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A Tour of Italy in the Kitchen, Part 20: Veneto

Veneto is one of Italy’s most varied areas – and the most visited region of Italy. Home to Venice and Verona, and also Italy’s largest lake (Lake of Garda) it also contains tranquil and uncrowded spaces as well.

Venice canalRisi, or rice, is a mainstay on the Venetian menu, and is served differently than in most other areas of Italy. Here rice is never eaten by itself – it is always cooked and served with other ingredients, such as lamb, sausages, chicken livers, tripe, beans, and raisins, as well as with fish and shellfish. The most famous Venetian rice dishes are risi e bisi (rice and fresh peas) and risi e figadini (rice with chicken livers).  Venetian cuisine is simple and tasty, and much is fish-based. Baccala’, dried, salted cod fish is another specialty of the area.  Polenta (a modest dish made from cornmeal) is more popular here than in any other region of Italy and Pasticcio di polenta (layers of fried polenta and stew of wood pigeon with mushrooms baked in pie crusts) is a local favorite.   A fresh pasta called bigoli originates here, and gets its name from the traditional kitchen implement that’s used to make it, called a bigolaro, a four-inch-wide bronze tube. Bigoli in salsa is a dish which tosses the bigoli with a delicious sauce of anchovies, olive oil, and cooked onions. Or you may favor bigoli co l’anara: “spaghetti” with sauce of duck liver and innards with vegetables and herbs.

The best wines come from the district of Verona; Amarone, complex with great depth and flavor concentration, Valpolicella and Bardolino, rose’ or red, perfumed and slightly sparkling, and Soave, which is white and strong as well as Grappa.

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