Mantua with Taste
Mantuan cooking is known as kitchen of “princes” and of “people”. It is born from the meeting of the rural traditional dishes to the kitchen art of Gonzaga court chef. One side, the rich banquets of the renaissance lords, the other one a simple kitchen, sometimes of survival, with earth products and not too many other. But already in 1500, and still more later, one cooking influenced the other: it was especially the one of the court to take on rent the traditional poor receipts to enrich them also with precious elements. During the centuries, the so rivisted dishes, became part of the common heritage of Mantuan gastronomy.
The cooking of Mantua is rich, various and complete: the tradition of Lombardy of rices and risotto is very important. Not by chance, one of the most famous dish is the Risotto alla pilota, Behind its receipt are hidden three secrets: the variety of rice, Just Vialone nano or Carnaroli; le way to cook it, and the pesto, of pork, used to flavor the rice. Beside the rice there are also the different kinds of home made filled pasta. Have you ever tried pumpkin ravioli? and agnolini? The pumpkin ravioli are an home made pasta filled of pumpkin, parmesan scraped cheese, amaretti biscuits, Mantuan pickle fruits and lemon scraped peel. The meeting of pumpkin, poor element, with spices, imported from far east ad object of a real passion in Middle age period, established the success of this dish already in XVI century. Not less known are the agnolini, the traditional main course of special days of feast as Christmas or Easter. Filled with beef and pork meat, agnolini are served dry with cream or in hot stock. Last but not least the bigoli, home made pasta spaghetti served with sardine sauce.
SECOND COURSES AND SALAMI
Some dishes are done with lake fishes, as spike in sauce, boiled and served with a capper, anchovies, garlic and onion sauce. other ones are fried fish, eel, catfish prepared fried or in sauce, and the saltarei, sweet water little shrimps fried on boiling oil that often accompany a kind of risotto. Among the second courses based on meat, the stracotto is a typical dish of Mantua kitchen, The tradition wants it to be served with polenta, fresh or grilled, and a glass of good red wine (as Lambrusco Mantovano, for example). The tradition of Mantua offers also boiled meat, done with beef, chicken and pork, stuffed in boiling water and served with pickle fruit sauce. Noble but popular, the cooking of Mantua, feels also the influence of the near regions, first of all of the Emilia, famous for its salami. The tjewel of Mantua tradition is the Salame mantovano, prepared in different ways following old traditional and family secret receipts. Don’t miss to try also the ciccioli, the cotechino and the salame con la lingua, the ham and the sausages (salamelle).
CHEESES AND DAIRY PRODUCTS
Thanks to the abundance of fields, water and pure air, the dairy farms of the province produce three DOP cheeses: the Grana Padano, the Provolone Valpadana and in the area south from Po river , the Parmigiano Reggiano. From the lavoration of fresh milk a rich variety of ricotta, mascarpone and stracchino cheese are produced, together with artisanal yogurts.
DESSERTS AND PICKLED FRUIT
The sweet symbol of Mantua is the Sbrisolona cake – from the popular dialect brisa, crumb – a crunchy cake with poor origins. Done as a long time ago, the artisanal bakery of the town still do it in that way, it is a mixture of corn and wheat flour, almonds, butter and a little sip of grappa. More recent and caloric, but not less tasty, the Helvetia Cake. It was created by the Swiss pastry chef family Putscher, who already sold it in their shop in Mantua in the XVIII century. The Helvetia is a cake composed of three round discs of almond pasta, sugar and egg white, filled with zabaglione and chocolate. Among the traditional dessert of Christmas period there is the Anello di Monaco, a soft high ring shaped cake filled with a mixture of nuts, almonds and sugar, imported in Mantua always from Putscher family from their German lands. From the rural tradition borns the Mantuan pickled fruit- it was a useful way to preserve fruit and vegetables during winter. Mantua agriculture , often organic and always of high quality, produces a rich variety of melons, pumpkins, pears, honey, onions and the campanine little apples.