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Molise in tavola

Molise is a small region in southern Italy. The use of sheep and sheep’s milk was brought down from the Abruzzo, while pasta and fish preparations migrated north from Puglia.

The land

Molise is one of Italy’s smallest regions and was declared independent from Abruzzo as recently as 1963. Molise is almost completely covered with mountains, including the areas closest to the coast. Despite the cold winters, agriculture remains a thriving industry. In addition to wine, olive, wheat, corn and tobacco are all grown in here.

Molise was first occupied by the Sanniti people, and was then taken over by the Romans despite the valiant efforts of the inhabitants.  The history of the region mirrors that of Abruzzo and was dominated by the Lombards, the Franks and then by the Normans, who gave the region its name.

Molise was first considered a part of Campania, then Puglia, before becoming a province of Abruzzo. The region has always suffered from emigration, especially in the nineteenth century. 

The Food

Molise was the only region in Italy to come under the rule of Sicily. The Sicilian influence is evident in the region’s gastronomic culture.  Sheep are an important to the regional economy, as it is in many other regions in southern Italy. You will find that the lamb dishes are very similar to the recipes of Abruzzo. In Molise, pigskin is often used to make sauces for pasta. 

The types of pasta you find here are resemble what you find in the neighboring regions. Cavatieddi and Sagne are two popular pasta shapes that come from Puglia.  The Puglian influence is also noticeable in the regional custom of pairing cheese and fish, as in the recipe for stuffed, broiled mussels.

The local cheeses are primarily made from sheep’s milk and include names like Pecorino, Scamorza, Caciocavallo and Provolone. Ventricina, the pork sausage typically found in Abruzzo, is produced in Molise as well. Here is the seasoned with fennel seeds and peperoncino. 

In Molise, many of the traditional desserts are made with an intense, aromatic olive oil.

Some traditional recipes of Molise

Anchovies in vinegar marinate (Scapece de licette)
Scapece (from the Arabic “iskebegh”) is a way to prepare, and even preserve, fried foods. This style of preparation of Arab origin generally consists in soaking the fried ingredient in vinegar, garlic and herbs. During the Middle Ages, it was a technique used throughout a large part of southern Italy and even became a favorite dish of Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II

Spaghetti with fresh anchovies
This recipes pairs the spaghetti with the anchovies in a typical southern Italian preparation, giving life to an easy dish that is full of flavor.

Spicy Stewed Octopus
In this dish, typically found along the Adriatic coast, the octopus is flavored with spicy peperoncino (or chili peppers), giving it an extra kick.

Peaches Castelbottaccio-style
Filled with cream, this simple dessert will impress your dinner guests.