rosatis and the Romans, historical families of the Marche region who together with others have settled in Darsena, a neighborhood in which “the Trabaccolaro doc” Franco De Felice, author of a book on trabaccolara with Corrado Benzio and Adolfo Lippi, still swears that the dialect of San Benedetto is spoken.

A sambenedettese to the General Clarke

In the book, there are the anecdotes about seafarers so crazy and enterprising as to be the first in Italy to mount an internal combustion engine on a fishing boat (it was 1912). Fishers who were able to impose themselves on General Clarke, commander in chief of the American army in Italy during the II World War.

Viareggio was set free in September 1944, but in the following months, the beach and the harbor remained mined. The sambenedettesi fishermen decided to ask Clarke to free the port and sent to parliament Paolo Palestini, born in 1897 and former emigrant in New York. Palestini made his request at the man who, at that precise moment, was the most powerful in Italy. Clarke behaved like those who “have God on their side”: “Why did not you stay in the USA – said the celebrated general to the fisherman, scoured by the salt spray – instead of returning to Mussolini’s Italy? How could you live with the fascists? ” It is not known whether there was an answer or not. The fact is that the port and the beach were demined.

A story of simple or famous men, all struggling with the fork

The stories around the sambenedettesi and their trabaccolara are many. Over the years artists and famous people have heard those stories, who in return have created new anecdotes.

Lombardi, alone, can tell hundreds of them. Famous people of sport and culture still pay homage in his restaurant and other historical restaurateurs of Viareggio at the trabaccolara.

A poor dish par excellence, that of trabaccolara is a story that confirms Prof. Massimo Montanari of the University of Bologna: the peasant and maritime traditions have always conquered the kitchen of the lords over the centuries. The class struggle, in that sense, has succeeded: Umberto Agnelli sits at the table with Paolo Palestini, a semi-illiterate fisherman born in San Benedetto del Tronto in 1897, by Nicola and Leonida De Angelis.

Trabaccolara: the ingredients

800 grams of mixed fish fillets (gurnard, hake, mullet, sole, sea bass, gilthead bream, scorpion fish…).
White garlic from Massa Carrara
Extra virgin olive oil, extracted cold
Dry white wine
Spaghetti or paccheri

Trabaccolara: the recipe

Born on the boats where the fishers brought with them ingredients that are not very perishable over time (such as green tomatoes), it has a common genesis with the brodetto, from which it differs due to the use of vinegar since it is completely missing from trabaccolara and is replaced by white wine. Moreover, while in the soup the fish leftovers (originally were unsold or broken) are used whole, in the Viareggio pasta must be filleted and deprived of bones. The third and last substantial difference is the addition of pasta. Spaghetti was once used while today paccheri are preferred, capable of adequately accepting the mirepoix. Finally, the sauce is prepared very quickly and cooks during the pasta cooking time.


Cover photo Bormioli


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This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

My name is Ambra Del Moro, to be fair. I hold a master's degree in Modern Languages and for ten years I've been citizen of the world as I lived in Germany, United States, Belgium and Disneyland. For the moment it seems I found my place. In the joyful Foodiestrip Republic.