|Wheat growing in central Umbria|
To be honest, I really adore the thickly crusted and divinely chewy casareccio in Rome more than the sciapo (saltless) bread they make in Umbria, at least for nibbling. Sometimes, though, history trumps taste, and in the case of this traditional Umbrian bread, I respect the history. This particular bread has been baked here without salt since the mid-16th century, invented in rebellious response to the Pope's blockade of salt to this landlocked region. While it's not the best to eat on its own, it serves very well as a delivery system for olive oil or gravy.
The most famous of the saltless breads comes from Strettura, a tiny village on the Via Flaminia between Spoleto and Terni. We went over there the other morning in time to see the raised loaves slid into the fiery wood-burning ovens at Forno Vantaggi. It's said their combination of local spring water, mixed grains and no salt is the best in Umbria.
|Raking out the coals|
|The risen loaves|
|The old recipes|
|Torta al Testa|
At Easter, Umbrians eat pane formaggio (cheese bread). There is also pan nociato, bread with nuts, and pan caciato, bread made with olive oil, pepper, nuts and Umbrian pecorino (sheep cheese). We are not suffering from lack of choice here in central Italy.
Note: We visited Strettura as part of the annual Beecoming Festival, which offers events of all kinds in Umbria in late April/early May.
Copyright Sharri Whiting 2012