Valle d' Aosta
The degree to which Italy is truly unified can be seen in its more far reaching regions, none more so than the Valle d'Aosta. Here neither the language nor the food are Italian, French is mainly spoken here and the regional cooking here most certainly displays a long established French influence. This very small (population around one million) mountain region was once inhabited in ancient times by the Salassi people who strongly opposed the Romans with fierce resistance. The vindictive Romans named the region Augusta Praetoria, from which the name Aosta has evolved.
The folklore of Aosta is as dark and desolate as parts of the regions landscape, most Aosta folklore heroes loose and there are very few tales with a happy ending. The most popular of these heroes is St. Martin, who was able to cheat the devil by giving him a mill made of ice, which worked in winter then melted in summer.
The cuisine of Valle d'Aoasta is not as varied as other regions of Italy, this is partly due to the regions mountainous landscape which means the planting and harvesting of various food stuffs is difficult at best, also the cold climate minimises the chance of successful harvests of certain crops. These mountainous conditions however, have been exploited by the valleys inhabitants, who have transformed the region into a tourists paradise. castles, ski lifts, downhill ski slopes and breathtaking views, make the region a mecca for skiers, mountain climbers and the generally very athletic tourists.
The regions mountainous landscapes has provided one major benefit to the regions cuisine, the caves that are found at the feet of the mountains are excellent for the ageing of cheese. For this reason cheese and dairy production in the Aosta is far more developed than that of other regions of Italy. The usually dry climate can be subject to abrupt plummets in temperature within twenty-four hour, this acts as a natural disinfection of the unwanted molds and parasites which plague cheese production in other regions of Italy. These developments in cheese production have led the regions cuisine to be heavily reliant on cheese as an ingredient. Dishes such as Fondue, where local cheeses are melted, thinned out with a little cream then kept liquid over a candle or burner, with crusts of bread, chopped vegetables and even slices of cheese are dipped into the fondue and eaten.
Other everyday foods in the Aosta include bread soups (with cheese), lamb, goat and kid, fresh fruit and, of course, cheese. The gloriously sweet Martin sec pears which grow both wild and cultivated in the region are baked in the oven with red wines and cloves then served with whipped cream and a glass of Grappa is one of the regions best desserts.
The Wines of Valle
The climate in Valle d'Aosta makes wine production very difficult, however, there is a little wine produced here, but mainly for local consumption (click here for more information on The Wines Of Th Aosta Valley.) Grappa is much mor popular, it s served in Cafe Valsostana ( coffee with grappa, lemon rind and sugar mixed in). Another drink of the region is vin brûlée alla gressonara (wine boiled with black bread, sugar, butter, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, then strained though a sieve. The drinks of the Aosta are most definitely designed to keep out the cold.
Typical Dishes Of Valle
Fondue - melted Fontina with butter and egg yolks. Dipped with lumps of bread, vegetables or poured over polenta.
Mocetta Valdostana - pieces of kid or goat marinated and then braised.
Carbonade di Manzo - cubed and salted beef simmered in wine with onion, salt and pepper.
Costoletta Valdostana - a slice of veal, topped with fontina cheese then wrapped in prosciutto cotto, dipped in flour, eggs the breadcrumbs and shallow fried.
Trota in Caprione - large pieces of mountain trout marinated in vinegar.