Ciao Patrick! Although Italy cannot claim St. Patrick as their favorite son, Patrick’s parents were citizens of Rome so it’s easy for Italians to translate the green in their flag to the “wearin of the green” on St. Patrick’s Day. There are many Irish pubs in Italy and you can be sure they will be serving Guinness on draught and Irish whiskey on March 17th along with pasta and pizza and Irish Espresso. Take a St. Patrick’s Day tour of Italy beginning with Italy’s Celtic roots and then travel to Rome to visit its Irish churches. St. Isidore, San Clemente near the Roman Colosseum (known for its frescoes and twelfth-century mosaics), San Silvestro and St. Patrick with its Celtic design cathedral windows. A burial plaque commemorating Brian Boru’s son, King Donnchadh of Munster, can be found among the Roman columns of the 4th century basilica of St. Stefano Rotondo . He died during a pilgrimage to Rome and was buried here in 1064.
And if you listen closely you might hear the sound of bagpipes. Italy has a small but rich bagpipe tradition. The zampogna (Italian bagpipe) is part of a vibrant folk tradition in Abruzzo, Molise and Southern Italy where the zampognari (bagpipe players) appear in open air markets and in the streets during the Christmas season as shepherds that came down from the hills to celebrate and entertain the people.
Although my Eastern European friends may disagree and my Irish friends may wonder if I’ve had one too many shots of espresso cabbage did originate in Italy. The crinkly Savoy cabbage (cavolo versa or Cavolo Milano) dates to the early 1500’s when it was a popular wintertime vegetable in the Savoy, a region of Italy that borders on Switzerland and France. It was often sauteed with garlic and olive oil, used in soups, served alone or with rice or pasta and is one of Italy’s favorite wintertime dishes.
A rustic, toothsome pasta pairs well with braised cabbage and other vegetables making it well worth trying. We recommend tagliatelle or La Bella Angiolina Olive Leaf Pasta from CosituttiMarketPlace for a vegetal flavor that pairs well with a St. Patrick’s Day Corned Beef and Cabbage.
Savoy Cabbage and Pasta
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 small head savoy cabbage, about 1/2 pound
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 large cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
1/2 pound La Bella Angiolina Olive Leaf Pasta
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Chop cabbage into coarse shreds and sprinkle with salt. Allow to set for about an hour and drain squeezing to remove excess water. Melt the butter in a large skillet and add the garlic. Heat until the garlic just barely starts to color, then remove from the heat. Discard the garlic. Add drained cabbage and slowly braise until caramelized and soft. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil with the salt and boil pasta. Combine drained pasta with the cabbage in skillet. Pour additional melted butter over (if needed) and toss until all the ingredients are well mixed. Season with coarsely ground pepper and taste for salt.
Italians rely on food rather than four leaf clovers for luck. So celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with some traditional “lucky” Italian foods. Like these.
In Italy coin-shaped lentils are symbolic of good fortune and prosperity. This custom comes from an ancient Roman tradition of giving a scarsella (a small leather satchel used to carry money or documents) filled with lentils at the end of the year in the hope that each lentil would turn into a coin.
Pork in Italy represents the fullness and richness of life. On New Year’s Eve lentils are often eaten with cotechino, a large pork sausage (Cotechino con Lenticchie) or with zampone (stuffed pig’s trotter).
Candies and confections with almonds like torrone or raisins and dried fruit (frutta secca) found in cakes and breads celebrate la bella vita. The small round-shaped fruits and nuts symbolize fruitfulness and abundance.
In the Piedmont and Lombardy regions of Italy, prosperity is symbolized by rice grains. The golden grains of a Milanese risotto would make a perfect addition to Corn Beef and Cabbage for an Italian inspired St. Patrick’s Day
Italy and Ireland share more than just a band of green in the colors of their flags. At one time Northern Italy was inhabited by Celts and Proto-Celtic tribes in the Lombard Valley. Celtic tribes from central Europe hearing of the well-laid tables of the Etruscans were attracted to the region around 350BC and began to invite themselves over for dinner. The lush valleys, rich copper and iron deposits and strategic location convinced the Celts that an Etruscan-Celtic alliance would be to their advantage. This resulted in a peaceful coexistence, intermarriage and the building of a settlement at Monte Bibele in the Bolognese hills. The Luigi Fantini Archeological Museum in Monterenzio (BO) has one of the most important Etruscan-Celtic collections in the world and the largest in Italy. There is a life-size reconstruction of a dwelling hut from the 4th-3rd century BC furnished with authentic objects or reproductions from daily life including crockery containing carbonized seeds, utensils, decorations, arms and coins.
It seemed that pork was the “other white meat” for the Celts who raised pigs for food and shared their taste for pork with the Etruscans. Ciauscolo (cha-USE-colo) may be one result of this Celtic-Italian fusion. Not your typical Italian sausage, ciauscolo has the texture of a paté and is eaten spread on a piece of bread. It is believed to come from the Gallic people who were living in the Marche region of Italy. Once conserved in terracotta terrines, today ciauscolo is an PDO specialty in and around the towns of Ancona, Macerata and Ascoli Piceno into the region of Umbria. This semi-soft salami is made with meat seasoned with garlic, pepper and salt, pounded in a mortar with a drop or two of vincotto (sweet cooked wine), put into a casing made from small intestine and smoked with juniper wood followed by a brief aging (10 days). The result is a soft buttery spread whose name comes from the Latin word cibusculum meaning a small food. A perfect addition for a St. Patrick’s day antipasti serenaded with Italian bagpipes.