Meet Molise: This Petite Region Packs a Punch
|Courtesy of Babbo NYC
Petite, small, tiny. These words have been used to describe, Molise–the second smallest region in Italy. Mo-who? Well, Molise, is appropriately referred to as the “belly button” of Italy, because it’s just that. Molise is a tucked away, hidden even, lesser known region of south central Italy, positioned with Abruzzo in the north, Campagnia in the south, Lazio to the West and Puglia to the East. Molise’s two major cities are Campobasso (also its capital) and Isernia. As Molise has a small coastline along the Adriatic, Termoli serves as the main port, is home to a picturesque beach resort area and the Tremiti Islands with grottoes and other beauties. This region is chock-full of pastoral landscapes due to its mountains and hills. There are also many lakes, parks, nature reserves and protected areas that make Molise a great place for horseback riding, biking, skiing, walking, hiking, camping and all other outdoor activities. Although Molise just gained its political independence from Abruzzo in 1963, this petite region is major in the way of authenticity, beauty, culture, food and wine.
|Photo Credit: Rustico Cooking
Molise Gastronomy and Wine
Molise has a lot to offer in terms of things to see, do and taste. The culture is greatly influenced by its neighbors, both north and south. Additionally, Molise has several Albanian towns in the South, where the Albanian language is even spoken. Herein lies another influence of the Molisana culture. Characteristics of Molise cuisine include olive oil, diavolino (red peppers), cured meats (saggicciotto) and cheeses (pecorino, scamorza, caciovallo, stracciata, provolone). A typical dessert is panetoncino di mais, which is a chocolate cake made with cornmeal. Further, Molise happens to be the second largest producer of truffles in Italy. The region is known for its famous Isernia truffle. Some typical foods by the Adriatic coast naturally include brodetto (fish stew), red mullet (a fish similar to red snapper) and other seafoods or frutti di mare. In the mountainous and hilly areas, one might find dishes with goat, lamb, mutton and, or course, pork. Pastas (cavatelli) and bread (Le focacce del Molise, Foccacia Salate Molisana and other focaccia or pizza-like bread are also popular Molisana fare. In fact, for this month’s #ItalianFWT, we made Salsiccia, Olive e Pomodoro Secchi Focaccia, which is Sausage, Olive and Sun-dried Tomato Focaccia. We’ll share it with you in a bit.
Meanwhile, Molise is certainly not lacking in wine and liquors, as limoncello and poncho are popular. While Molise does not have any DOCGs yet, they produce three DOC wines: Biferno, Molise and Pentro di Isernia. Biferno is the most famous. and considered to be one of the oldest wine regions in Italy. Although the main grapes grown are Montepulciano and Sangiovese, Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon, Trebbiano Abruzzese and Toscano, Greco, Chardonnay, and several others grow as well.
Ready to check out some Molisana food and wine?
Salsiccia, Olive e Pomodoro Secchi Focaccia/Sausage, Olive and Sun-dried Tomato Focaccia
3 and 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the bowl and pizza pan
1 cup black olives, such as Gaeta or Taggiasche (pitted if you like)
1 cup slivered sun-dried tomatoes (preferably packed in olive oil and drained)
4 oz of spicy sausage meat (optional)
1 tablespoon of fresh chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon of fresh chopped thyme
1 tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
Mix the flour, yeast, sugar, and 1 tablespoon of the salt in a food processor, or in a large bowl. Mix in the 1/2 tablespoon of the herbs (oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, parsley). With the motor running, add enough warm (110°F) water (about 1 and 1/4 cups) to make a soft dough that forms a ball. If the dough is dry, add a little more water; if it is sticky, add a little more flour.
Process 45 seconds, or until smooth and satiny; transfer to an oiled bowl and shape into a ball. Wrap the dough and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 45 minutes-1 hour. If adding sausage, now is a good time to cook the sausage until it browns, but not too much. Put it to the side to cool.
Preheat the oven to 475°F (preferably with a baking stone in it).
Transfer the dough to a generously oiled round 18-inch pizza pan and push with your fingers until it extends to the sides of the pan (you might need to wait 5 minutes for the dough to relax and stretch more easily). Pour the olive oil over the dough, spread to the edges, and dimple with your fingers, using the pads rather than the nails so you don’t tear the dough. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Top with the olives, sun-dried tomatoes, sausage and remaining herbs.
Bake the focaccia on the bottom rack of the oven (or place the pizza pan on the baking stone if you have one) in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden on the top and bottom and lightly crisp. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, dusted with the Pecorino. Serves 8
(Recipe idea from Rustico Cooking, but this particular one has been adapted to suit our tastes.)
The Wining Hour’s Selection:
We were excited to get our hands on wine from Molise, as wine from this region is not always easy to find. We opened a 2011 Di Majo Norante Ramitello Biferno Molise Rosso. It was made from 85% Montelpuciano and 15% Aglianico grapes from the Ramitello Estate in Campomarino on the Adriatic coast. It was aged in barriques and stainless steel tanks for 18 months before barreling.
Ramitello Biferno Rosso was deep, ruby red in appearance. It was full of aromatic herbs on the nose, along with blackberry and cherry. On the palate, there are spicy plum, spiced apple and licorice. This wine was well-balanced, smooth, full-bodied and a delightful match for the sausage, olive and tomato herbed focaccia pizza. It would also pair well with steaks, game meat and rich sauce pastas. This herbacious wine was 13.5% ABV and well worth the search.
Enjoyed reading about, Molise, this lesser known region of Italy? It doesn’t stop here….
Join us live on Twitter Saturday March 5th at 11am EST @ #ItalianFWT to chat about Molise. Here’s more from my fellow bloggers:
Vino Travels – Di Majo Norante of Molise Rocks the Mediterranean
Culinary Adventures of Camilla – Risotto agli Spinaci with a Montepulciano-Aglianico Blend
Rockin Red Blog – Molise: The Land of Gladiators
Food Wine Click – A Molise Sangiovese with a Sauce to Make as the Pasta Cooks
The Wining Hour – Sausage and Tomato Herbed Focaccia with Ramitello Biferno di Molise
Enofylz Wine Blog – A Taste of Molise: Authentic Italy
For even more info and photos of Molise, check out this article on CNN:
About The Wining Hour
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