Flavours and taste of the Pontine Plain

The Pontine cuisine manages to combine a variety of humble ingredients and turn them into simple but rich-tasting dishes. In the hills, they still roll out pasta by hand. The sauces that accompany these may range from the highly elaborate, made with meat, tomato and mixed vegetables, to ones based on mushrooms and artichokes. There are also wonderful soups, such as the bean soup made in an earthenware pot to improve the flavour. The “Rappaga-cornuti” soup of Roccagorga is made with vegetables and served with slices of country bread. Another curious name is that of the “Bazzoffia”, a spring vegetable and pulse soup cooked at length in water and served on slices of country bread, with the addition of a beaten egg and a sprinkling of pecorino cheese. There are also special dishes such as “granunchi”, baked frogs, (Sezze) or “ciammaruche” (snails) cooked in a spicy sauce or dressed with a special green sauce (Castelforte) or a goat sauce for pasta of Campodimele.

These “strong” flavours are complemented by the local red and white wines, which have a low to average alcohol content and are produced in the area between Bassiano and Sezze. These include Cori white and red (DOC) and other DOC wines brought up from the plain to the tables of the many hillside restaurants. More examples are Merlot, Circeo Red, White and Rosé, Trebbiano and Sangiovese of Aprilia. Typical local products range from Bassiano ham to the artichokes and broccoli of Sezze and Priverno, black olives of Itri and hard and soft cheeses of Priverno, Bassiano and Roccasecca dei Volsci. Special mention should be made of the buffalo mozzarella cheese, the “giuncata” (curdled milk) and “impanata” (fresh whey and ricotta) as well as the sausages with hot pepper of Monte San Biagio and Maenza, the cherries of Maenza and the chestnuts of Norma. At the end of a meal it is not unusual to be offered traditional sweetmeats, simple and tasty, perhaps unrefined in appearance and form, such as the “ciammelle di vino”, “pezzetti” (with almonds and honey) and the “serpetta” of Sermonetta, but also the “amaretti” of Roccasecca dei Volsci and the “piccelatielli” of Castelforte. Those who prefer more elaborate desserts can choose between the “pastiera” of Castelforte and the “Casciatella” (with ricotta cheese) of Prossedi.

A few kilometres from the hills, the coastal towns offer fish, shellfish and molluscs cooked and served to the best traditions. Fish soup prepared with a tasty scorpion-fish, fragrant fried squid and prawns, delicious pasta sauces made with crabmeat and delicate, yet tasty sole and gilthead are some favourite local dishes. Another important ingredient is octopus, cooked either in sauce or with “tiella”, the delicious country pizza made at Gaeta, also with anchovies and vegetables. Excellent accompaniments to these dishes are Falernum white wine, Cecubo, a strong red wine and the sweet Terracina muscatel, which goes perfectly with desserts.

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