south italy basilicata region food & wine

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Basilicata Food Cuisine & Wine

Like many of its neighboring regions, Basilicata cooking is made from a few simple, high quality ingredients.  Pasta, vegetables and cheese dominate Basilicata cuisine in order to minimize the cost of food.  Chili peppers called peperoncini are enjoyed in many dishes.

Minimal amounts of meat are used in Basilicata recipes.  Pork is preserved as sausages or salume.  Soppressata is stored in olive oil to prevent spoiling.  Other pork dishes include a popular stew called peperonata con carne di porco, which cooks several cuts of pork in a tomato and pepper sauce.  Pork rind is filled with a mixture of salt pork, peppers and garlic and simmered in tomato sauce until tender.  Poultry is also used in Basilicata cooking.  With pollo alla potentina, chicken, onions and peppers are gently cooked in a basil flavored wine and tomato sauce.

Mutton and lamb are the favorite meats in Basilicata cuisine.  Lamb and potatoes are placed in a terracotta casserole dish with onions, peppers and bay leaves to make spezzatino di agnello.  An older ewe can be cooked in clay pots with pork, potatoes and tomatoes and seasoned with onions and pecorino to make pignata di pecora.  This food is named after the unique clay pot that it is cooked in.  The lamb offal can be stewed with prosciutto and cheese in wine to make cazmarr.

Basilicata is fortunate enough to have fishing available on two coasts to provide food.  Anchovies and salt cod may be preserved for later use and tuna and sardines are often eaten fresh.  Zuppa di pesce alla Santavenere cooks a selection of seafoods with pepper and garlic into a savory soup.

Basilicata cooking often offers filling soups to round out their meals.  Acquasale is a tomato soup that is seasoned with onions, garlic and oil and thickened with bread.  Minestra maritata has a piquant blend of meat and vegetables simmered with pasta.  Sometimes it contains vegetable and breadcrumb dumplings that are affectionately referred to as strangulapreuti (priest stranglers).  Other times, the soups may contain filling beans and noodles.

Olives are grown along the coastline for the fragrant extra virgin olive oil that food is often dressed with or cooked in.  Produce that Basilicata cuisine is known for include the Sarconi bean and Senise peppers.  These peppers are fried with potatoes and eggplant and then stewed with tomatoes to make ciammotta.  Another commonly eaten vegetable dish takes artichokes and potaotes and braises them with salt pork, fava beans and onions.

Wheat is grown primarily for pasta dishes in Basilicata cooking.  This region is famous for lagane, a wide noodle dish dating back to the Roman era.  The sauce contains chickpeas, other beans, breadcrumbs and walnuts.  Most Basilicata recipes for pasta sauces contain chili peppers, olive oil and garlic.

The wheat crop is also used for breads.  Wheat grains are sometimes cooked as a substitute for pasta or rice.  This dish, called grano, can be served with meaty tomato sauces or topped with sweet fruit and chocolate additions for dessert.  Calzone di verdura bakes a wheat pizza dough around a savory filling of chard and peppers with raisins.  Focaccia a brazzud’ is a flatbread flavored with pork cracklings, pork fat and oregano.

The sheep that are raised across the region are used for making many of the the local cheeses used in Basilicata recipes.  They are known for their Pecorino di Filiano, a cheese brushed with oil and vinegar as it ages.  Other cheeses, such as manteca and burrino, use cow’s milk and are filled with fresh butter.  These cheeses are in many recipes including torta di latticini, a savory cheese cake with pecorino, ricotta and mozzarella and flavored with prosciutto.  The Easter tart called scarcedda contains hard cooked eggs and ricotta cheese.

A popular treat in Basilicata is mostacciolo, an almond cookie flavored with cooked wine and sweetened with honey.  Cuccia is another local favorite.  It is an orange zest and honey flavored walnut pudding made with grano.

Caciocavallo Silano PDO

Fagiolo di Sarconi PGI, Peperone di Senise PGI

Basilicata Wines

The Basilicata region is characterized by extremes of temperature and climate and mountainous terrain. It is on the upper slopes that the region’s finest wines are made. Basilicata boasts 4 DOC appellations, the most prolific of which is Aglianico del Vulture. Wines made from the Aglianico grape, also known for its contribution to Campania’s Taurasi, have gained a significant following in the international market. First introduced to Basilicata by the Greeks, in the 6th – 7th century, its densely flavoured and well-structured wines have tremendous ageing potential, so much so that Aglianico del Vulture Superiore has been recently promoted to DOCG.

Vineyards near Venosa, Basilicata, in the Vulture wine area

Vineyards near the town of Venosa, Basilicata, in the Aglianico del Vulture wine production area.

Three further appellations have gained DOC status: Matera, Terre dell’Alta Val d’Agri and Grottino di Roccanova. There are six wines produced in Matera, including three dry reds, Matera Rosso, Matera Primitivo and Matera Moro, two dry whites, Matera Bianco, Matera Greco, and also the sparkling Matera Spumante. While Matera’s wines are made largely from indigenous grapes (with the exception of Moro, which requires at least 60% Cabernet Sauvignon), Terre dell’Alta Val d’Agri’s red and rosé wines are based on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

The latest addition to Basilicata’s DOC roster is Grottino di Roccanova, where red varietals such as Sangiovese, Barbera and Ciliegiolo are used to make richly scented blends. Dry whites are made under the same appellation using Malvasia, Trebbiano and Moscato. Many other fine wines are also produced under the IGT classification Basilicata.

Rural landscape near Acerenza in Basilicata

Rural landscape near Acerenza in Basilicata – A typical rural landscape near Acerenza, in the province of Potenza. With an arid, mountainous terrain and extreme weather, Basilicata is a challenging region for viticulture, but is has developed over time some great wines.

Basilicata DOCG wine appellation:

Aglianico del Vulture Superiore

Basilicata DOC wine appellations:

Aglianico del Vulture, Grottino di Roccanova, Matera, Terre dell’Alta Val d’Agri

Basilicata IGT wine appellation: