The local word for chili pepper is DIAVOLICCHIO or DIAVOLILLO and it is the protagonist of nearly all Abruzzesi dishes. It is in the local pasta dish maccheroni alla CHITARRA, in the succulent 'NDOCCA 'NDOCCA, as well as in simpler pasta sauces and all pork products.
The Abruzzese version of BRODETTO, the fish soup made along the length of the Adriatic coast, is flavored with tomatoes, garlic, onion and bay leaves. Unlike other versions of brodetto it contains no saffron, which is surprising since the crocus from which saffron is extracted is ectensively cultivated near the capital of the region, Aquila. In fact saffron appears in only one local dish, SCAPECE - pickled fish, which is fried and then preserved under saffron- flavored white vinegar in wooden barrels.
The origins of this dish go back over the centuries to the Greeks, who landed on the coast but never penetrated into the interiors as they did in other regions
Pasta-making was once a craft but is now a large-scale industry, with local brands in strong competition with those from Naples. It is the tradition that has made the modern product so successful, as well as the high- quality durum-wheat grown locally.
Vegetables abound in this region and many local spedalties have been created around them. There is one soup which contains them all. It is an ancient recipe with a strange name, LE VIRTU, the virtues. It is made at the beginning of May, when there are still some dried pulses in the larder and the new vegetables are just ready for picking
The Abruzzesi have even managed to create a special occasion for eating POLENTA, which is very much an everyday dish in northern Italy. When a hare has been shot, it is boned, cut up in small pieces and stewed in wine. The cooked polenta, meanwhile, is placed directly onto the table in a mound alongside the cooked hare, and a contest ensues to see who can eat the most.
However, this is a minor affair compared to the PANARDA, served in Aquila on special occasions and consisting of no less than thirty courses, which are served as a series of different meals
PORCHETTA, suckling pig, is a specialty shared with the other regions of central Italy. Other pork products include prosciutto d'Aquila, similar to the more famous Spanish jamon serrano, and ventricina, a sausage made with the stomach of the pig flavored with chili pepper, wild fennel and orange.
As in all other mountainous regions, lamb is prepared by the shepherds just as it was hundreds of years ago. It might be cooked a catturo - in a large copper pan in the open air, with basil, onion, sage and chili pepper, a method which, sadly, is dying out. AGNELLO CASCE E OVO is still very popular as is agnello all'arrabiata, which means "in the angry way," so called because the sauce contains chili pepper. Part of the sauce is often used to dress pasta, which is then served as a first course.
Cheeses are of great importance in the regional diet, PECORINO being the favorite. The local CACIOCAVALLO is made from buffalo's milk, and is, as might be expected in the region, highly spiced with chili pepper. The mozzarella is made from cow's instead of buffalo's milk, as is 5CAMORZA, another delicious soft cheese, which is sometimes grilled on the sp
The Abruzzesi have a sweet tooth, too, and enjoy finishing their meal with a dessert. Although the sweets themselves are only made on special occasions, the variety is remarkable. Some are simple, others are elaborate, like the delicious NOCI ATTORRATI - a version of almond praline.