Eating and drinking
Maremma cooking is simple but very genuine and flavorful, based on peasant traditions. It could be said that the Maremma is divided into two very distinct areas: a lot of fish is eaten on the coast, either caught or farm-raised in the lagoon; in the hinterland, on the other hand, there is a predominance of seasonal vegetables, wild game, deli meats, cheeses and its famous truffles.
Among the pasta dishes, one that is very popular is tortelli maremmani, stuffed with ricotta and spinach and seasoned with tomato or truffle. There are also the very typical pici, large, rough spaghetti that are seasoned with a sauce made from hare or wild boar. One famous dish from Orbetello is bottarga, made from mullet or tuna eggs that are dried and then grated on pasta or bruschetta. It's a specialty that you ought to try at least once in your life.
There are many soups that come from poor peasant cooking, in particular, acquacotta: there are many versions, but the basic one is made from onion, egg and seasonal vegetables. There is also ricotta soup, made from spinach and ricotta, or fish soup. All Maremma soups are served on slices of toasted stale bread.
The meat in Maremma cooking is of three main types: wild boar, lamb and, of course, Maremma beef. The wild boar is stewed, as in cinghiale alla maremmana, but it also used a great deal to make excellent deli meats such as prosciutto and culatello. Maremma cows are typically allowed to graze wild and provide a lean, flavorful meat: and don't pass up a chance to order a buttera, a steak at least 3 fingers high, grilled over the coals and seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil. As for the lamb, the most original Maremma recipe is, without doubt, buglione.
Fish is represented by many varieties, from the sea or lagoon, and is prepared in many tasty recipes, on the grill, baked or in soups. One typical dish is scavecio, made from the so-called poor fish because full of spines and not very saleable; these are marinated to soften them and make them more appetizing. There is also the delicious baccalà alla maremmana, which is dried salt cod fried and seasoned with tomato and spices while, from Orbetello we have a tradition of eating eel, which is marinated in vinegar or lemon and then fried. Spanish domination left a heritage of anguilla sfumata, which is eel smoked after a very long and laborious process.
The sweets of the Maremma are the typical “poor sweets” made with simple, always available ingredients, such as dried fruit, honey and eggs. This tradition has also provided panforte which is made from dried, candied fruit, castagnaccio made with chestnut flour, or sfratti, which are the typical sweets of the Jewish community of Pitigliano. You should also try pastiera, a cake filled with ricotta.
Wine has been present in Maremma since Etruscan times. Recently, production has made enormous strides forward, reaching prestigious levels of quality.
The northern area of the Maremma, around Massa Marittima, produces the good Monteregio DOC wines, which can be red, white or rosé. The area of volcanic origin between Scansano and Pitigliano, is distributing new types of wines, the pleasant and fruity Baby Tuscans that, unlike the more famous Super Tuscans, require shorter aging of two or three years. The best known of these red wines are Morellino di Scansano and Sovana, but there are also Capalbio Rosso and Parrina Rosso. This area also produces a good white wine: the Bianco di Pitigliano. Finally, the entire coastal area near the Argentario produces excellent white wines like Ansonica and Vermentino, which is very popular in Tuscany, and even a good desert wine: the Vin Santo.
Photos courtesy of: Agenzia Turismo della Maremma & Municipality of Grosseto
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