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A Tour of Italy in the Kitchen, Part 22: Trentino-Alto Adige

Carmelo's Ristorante Italiano | Trentino Alto AdigeTrentino–Alto Adige is comprised of two separate areas: Trento refers to the southern part of the region (whose capital is Trentino – the ancient Roman Tridentum) and Alto Adige identifies the northern part of the region that includes the higher (alto) part of the Adige River.

The area has a rich ethnic mixture that includes German roots as well as a strong Venetian or Lombardian influence and over the years, residents have created a unique blend of German and Italian cuisines. Goulash is served with cornmeal polenta. Pizza and pasta is as likely to be on the menu as sauerkraut.

Polenta is staple food and may contain potatoes or buckwheat instead of or in addition to cornmeal. It can be made into a cake known as smacafamor or trisa, a hot soup of cornmeal and wheat flour cooked with butter and milk.

Trentino-Alto Adige cuisine features strangolapreti (a spinach and cheese flavored potato and flour gnocchi) which literally translates to “priest stranglers”. Traditionally served on Fridays, this dish was created (1545-1563) for times when religious restrictions forbade the consumption of meat. The legend says that priests and other clergy members enjoyed this dish so much that they would eat it until they choked, hence the name strangolapreti, or priest stranglers.

Canederli (a bread dumpling) is also a famous regional dish offered with meat, in soup or even filled with fruit for dessert.

Filling soups are popular here and include minestra di trippa, a bread thickened soup with tomato sauce, vegetables and tripe. Saursuppe, another tripe soup, is flavored with herbs, onion, nutmeg and white wine. Barley soup, known as orzetto or Gerstensuppe, is made with vegetables, onion, garlic and a local smoked pork called speck (which can also be served as an appetizer or snack with rye bread or crackers).

Beef may be marinated in brine with juniper berries, herbs and pepper for carne salata. Or sautéed in butter, where it is served with polenta or beans. Rindsgulasch (beef goulash) is a hearty beef stew. Sauerbraten is a stewed beef roast flavored with onions, vinegar and wine.

Trentino-Alto Adige is well known for their flavorful apple desserts. Apfelküchel is a cake full of pieces of apple. A sweet variation of smacafam is also made with nuts, raisins and aniseed flavoring. A Christmas specialty is zelten, a rye cake with provincial variations similar to fruit cake.

Pane e vino fanno un bel bambino or “bread and wine make a beautiful baby” is a saying that tells a great deal about the importance given to wine in this region. There is a widespread belief that bread and wine are fundamental sources of nourishment and growth, both physically and emotionally. Even so, Trentino-Alto Adige produces less than 1% of the national wine production and about 10% of grappa production.

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