Campania  


 

The region of Campania is comprised of five provinces:  Naples, the region’s capital, Salerno , Caserta, Avellino and Benevento.
Campania can be divided into two main sections for the nature of the terrain, for the peoples temperament, trait, and for their cultural background.
Before the Greeks and the Romans, the Osci  or Etruscans  occupied the costal area, and the Samnitesinhabited the mountainous East side of the region.
The most important city was Capua, originally called Campum and their citizens were called Campanum, hence the region was named Campania.
Because of the fertile land, the mild climate, the scenic countryside, the people’s affability, Campania was called “felix ager”, the joyful land.
The land produces many kinds of fruits, legumes, vegetables, wheat and barley in addition to spelt and millet used for feeding and fodder.
The Asian water buffaloes introduced in Italy in 1525 by the Goths gave origin to milk products made with their milk. The mozzarella  and the provola  cheese made with buffala  milk are tastier and superior in quality compared to products made with cow’s or sheep’s milk.
The gulf of Naples and the gulf of Salerno offer a variety of fish and mussels, squid, shrimps, octopus, and oysters. In the Roman era, oysters were cultivated and hatched in the lake Lucrinus, near Pozzuoli, as far back as the year 95 BC.

 

 

 

 

Naples

 

The abundance of the harvested produce, of the meat, of the olive oil and wine helped to create the most outstanding cooking traditions in the Italian peninsula. In the USA Neapolitan cooking is identified with Italian cooking, because the first Neapolitan immigrants opened small local restaurants and introduced their homemade cuisine consisting mostly of pasta dishes, pizza, inexpensive chopped meat dishes, squid and conchs.
This type of food became popular in the United States and  eateries making these well liked dishes were established in every city and in every town.
Campanian people are friendly and know how to welcome you. The food they cook is deliciously different and they can make a festive dinner in no time using few and simple ingredients.
The tomato sauce called a pommarola, is made with tomato, onions, celery and carrots. The marinara  is made with garlic and oregano, and alla napoletana is made with onions and garlic sautéed with a blend of lard and olive oil; the lard, a nzogna gives a special and almost sensual taste to the pasta made with this sauce. Another tomato sauce, the “Ragu” is made with a piece of beef or pork sautéed with onion, celery, carrots, wine, tomato paste and cooked slowly for about three hours.
Naples is the birthplace of pizza, which originally was a flat bread sprinkled with oil or lard and herbs. When tomatoes began to be used as a food source it was mixed with herbs, spices and oil and placed on top to cover the pizza and the sauce was getting cooked as the pie was baking. Later mozzarella and other ingredients such as mushrooms, olives peppers, ricotta, cheeses and various types of sausages, meats and fish were added. The calzone is related to the pizza, in fact it’s like a turnover stuffed like a pizza with the addiction of anchovies.
The mozzarella di buffalo is produced in large quantity and is consumed in the province of Naples, and exported world wide. It is imported and flown to the USA, and is available in gourmet store.
The Neapolitans are masters in cooking the baccala’, dry cod fish, which they prepare in a variety of ways, stewed in bianco, in tomato sauce or the very Neapolitan baccala’ with roasted pepper, olives, garlic and breadcrumbs.
In Naples the meat alla pizzaiola is a way to make a tough piece of meat soft, because it is baked for more than one hour in a tomato, garlic mixture with the fragrance of marjoram, usually added at the end of the cooking to preserve the delicate flavor.
Fish and other sea food are successfully baked, fried, stewed, or boiled, also paired with pasta to make a complete meal. Fried eel, octopus or squid alla  Luciana, cooked slowly in tomato, Spaghetti Capresedressed with tomato, salted anchovy fillets and olives, mixed with other fish usually swordfish or tuna, then  covered with mozzarella.
My dear friend Frank  Mazzella, originally from Ischia, used to cook big meat balls or rabbit ca Pummarola,with tomato sauce and utilized the sauce as condiment to spaghetti to complete a delicious meal.
The minestra  maritata  made by Mr. Curcurato’s grandmother, Mrs. Filomena Tartaglia, is a hearty combination of various cured and fresh meats –married- combined with vegetables, cooked for hours and served more as a stew than a soup. The family enjoyed it served with rustic hard crusty bread and hot chili pepper.
In the Neapolitan hinterland the vegetables are abundant and wholesome; the peppers, artichokes, eggplants, zucchini, tomatoes are stuffed or baked can be a meal by themselves. The well knownfriatelli  is bitter broccoli usually served with sausages.
The local greens for salads are available fresh and come in a big selection.
Naples is famous for the weather, for the songs and for the sfogliatelle  a dessert crispy on the outside and stuffed with ricotta, semolina and orange peels. The zeppole,  cinnamon fritters shaped like donuts are made for every occasion and the grain Pastiera and the ricotta pies are the classic holiday desserts.
Lacrima Christy wine and the wine produced from Gragnano grapes are the wines preferred by the locals.
Outside Naples, in the town of Portici the original, fine and famous Capo di Monte porcelain china is exclusively produced by a factory established in 1743.

Located in the gulf of Naples are the islands of Procida, Capri and Ischia.

Procida is the smallest of the three islands with an area of less than two square miles. Colonized in the 15th century BC by the Greeks, it became a notable resort in the Roman era. The island was under the jurisdiction of many conquerors to the unification of Italy. In modern times, the tourist industry has replaced the shipbuilding trade which became extinct   almost vanished in the 20th century.

Capri is the most visited and well-known of the three islands. Destination of the international jet set and tourist attraction for Italian and foreign visitors, it is easily accessible from the Sorrento and from Naples. La Grotta Azzurra, the Blue Grotto, has been visited and admired for centuries for the blue light produced by reflection of the sunlight passing throughout the underwater cavity. The island is full of boutiques and souvenir shops, the style of the houses is old-fashion, the food is wholesome, fish are fresh and mostly grilled. Insalata Caprese, mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and stuffed calamari are traditional dishes. In the many expensive restaurants, elite chefs get involved in sophisticated preparations of Italian or international cuisine.  

The island of Ischia is the preferred destination of the Italian, English and German tourists. Hospitable and affordable to all, it has modest and luxurious accommodations. It is the largest island in the gulf, it has an area of over 18 square mile.
The volcanic soil favors the cultivation of tomatoes, grapes, and delectable vegetables. The resorts and spas, renowned for their thermal hot springs and volcanic mud, are busy all year around.
Ischia is a very friendly island; the cuisine is simple, very few ingredients are used in their dishes and they are not spoiled by strong herbs or spices: it is country cooking with elegant taste. 
A popular dish in Ischia is the Coniglio Ischitana, rabbit browned with ‘nzogna, lard and garlic then cooked in a tomato-wine sauce. This was also the specialty of my best friend Mr. Frank Mazzella who was born in Ischia. Frank and I came to the U.S.A. at the same time; we met while attending English class and became good friends. Frank became professor of political science at Missouri State University, but when living in Brooklyn with his father and brother and before the rest of the family arrived from Ischia it was one of his duties to cook the nightly meal: very often it was Coniglio Ischitana or Pesce in Acqua Pazza, fish in crazy water, another simple specialty made in Ischia. 
The Acqua Pazza is a broth made with olive oil, garlic, parsley and few pieces of fresh tomato, where a whole fish is cooked. Spaghetti al dente without fail would go together with the rabbit or fish sauce. Of course the cuisine of Ischia offers many more dishes prepared by housewives or that can be sampled in restaurants where the uncomplicated culinary traditions are realized and enhanced by the flavor of produce, the tastefulness of the meats andthe freshness of the sea food. Spaghetti with mussels or clams, pasta with ragout sauce made with pork, anchovies, octopus, involtini di cotenna, stuffed-rolled pig skin, roasted quails with herbs, sausages, lamb or  cheeses are a few of the special treats that Ischia offers. Any of the local wines are exceptional: the whites produced with Bianconella and Forestera grapes are light, dry and delicate; the reds produced with Guarnaccia and Piedirosso grapes have an intense ruby red color, and have a dry and balanced tannin’s taste.
In Ischia, the best way to conclude a meal is with a baba’ or a sfogliatella followed with a shot of limoncello made with the local lemons.

 

 

 

 

Sorrento  


 

The peninsula of Sorrento is part of the province of Naples. This region known for the delightful climate is positioned between the gulfs of Naples and Salerno. The beautiful and romantic surrounding made famous by the song Torna a Sorrento, it has inspired poets and artist for centuries. Torquato Tasso, a great Italian poet of the late Renaissance, was born in Sorrento. He is famous for the epic poemGerusalemme Liberata, which narrates the capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade.
Fine olive oil, almonds, walnuts, vegetables and fruits and particularly persimmons and grapes are grown in large quantity.
Buffala cheeses such as caciocavallo, provola, mozzarella and also ricotta  are produced.
On the table Sorrento presents a lasagna  made with cheese, ricotta, mozzarella, hard boiled eggs, salami and a sauce with meat flavor called ragu’. A local dish is the suffrittu,  a stew of lungs, heart and spleen cooked in tomato with the addition of various herbs and spices.
The pasta, maccheroni alla Sorrentina  is made in a different way.
The ingredients are few: pasta, not many tomatoes, mozzarella di buffalo, onion, olive oil, basil and cheese. The technique is to sauté the onions in a large skillet, cook the pasta for three minutes, mix the pasta with the onions, adding the chopped tomato and cooking until the pasta is ready; then adding the mozzarella, basil, cheese and serve. Some people add lemon juice, others add meat sauce while others add fish.
Aside from slight variations, many dishes are common with the Neapolitan cuisine and prepared in the traditional style.
The Sorrento peninsula produces an abundance and variety of wines that can be sampled in the manytrattorie  or bought in wine stores. The varietals of  Gragnano, Lettere and other types of grapes, evolve into Sorrento  bianco,
Sorrento rosso, two light and amable wines, the Gragnano red or white and Lettere Rosso frizzante naturale, a sparkling red wine that goes well with the local flavorful dishes.

 

 

 

 

Caserta  


 

The cooking in Caserta is similar to the style of Neapolitan cooking: their land produces a large quantity of vegetables, cereals and fruits. The vegetables and cereals are cooked with pasta in a variety of ways or used as a side dish or to stuff other vegetables to create unusual and tasty combinations. The territory of Caserta is famous for the cheese industry and for the plentiful production of mozzarella di buffalo, for the Falerno  wine praised by the poets of classical Rome and for the high quality of the olive oil.

 

 

 

 

Benevento  


 

The city of Benevento is in Samnite territory, located in the west of Campania, bordering Molise. This mountainous region’s main economic activities are sheep farming, agriculture and trade. Wheat, olive oil, sheep, milk by-products, asparagus and artichokes are used in making typical dishes, spiced as usual with an abundance of chili pepper and local herbs. The same aromatic herbs are used to manufacture the Strega  liquor, exported world wide. The local wines best known are the red Pannarano Vitulano Aglianico and the white Falanghina Del Sannio.

 

 

 

 

Avellino  


 

The town of Avellino, South-East of Benevento, is situated in the Apennine Mountains. The chestnuts harvested in the province represent one of the major economic activities. Some pasta dishes are thePaccheri  big maccheroni in a tomato-meat sauce and cheese or the cingul’ shaped like cavatelli, in a thick tomato sauce. Lamb, kid and pork are local favorite cooked with tasty and spicy condiments;baccala’  is prepared in bianco, plain boiled with olive oil, parsley, garlic and hot peppers. Chikpeas and other legumes cultivated in the province are an inexpensive source of proteins.
Good wines produced in the area are the bianco Greco di Tufo and the red Taurasi.

 

 

 

 

Amalfi

 

Traveling south is the coastline called Costiera Amalfitana. It consists of a small territory filled with natural scenic beauty and history.
The coastline with small towns like Cetara, Conca dei Marini, Positano, Ravello, attract tourists who enjoy the uncontaminated environment and the gift that nature gave to this land: kind weather, clear sky, and the blue sea.
The Maritime Republic of Amalfi was a strong power from the X century to the XIII century. The extension of the territory was limited because the main aim was to dominate the sea with competitive rates of shipping and control of the trade. The shipyards were building ships to sell and to create the largest fleet of the time. In this period of splendor new buildings and new churches were built in the city of Amalfi and schools of mathematics and laws were instituted.
In 1343 a tsunami destroyed the port and part of the town and it was the beginning of the end of this splendid republic.
The food in the region is mostly fish specialties and of course pasta with fish sauces or exquisite tomato sauce combined with beef or pork. In Cetara, the fishing fleet specializes in the catching of tuna and anchovies and small factories produce canned tuna in olive oil and salted anchovies.
In Amalfi and in the other towns linguine  with frutti di mare, vermicelli  with wild fennels and shrimps, fish salad, polpo, triglie, red mullets, and many other fish are fried, broiled, roasted or they are made in soups. The sautéed calamari baked with breadcrumbs, capers and olives, the pizza with mozzarella di buffala, and all sorts of vegetables are local specialties.
The area is also famous for the oranges and lemons, for the limoncello,  which is an alcoholic beverage made from an infusion of the abundant lemons; also the rosolio  is produced, a liqueur made with oranges or anisette or strawberries or/and other fruits and herbs.
The ancestor of the sfogliatelle  was born in the Santa Rosa Monastery at Conca dei Marini. There the nuns produced a pasty in the shape of half moon, with a dough on the outside made with flour, lard and water and stuffed with cream and sour black cherries. It was served with a bicchierino  di  rosolio,the homemade liquor.
In the inland there are citrus orchards with orange and lemon trees, and vineyards that produce the grapes for the Costa d'Amalfi DOC, a wine that goes well with the local dishes and comes in red, white and rose. Other wines are Bianco Furore, Ravello Rosato and Rosso Tramonti 
In 1944, the gulf of Salerno was chosen as the landing spot for the liberation of Italy by the Allied Forces. In the same year the national government of Italy moved to Salerno and the city became temporarily the nation’s capital.
The Scuola Medica Salernitana, established in the IX century, was the first medical school and the most important at the time. It sponsored studies of the Jewish, Greek, Roman and Arab medical researches, and it opened the road to diagnostic and preventive treatment of patients; the school was open to all genders and in the XI century Trotula De Ruggero was the first female doctor in the history of medicine.

 

 

 

 

Salerno

 

The southern part of Campania, contain the large province of Salerno, which includes part of the Sorrento peninsula, Amalfi and the Cilento.
It was dominated by the Greeks and it was part of the  Magna Grecia, the Great Greece until the Romans expanded into the whole peninsula.
The remains of the historic past are present in the Doric temple of Pestum and in the many ruins preserved in the region. The Greek heritage is living in the character of the people of the province of Salerno, in their dialect and in the art of cooking.
This province produces first quality olive oil, wine, oranges, lemons, cereals and all sorts of vegetables.
Sixteen miles north of Salerno, in the Campanian plane and between  Mount Vesuvio and the Lattari mountains is a countryside with rich volcanic soil called San Marzano which grows egg-shaped tomatoes, known for their low acidity and for their bitter-sweet taste. The succulent and flavorful San Marzano tomatoes make a thick and tastier tomato sauce and are preferred by the homemade gourmand and by the finest restaurateurs.

 

  

 

 

The Specialties of Salerno


 

The feature of the cucina  Salernitana  is the simplicity of the dishes: a trait inherited by the Greeks and marked in their character and their dialects.
The mozzarella di buffala, the lemons and oranges, the round artichokes of Paestum, the variety of vegetables and cereals, the olives and the oil from the hills, the pork and the exceptional sea food are simply cooked adding olive oil and except for the diavolini, the red pepper, few herbs are used. Thefocaccia  is made with whole wheat, olive oil and water seasoned with salt and pepper. Sausages, lamb, kids are generally stewed or barbequed.
Typical regional dishes such as peppered mussels, sautéed clams, baked scamorza or mozzarella di buffalo, fish stew, many pasta dishes are prepared in the homes and found in trattorie  and restaurant menus.
Cavatelli  and fusilli  pasta is served with mutton sauce
Vegetables and legumes with olive oil are served sautéed or boiled and often
in soup with pasta: hearty the soup of artichokes and potatoes, delicious the baked zucchini.
The spleen stuffed with parsley, mint and hot red pepper is cooked in oil and vinegar and served on the day celebrating Saint Matteo.
In the vicinity of Paestum a salame  is made with very lean pork meat which has no trace of nerves or fat except that in the middle there is a strip of beacon visible in every slice.
This salame is particularly tender with an unbelievable strong aroma given by the beacon and by the spices.
Scarzetta  is a pastry made with sponge cake topped with custard cream, small strawberries and covered with strawberry syrup that makes it look like a cardinal hat. Figs covered with chocolate or turnovers made with plain dough filled with chestnuts and apple jam are simple and delicious desserts.
Other regional desserts are made similarly to the other provinces, also a variety of biscuits and thetarallucci,  toasted bread rings, usually are served with wine to conclude a meal.