Meat is important fare; it is here that the craft of slaughtering the pig and preparing the various cuts for salami is at its best. The meat of the Umbrian pigs is particularly tasty because the animals live in the mountains and feed on wild plants, herbs and even truffles. Pork products - salami, sausages, cured and smoked meat and prosciutti - appear as the central plate on every restaurant's ANTIPASTO cart. The selection is vast. Umbrian prosciutto is lean and sweet, CAPOCOLLO, made from the neck of the animal, is flavored with wild fennel as is the Tuscan FINOCCHIONA. Fresh and dried sausages are made in many towns and even MORTADELLA is as excellent as the more famous one from Bologna.
The splendid PORCHETTA - milk-fed piglet - is roasted on the spit and served whole. The best porchetta should be small and of the race of black pigs, bred in the wild on chestnuts and acorns. In Umbria it is flavored with wild fennel.
Beef is equally good, especially when it comes from cattle bred near the border with Tuscany, where the Umbrian breed has been crossed with the famous Chianina breed. The sheep and goats bred on the hills, the variety of game in the mountains and the farm birds and rabbits all go to make Umbria a paradise for the meat lover.
The abundance of meat in Umbria should not overshadow the importance of the local fish. As it is one of the five regions without a coastline, fresh-water fish reign supreme. Carp, pike and eels are caught in Lake Trasimeno and trout in the nearby streams. The most noble catch of all, the LASCA, is sfill found in this lake. In the past this fish was considered such a delicacy that it was sent to Rome every year on Easter Day for the Pope's dinner.
The repertoire of pasta dishes is similar to that of neighboring regions. There are three local specialties, however: strascinati and umbrici, both long, thick spaghetti, and ciriole ternana. These are fairly thick tagliatelle made with a dough that contains water as well as eggs, and dressed with oil, garlic and a soupcon of chili pepper
In Umbria, pasta is often flavored with a grating of the local black truffles, found around Norcia. But most local restaurants now serve the black truffles sliced on a plain RISOTTO richly dressed with butter and Parmesan, a dish borrowed from the cuisine of Lombardy for this purpose.
Chocolate has made Perugia, the capital of the region, famous all over the world. The well-known company Perugina is based here, makers of the excellent and cleverly named chocolates, BACI