the recipes
of Venetian tradition

Welcome to the section of the blog dedicated to the authentic flavors of Venice and the culinary excellence of the lagoon! Here, you will find a selection of traditional and representative recipes, prepared with passion in the kitchens of our restaurants, ready to enrich your gastronomic experience.

Their fishing in the lagoon mainly takes place between March and May, but this year (2020) they arrived early, already a few weeks ago. The smaller ones are the most prized.

This year they are early. Who? Cuttlefish. Indeed, for some weeks now, they have been abundant on the market stalls. Normally, cuttlefish fishing in the lagoon takes place mainly between March and May, when they enter the Adriatic Sea to reproduce and lay eggs, and between July and September, when young cuttlefish return to the open sea.

Apart from recreational fishing, which is practiced from boats with lines (togna) and nets (volega) or with fishing lights (especially for cuttlefish in the summer), large-scale fishing involves the use of traps or nets with trawl boards. Remarkable is the difference between cuttlefish caught without the use of trawl nets, which, working on the seabed, causes the death of the fish, which then has to be heavily washed to remove the sand. This way, the cuttlefish lose their insides (“il pien”) which makes them succulent to the palate once cooked. Fishing with traps, suspended in mid-water, keeps the catch alive, does not fill it with sand, thus preserving its quality fully, without requiring treatments that disperse flavors.

It is unnecessary to describe cuttlefish, as everyone knows them very well. For the sake of precision, we will only say that they are marine cephalopod mollusks belonging to the Sepiidae family, ranging in size from a few centimeters to half a meter with a weight that can exceed 10 kilograms. Naturally, the most prized ones are the small-sized ones.

The recipe for “cuttlefish in its black ink” is one of the simplest and most traditional, according to the philosophy of the Association of Restaurants of La Buona Accoglienza a group of Venetian establishments that promotes and supports small businesses and the local economy, focusing on product-based cooking rather than elaboration and presentation of food.

Cuttlefish in black ink are best accompanied by yellow polenta, an exception in Venetian cuisine, which usually requires delicate white polenta with fish. The translation is attributed to the political rivalry between the two historic cafes in Piazza San Marco, Florian and Quadri. In fact, the former, irredentist, ostentatiously served “risi e bisi” and strawberries – white, red, and green – while the latter, frequented by a pro-Austrian clientele, offered cuttlefish in black ink with yellow polenta, the colors of the Austro-Hungarian Empire flag.

THE RECIPE

The recipe is proposed by “Trattoria da Ignazio,” a historic address that has been offering Venetian cuisine for many years in the area of Calle dei Saoneri, just a few steps from Campo San Polo.

Ingredients for 4 people: 

1kg cuttlefish; 1⁄2 glass of red wine; 2 tablespoons of tomato puree; parsley to taste; salt and pepper to taste; garlic-flavored oil

Procedure: Wash and clean the cuttlefish, removing the skin, guts, and the rostrum (beak), taking care to preserve the small sacs containing the black liquid. Cut them into regular strips and put them in a pot with flavored oil, over medium-low heat. Then add the red wine, the black sacs, the tomato puree, salt, and pepper. Let it boil for about an hour and fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally and adding, if necessary, a ladle of hot water during cooking to keep them soft. Once the cooking is finished, when the sauce is thick and creamy, add a pinch of chopped parsley. Serve the cuttlefish accompanied by toasted yellow polenta. Wine pairing: Lugana or Soave

By the Association of Restaurants of La Buona Accoglienza of Venice www.veneziaristoranti.it 

article from “Il Gazzettino di Venezia”. February 27, 2020

 

In the past, the consumption of meat in the city has always been quite common, in its more ‘noble’ forms such as roasts, boiled dishes, stews, but also in the less prized parts. The most delicious preparations used bits of meat and fat attached to the bones.

 

Today, it’s hard to imagine, but in the past – at least until the late 19th century – in Venice, the slaughtering of animals took place in the city, in numerous private slaughterhouses. These were concentrated, in particular, in the Rialto and San Giobbe areas, where numerous small squares and alleys called ‘del becher’ or ‘delle beccarie’ remain as a testimony. These were not, as one might think, meat shops, but true ‘slaughterhouses.’

 

In Campo delle Beccarie, there was the ‘Stalon,’ exactly where today, under the 19th-century loggia, you’ll find the fish market. Originally, there was the Querini family house, which ‘for two-thirds was confiscated and demolished in the 14th century, after the victory over the Bajamonte Tiepolo conspiracy (1310), in which some of the Querini had participated. Purchased by the Republic, the remaining part not demolished was transferred there in 1339, becoming the public slaughterhouse (beccaria)…” as Lorenzetti recounts in ‘Venice and its Estuary.’

 

THE BECHERI

It was a significant activity, and in the Middle Ages, the ‘becheri’ were gathered in an important guild, whose patron was St. Michael the Archangel. The seat of the Guild of the Becheri was the church of San Mattio in Rialto, now disappeared, of which the ‘Becheri’ had the right to elect the parish priest. The Becheri also had the privilege of fighting as bullfighters in the ‘corridas’ held during popular festivals in Piazza San Marco and Campo San Polo.

 

In the mid-nineteenth century – in 1843 – the municipal administration decided, for hygiene and health reasons, to concentrate the slaughtering activity ‘of cattle, calves, lambs, and pigs’ in one area. The peripheral area of San Giobbe was chosen. The municipal slaughterhouse officially remained active until 1972 in a building that has now been transformed, after hosting the city’s rowing societies for a period, into a seat of Ca’ Foscari University, which has splendidly restored it.

 

All this is to say that the consumption of meat in Venice has always been quite common, in its more ‘noble’ forms such as roasts, boiled dishes, stews, but also in the less precious parts like offal – liver, heart, esophagus (‘rumegal’), spleen (‘spienza’) – or nerves. In less prosperous periods, the principle of ‘nothing is wasted’ was imperative.

 

So, the butcher’s apprentice, after slaughtering and cutting the meat, patiently dedicated himself to removing all the bits of meat and fat that remained attached to the bones, especially the spinal column, setting aside the precious ‘sècole’ to prepare a delicious risotto. Today, it’s not so easy to find them; butchers are no longer so ‘patient’ to dedicate themselves to such meticulous work, not to mention that in the early 2000s, due to the so-called ‘mad cow disease,’ the trade of ‘sècole’ was banned for a few years. However, if you have a trusted butcher, you will surely be able to get them to prepare the traditional dish.

THE RECIPE

The recipe is proposed by Roberto Miracapillo, who manages Trattoria da Vittoria da Aldo, a historic establishment in Campo San Geremia that the grandfather took over in the 1960s and has been run by the family since then.

Ingredients for 4 people: 300 gr. Vialone rice, 300 gr. ‘Sècole,’ 70 gr. butter, half an onion (optionally celery and carrot), 1 liter of beef broth (beef marrow), 50 gr. Parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Procedure: Sauté the ‘sècole’ in oil with the onion (and optionally celery and carrot). Let them cook, salt and pepper, for a couple of hours in a little broth. Add the rice and cook it, pouring in the broth little by little. At the end, stir in the grated Parmesan. An aged Montasio cheese also works well. During stirring, if available, some boiled beef marrow was often added. The risotto should be kept rather ‘all’onda,’ or slightly liquid.”

 

By the Association of La Buona Accoglienza Restaurants 


Article from Il Gazzettino Jan 23rd 2022

 


When it comes to Venetian cuisine, one immediately thinks of fish dishes. However, the lagoon ecosystem provides an ideal environment not only for fish but also for game. In the past, it was the fishermen themselves who would take up the rifle.


It’s almost a conditioned reflex: when talking about Venetian cuisine, one immediately thinks of fish dishes. In reality, the lagoon offers much more. Its ecosystem, where water and land wonderfully intermingle, is an ideal environment not only for fish but also for “selvadego,” game. Indeed, numerous bird species choose the lagoon as a favorable place to breed, coming from Northern Europe or making a stop in their migratory journey to Africa. So, in the past, after the fishing season, it was the fishermen themselves who would take up the rifle and go hunting, either, according to ancient tradition, aboard a “sciopon” (a kind of very light boat for navigating between sandbanks and shallows, with a low bow to support the “sciopo,” a long rifle) or in a boat.

But what is hunted in the lagoon? There are at least a dozen species of feathered game, more or less prized. The best are those of surface birds (that only immerse their heads to eat) compared to the “divers” that go underwater to fish. The former mainly feed on vegetables (thus having more delicate meats), while the latter feed mainly on fish and mollusks.

Among the ducks, the most widespread is undoubtedly the “masorin” (mallard). Recognizable by the bright green that characterizes the heads of males, it is the only species that nests permanently in the lagoon and is present throughout the year. Among the most appreciated for its meat is the “pignolo” (pintail), also called “valley capon.” Easily recognizable by its beautiful reddish-brown head, the “ciosso” (shoveler) that loves brackish and muddy waters rich in submerged vegetation. And again, the “foffano” (Northern shoveler), recognizable by its disproportionately spatula-shaped beak, especially with meat not particularly prized; the “magasso” (common pochard), also common in the Po Delta where its meat is used to prepare an appreciated soup; the “crecola” (marbled teal) that stops in the lagoon in March – hence its name – during its migration to the Sahara; the “penacin” or “moretta,” recognizable by its black and white livery and the beautiful tuft behind the head, not precisely a duck – a species much appreciated, especially for the magnificent risotto that can be made with its meat.

The “sarsegna” (green-winged teal, scientific name anas crecca) is for many the best from a gastronomic point of view; it is the most numerous species in the valleys, where, in waters with low salinity, it winters between December and January, feeling particularly comfortable. It is easily recognizable by the red head with a green spot on the eye.

The “sarsegna” is the protagonist of the recipe proposed by Cesare Benelli, owner of the Al Covo restaurant, created at Bragora together with his wife Diane, joined some time ago by their son Lorenzo.


THE RECIPE

Sarsegna with three cooking methods


Ingredients for 4 people:

4 “sarsegne” aged for two days in the refrigerator, sage, rosemary, and laurel, 3 celery stalks, 2 carrots, 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 4 cloves, 3 juniper berries, Sarawak peppercorns, a small piece of cinnamon, 1/2 bottle of white wine, extra virgin olive oil, 40 ml of brandy, 25 g of butter, salt, a pinch of grated lemon and orange zest, 400 g of chicory and wild chard.


Procedure: 

Pluck the “sarsegne,” empty them, and burn the remaining feathers; chop the gizzards, livers, and heart. Marinate in white wine for a few hours with celery, carrot, onion, plenty of sage, rosemary, laurel, and a clove of garlic. Sauté gently for 15 minutes in a pan with extra virgin olive oil along with the marinating vegetables, caramelizing everything well and flambéing at the end with a small glass of brandy. Put the “sarsegne” in a taller pot, add the offal with a generous amount of sage and rosemary, Sarawak peppercorns, cloves, a small piece of cinnamon, juniper berries, orange and lemon zest, and another clove of garlic. Cover with water and thinly level with extra virgin olive oil. Simmer slowly covered for about an hour, adding liquid if necessary. Drain well, gently butter, and place them in a preheated oven at 180°C for 30 minutes.

Serve on a soft polenta, drizzling with the “pulled” cooking base and accompany with blanched and sautéed wild chard and chicory. Finely chopped and with their sauce, they can be the basis for a delicious “selvadego” risotto.


Curated by the Restaurant of Buona Accoglienza Association, from Il Gazzettino of Sun. Dec. 12th 2021


Castradina and Goose “in Onto” on the Table

written by Claudio De Min

In a season rich with extraordinary and versatile products and irresistible flavors, Veneto rediscovers in November two extraordinary and unique dishes. One has always celebrated the end of the great plague in the lagoon, the other celebrates the conclusion of the agricultural year. Pumpkin and chestnuts, mushrooms (discussed on page 5), and sweet potatoes, Treviso radicchio and artichokes—the list of autumnal flavors (and their recipes) in Veneto is long and varied. For example, pumpkin is a wonder good for all uses: from filled tortelli to risottos, to start, but also in cream to dress short pasta, instead of beans, for instance, or in the form of a velouté. Not to mention its use in pastry: if you’re skeptical, try the pumpkin and chocolate cake from the Pettenò pastry shop in Mestre. Treviso radicchio is a marvel that the world envies us (and that waits for the cold to do its best) and here too you can make any greedy use of it: dress spaghetti, accompany it with pasta and beans, make a salad, a savory pie, a pâté, even ice cream, and even beer. But among the countless indulgences that Venetian cuisine offers, there are a couple that go beyond taste, are part of the celebration, often refer to tradition and religiosity, and a strong sense of community. One is typically Venetian, Castradina, the other is popular in much of the region, the Goose.

“… they cross the bridge, buy the candle, / the saint, the sausage, the rosary, / and towards noon the beautiful custom / wants them to go eat the castradina.” With these simple verses, the poet Domenico Varagnolo tells the Venetian custom of eating Castradina on the occasion of the feast of Madonna della Salute, on November 21 (this year falls on a Saturday). A very ancient tradition dating back about four hundred years – to 1630-31 precisely – the period of the great plague, the same one told by Manzoni in “The Betrothed,” which led to the votive construction of the Basilica by Longhena that dominates the entrance of the Grand Canal, at the behest of Doge Nicolò Contarini, following a vow by Patriarch Giovanni Tiepolo (both, incidentally, victims of the plague). Castradina is a dish based on salted, smoked, and sun-dried lamb leg, with which a tasty soup is prepared by adding cabbage leaves, onions, and wine. The meat thus prepared came from Albania and Dalmatia, sold to Venetian ships passing through the ports. For centuries, Castradina in Venice has been a dish “de obligo su le tole, sia dei povaréti che dei siori, nobili o mercanti.” The dish entered tradition as a sort of homage to the Dalmatians, who during the period of isolation due to the dramatic epidemic were the only ones to supply the city with food. Castradina arrived in Venice until the beginning of the First World War on trabaccoli and Albanian tartans flying the Turkish or Austro-Hungarian flag that moored along the Riva degli Schiavoni.

And then – as we were saying – there is the Goose, whose story is well told on Michele Littamè’s website, a great interpreter not only of breeding (in his estate in Sant’Urbano, in the Paduan area, in the last month of life the geese are raised on milk and honey) but also of its “onto” declination. Here too, autumn is the right time, and the reference to religiosity concerns San Martino. “Once upon a time – writes Littamè – in the Venetian countryside, with geese, sausages and hams were produced – especially where Jewish communities were present – and, in more recent times, even liver pâté. Using all parts of the bird, a particular preserve was made: goose “in onto,” good for preserving the meat for many months. In early November, for San Martino, the first geese were slaughtered and eaten. But San Martino was – and still is today – also the closing feast of the agricultural year, the moment when accounts were settled with the landlord and it was celebrated with dishes based on pork or goose, the “poor man’s pig.” For preservation in “onto” (also called goose in a pot), the geese are separated from their fatty parts and cut into pieces. The meat rests in salt for a few days or is cooked with herbs, aromas, and a little red wine, and then placed directly in a terracotta or glass jar, the last layer is completed with melted fat, and the jar is closed. A processing that allows long conservation of the meats, which last in this way throughout the winter and, if desired, even a couple of years. It is excellent with horseradish sauce, with potatoes or peppers, and in any case with polenta.

in collaboration with Andrea De Marchi, for the Ristoranti della Buona Accoglienza 

The recipe 

The recipe for “Castradina” is proposed by Paolo Lazzari of “Vini da Gigio,” where it will be possible to savor the traditional dish during the week of the Feast of Health. Boil a castrated lamb shank of about 2 kg for 10 minutes in water with celery, carrot, and onion; Remove the water and repeat the operation; Bone the shank, shred the meat, and boil it again with celery, carrot, and onion until it is very tender; Apart, boil washed cabbage leaves in salted water. Drain them and add them to the castradina broth. And adjust the salt; Serve hot with bread croutons, a grind of fresh pepper, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Article from “Il Gazzettino” of Sunday, November 8, 2020.

Curious Character, San Martino: A Legend of Fog and Feast.
San Martino is indeed a peculiar character: there’s fog, rain, strong winds, and the sea is in turmoil (see Carducci), yet he finds time to climb up to the attic to meet, unsuccessfully, his sweetheart (San Martin goes to the attic…, the bride is not there…). Jokes aside, the feast of San Martino – whose celebration was just yesterday (November 11) – is a significant figure in European religious and popular culture, particularly in France and Italy.

Born in Pannonia – present-day Hungary – to a pagan family of Roman military, he served in Gaul in the Roman army. There, he converted to Christianity, leading a monastic life. He spent much time in Italy, especially in Milan, but mainly lived overseas. In 371, he was elected bishop of Tours, gaining enormous popularity, especially among peasants, whom he courageously defended.

The legend of sharing his cloak with the cold poor man is too well-known to be retold. The extent of his popularity in France is reflected in the number of churches, over 4,000, and locations, more than 500, dedicated to him.

In Italy as well, there are many connections, even in language. For example, colloquially, “doing San Martin”  meant moving, relocating, as traditionally, November 11 – the day San Martino is celebrated, in memory of the day of his burial in Poitiers – coincided with the end of seasonal agricultural contracts. On that day, farming families gathered their belongings to move to new estates. Or “A San Martin, tuto el mosto deventa vin,” because November 11 would conventionally be the date when grape juice turns into wine, to be celebrated by uncorking some bottles of new wine, accompanied by roasted chestnuts. Even in Venice, the feast of San Martino is highly significant and has a long tradition. His cult in the city is very ancient, to the point that the homonymous church was founded in the Castello district, near the Arsenal, in the 8th century, probably by Lombard colonies or Ferrarese families. Tradition, however, suggests that the church was erected at the end of the 6th century at the behest of the Vallaresso and Salonigo families. The current building dates back to the 16th century, designed by Jacopo Sansovino, and it preserves as a relic the saint’s shinbone. Next to the church, in a bas-relief from the 15th century, is the classic representation of the Saint giving his cloak to the poor, located on the door of the Oratory of the School of San Martino of the calafati, the craftsmen involved in the construction of wooden boats in the nearby Arsenal.
Although today the consumeristic celebration of Halloween has somewhat supplanted a tradition that should still be preserved as much as possible, on November 11, Venetian children gather in groups in fields and alleys, making noise with pots and lids, singing the traditional “Viva, viva San Martin” and asking for sweets from shopkeepers, who are more than willing to satisfy them, just to get rid of the noise.
Obviously, San Martino is not only celebrated on the streets but also at the table with the typical shortcrust pastry dessert shaped like San Martino on horseback, covered with icing, candies, and other decorations, challenging pastry shops, bakeries, and home cooks, each with their own recipe and creativity. And from today, it can also be found on sale.

THE RECIPE

For those who (next year, if you want to be strict, but there’s nothing stopping you from doing it whenever you feel like it) would like to indulge in making their own San Martino at home, the recipe is proposed by the Estro Restaurant in Crosera San Pantalon in Dorsoduro, run since 2014 by Alberto and Dario Spezzamonte. The basis of everything is the dough of the so-called “Pastafrolla Milano,” which has the characteristic of using icing sugar instead of granulated sugar. With the indicated doses, you can make three or four medium-sized “San Martini.” With any leftover shortcrust pastry, you can make excellent biscuits.

INGREDIENTS
455g butter
500g icing sugar
5g salt
Aromas: lemon and orange zest, and a pinch of cinnamon
200g eggs
1000g Flour OO.

PROCEDURE
Before starting, of course, you must have the San Martino-shaped mold. Sand (that is, crumble into tiny crumbs) the butter with the flour, aromas, and salt. The butter must be cold, just taken from the refrigerator. Then add the eggs and then the icing sugar. Knead by hand or in a planetary mixer with the “worm” (that is, with the spiral tool) until you get a homogeneous and firm mixture. (Even “sandblasting” can be done by hand and with the planetary mixer). Wrap the resulting dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator at 4 degrees for no less than 3 hours. Roll out the dough to the desired thickness (5 mm is recommended) and cut out San Martino with the mold. Bake for 20/25 minutes, depending on the oven, at 150 degrees. Once cooled, decorate as desired. Seasonal products such as candied fruit, glazed chestnuts, almonds, hazelnuts can be chosen, but candies, chocolates, and confetti also work well.

Il Gazzettino di Venezia on Nov. 13th 2023

A little quiz: What is a “gregallu”? And a “manicaio,” or a “manego de cutelo”? Simple, these are regional names – respectively Sardinian, Tuscan, and Ligurian – for our very popular “capelonghe,” known as “razor clams” in Italian.

 

Until a couple of decades ago, it was easy to spot them on our beaches, peeking with their two siphons at shallow depths, ready to flee at the slightest movement. Today, they are almost gone, victims of climate change and, especially, the massive fishing carried out with so-called “turbo blowers” that have destroyed – and continue to destroy – sandy seabeds near the coasts. To be precise, what was mainly caught just a few meters from the shore or with a mask and fins slightly further out to sea was the marine razor clam (Ensis minor), the most prized variety, which also existed inside the lagoon, where it coexisted with Solen vagina, commonly known as “tabachina.” This is a less valued variety, still fairly common today, which prefers muddy bottoms, darker in color, with a less pleasant odor and taste, although edible, but widely used as bait. The ones you find in fish markets today mostly come from Manfredonia and the Atlantic coast of France.

 Once upon a time, razor clams were so abundant along the beaches that it is said that in late medieval Venice, they were considered a defense against coastal erosion, contributing to its consolidation (there were no “Murazzi” at the time). It is even said that fishing was strictly controlled, and “poachers” were severely punished by having their two fingers – the thumb and middle finger – used for fishing cut off.

 

Regardless of industrial methods, there are two techniques for harvesting razor clams. The first involves locating the two small siphons on the seabed, introducing a finger laterally into the sand to block the shell, and then gently pulling it out. It’s not that easy because the razor clam is highly sensitive and quick to escape, disappearing into the sand. Caught this way, it is called “capa da deo.” This technique is the most valuable because it preserves the mollusk perfectly inside the valves. The alternative is to use a long, thin iron with a kind of small harpoon at the end with which you can impale the razor clam and extract it from the seabed, even from a boat. However, this method carries the risk of damaging the mollusk and letting in sand. That’s why “capa da fero” was considered less valuable and sold at a lower price in the market.

 

Until the 1960s, these artisanal techniques were still used for commercial purposes. Back then, fishermen, after finishing their work in the late afternoon, would come to the city to sell their catch. It was already dark – the period is during low tides, between December and February – and to illuminate their basket (corbàto) full of razor clams, they would place a candle wick in a glass next to the price tag. These traditional images have now disappeared, along with the razor clams from our beaches.

 

Razor clams, naturally, are delicious simply sautéed or grilled. Tomaso of Ostaria Da Rioba in Fondamenta della Misericordia, however, offers linguine with razor clams, chickpeas, and coriander.

 

Ingredients for 4 people: 360g linguine, 500g razor clams, 250g dried chickpeas, a bunch of coriander, extra virgin olive oil, pepper, salt to taste.

 

Soak the chickpeas overnight, then rinse and cook them for 45 minutes in slightly salted boiling water the next day. Once cooked, use half to make a cream by blending it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, while keeping the other half aside. Sauté the cleaned razor clams in a pan with hot oil and garlic. Meanwhile, finely chop the coriander, which will be added at the end. Combine the chickpeas and the cream in the pan with the razor clams. Once combined, drain the linguine and finish cooking them by sautéing them in the pan with their sauce and coriander.

 

Association of Buona Accoglienza restaurants