Traditional Italian Recipes From Basilicata
Roasted olives are a very special Lucan delicacy, typical for the Ferrandina region in the province of Matera. The first written record mentioning roasted olives produced in Ferrandina date back to 1700, but their preparation is still done following the traditional methodology, adapted to the times and modern technology without compromising the quality of the product. The roasted olives recipe is protected by Slow Food Presidium, a very important association and a non-profit organization that has 100,000 members in 150 countries around the world; it controls the production process, which must pertain special characteristics, from the olive variety used to roasting time in the oven. The only olives used are the Maiatica, an olive cultivar (variety) typical for that area. Ferrandina alone produces 20% of these olives in the entire territory of the province of Matera. Of these 20%, half is dried and roasted for domestic and international consumption.
After harvesting, the olives are dried on wooden shelves for a week. Then they are blanched in boiling water, drained, salted and finally seasoned with oregano and fennel. After a few days the olives go to the oven where they are roasted at a moderate temperature (about 50°C). Repeated twice, the process enhances the natural saline taste of olives, while maintaining the sweetness typical of the Maiatica. The roasted olives are preserved in terracotta containers and can be eaten on their own as a starter or appetizer or accompany salami or pecorino cheese, orange and fennel salad or salted codfish stew or cream soup.
For Italians bread is much more than a mere supplement to food or just food on the side; is a true culinary tradition that varies from place to place. Breaking bread and sharing it carries a strong symbolic value for the warmth of the family nest originating from the Catholic religion. For centuries the bread in Matera is the “sacred” component on the table; it is an irreplaceable asset, whose symbolic value is always expressed through the search and processing of ingredients, and the form and the techniques used in its preparation.
Thanks to its mild climate and little rain and clay soil, the Matera region is particularly suited for the cultivation of durum wheat, the basic ingredient of bread. The Matera bread of Altamura is a contender for the title of “best bread in the South”; naturally, each contender claims this title based on the historical records. The bread of Matera has always been the typical food of the Basilicata region, characterized by its distinctive form with three deep cuts on top reminiscent of the Murgia Materana landscape. PGI certified since 2008, the bread of Matera is prepared in a traditional way that makes it a product of the highest quality: the exclusive use of natural yeast of plant origin, the special durum wheat selected and grown on site, the three stages of rising, baking in the oven and the long shelf life (from a week to ten days depending on the size). The organoleptic characteristics of Matera bread, that you can find only in Basilicata, are a blend of its ingredients and the peculiar environment of this region, its water, the wheat, the air, and finally the unique ability of men to knead them into a product that cannot be found elsewhere. Thanks to the ingredients used and the specificity of the process, the ready product is characterized by its yellow color, its typical porosity and quite irregular crust, as well as its unique flavor and fragrance.