Flavors of Valtellina, On the Hunt for Typical Dishes
10 March 2016
Experiencing Valtellina means trying its traditional dishes, many of which are certified and protected for their geological origin. Firstly, there are the DOCG, DOC, and IGT wines created from Nebbiolo grapes and often paired with specialties from the valley: DOP cheeses, IGP Bresaola of Valtellina, IGP apples, IGP Pizzoccheri with buckwheat flour, and MCG honey.
DOC & DOCG Wines
When you get here, it’s hard not to notice the 850 hectares of vineyards and over 2500 km of stone walls. The Rhaetian side of Valtellina is the largest terraced area in Italy, with an incredibly rich biodiversity, climate, and environment. Exposed to the south, it receives a modest rainfall throughout the year and is particularly suited for cultivating grapes for wine. This practice actually dates back to ancient times in Valtellina. To this day, bunches of grapes are harvested into large bins that are then carried to the tractors and on to the cellars through the steep and narrow paths that connect the various plots.
Valtellina is a one of a kind terrain that is renowned for its cultivation of the Nebbiolo delle Alpi, creating truly elegant and refined wines known around the world.
The Consortium for the Protection of Valtellina Wines, founded in 1976, represents the cellars and wineries in the Province of Sondrio. To this day, it is the only Italian consortium to boast two DOCG wines: the Valtellina Superiore and Sforzato di Valtellina (Sfursat). Other wines coming from this area are the Valtellina DOC and the IGT Terrazze Retiche (Rhaetian Terrace) of Sondrio.
Bresaola of Valtellina
Bresaola has ancient origins, which are profoundly linked to the Valtellina. What is it that makes this cold cut so particular? The people in this territory have passed down rituals from father to son, in a unique land with specific rules and passion for the product that have rendered this salume both refined and adored.
Rich in protein, iron, and minerals, and low in fat, Bresaola IGP garners respect from the foodies as well as those looking after their health!
Protected by the IGP trademark (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) Bresaola of the Valtellina is a traditional product that uses only the best cuts of beef thigh, selected for their high quality, which is controlled and guaranteed.
High in the mountains, you can find single flower honeys that come from precise locations and have a very distinct flavor. Meanwhile, from 200 to 1,000 meters, you can find Mountain Wildflower Honey with acacia, lime, and chestnut. Over 1,000 meters, you’ll find another variety of Mountain Wildflower Honey as well as the highly prized single flower honey from rhododendrons.
In Valtellina, beekeeping typically consists of smaller companies who produce high-quality honey, bringing their passion to locals and tourists alike. With these small businesses, comes a higher level of control and an intense dedication to the art of beekeeping and cultivating the honey we love to consume!
The typical mountain pasture here in Valtellina is at the origin of two cheeses with DOP certification, Bitto, an old Alpine cheese, and Valtellina Casera, with a fat percentage between 35% and 42%.
The Bitto DOP, whose origins date back to the Celts, was produced every year from June to September, when the herds remained at higher pastures. Whole cow’s milk was processed on site immediately after milking, with less than 10% of goat milk added to the mix. The coagulation took place with the use of calf rennet. The milk would then be cooked, salted, and aged beginning in alpine huts before being brought down the valley. Aged for a minimum of 70 days, the form can be left to age up to 10 years.
Even the Valtellina Casera DOP, which appears in documents dating back to 1500, is produced exclusively with cow’s milk from Valtellina and processed locally. The milk of two or more milkings was partially skimmed and coagulated with calf rennet. Once cooked, it’s placed in molds with the writing “Valtellina Casera” before being aged for at least 70 days.
Finally, the Scimudin of the Valtellina, or the piccolo scimud in the Lombardy dialect, which means cheese, is the typical product of the peasant family. Once obtained the milk of the few cows available, they could consume this fantastic cheese after a short aging process.
The farming tradition of the Valtellina is visible in one of the most typical plates that is adored throughout Italy and abroad: Pizzoccheri. This pasta made with buckwheat flour dates back to at least 1750. Coming from Siberia, buckwheat was being cultivated in Valtellina as early as 1600, and its here that you’ll find the Academy of Pizzocheri in Teglio. The Academy guards the original recipe of the amazing plate worth a visit the Valtellina alone.
Buckwheat flour, durum flour, and soft wheat flour, and water. Once the pasta is formed, it’s cooked like normal pasta in salted water before being served with melted butter, grated grana cheese, Valtellina Casera DOP cheese, cabbage, potatoes, garlic, and pepper. Potatoes are always present, although the cabbage is sometimes replaced with chards or green beans. It’s a fantastic dish perfect for an autumnal, mountain dish.
As of 2015, Pizzoccheri of Valtellina can also boast the IGP certification (regime di protezione transitoria). Be sure to try this extraordinary dish on a trip to Valtellina in one of the many typical restaurants!
IGP: Indicazione Geografica Protetta
DOP: Denominazione di Origine Protetta
DOC: Denominazione di Origine Controllata
DOCG: Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita
IGT: Indicazione Geografica Tipica
For more information, visit www.in-lombardia.com and www.valtellina.it