04 Ott Cuisine from the Renaissance to date
You need to go back to the Sforzesca period, to the table of Ludovico il Moro, to understand the origins and flavour of the cuisine of Vigevano and surrounding areas. The products of the local cuisine were true delicacies and parties were all the rage at the ducal court.
Today’s Lomellina cuisine features the influence of the farming populations of the rice fields, the vegetable patch, the rivers, the creeks and irrigation canals, animals raised in the cascine and hunted in the woods. A rustic and poor cuisine made of simple, genuine dishes that while not elaborate, nor costly are nevertheless very original and appetising with sound and robust flavours.
At the ducal court, the cuisine was organised so that there was no waste. Ludovico il Moro set strict rules for the kitchen and the cellar. In the kitchen there were never more than four cooks, four under-cooks and two cook’s helpers. Wine was only poured to who was allowed. The wines for the king, on the other hand, were kept in the tower, and the key was kept by a trusted and discrete church treasurer. Records were updated, on a monthly basis, of all necessary expenses and every year it was necessary to prepare an inventory of everything that was in the pantry. The ducal cook par excellence was Master Martino, the most inventive, sophisticated and important cook in the ducal court.
Traditional dishes are available in the local osterias and trattorias.
Mainly composed of assorted salamis and cold cuts, including “Salam d’la duja”, the typical pork salami preserved under fat in ‘olle’, traditional terracotta containers with a narrow neck, and the famous duck salami, which you must eat with the delicious pates.
With the assortment of salamis served on a wooden cutting board you will also be given ‘bagnetto’ sauce, fried foods, mushrooms in oil, ‘nervetti’ (sinews) salad and soused fish. Another very common salad in Lomellina is made with borlotti beans, which are also used frequently in vegetable soups and risottos.
First course dishes
Rice is the unrivalled King of the Lomellina area. It is added to vegetable soups and is used with other savoury ingredients to make appetising risottos: risotto with salami, yellow risotto, rice with cowpeas, with warty cabbage (wild plants), with porcini mushrooms, with tench, with quails, with asparagus, with tripe and with nettles. The very delicate risotto made with frogs and roast risotto are also characteristic of the area. Rice and milk are also very common.
Pasta also features in the entrées: from ravioli stuffed with roast and dressed with its sauce, to lasagna with offal, tagliolini with asparagus and bow-tie pasta with cream and mushrooms. And then thin soups and hearty soups: rice and bean is very common, pasta with beans, rice with herbs, rice with asparagus and asparagus cream. More sophisticated dishes include tripe in broth, chick pea soup (which is traditionally consumed in November for the “day of the dead”), onion soup, frog soup and rice with “coratella” (the fifth quarter of the offal). A dish which has almost disappeared altogether is thin bread crumb soup, ‘panada’ in local dialect: originating from the poor cuisine near Milan, it used to be a staple at Easter lunch.
Second course dishes
Snails and frogs are the base of the most traditional dishes of the Lomellina area. Dishes made with pork, beef and goose and tasty fish from the Ticino (eel, trout, tench, carp and the highly appreciated goby). Polenta is always part of the meal.
The second course dishes feature specialities made with pork, to fight the area’s cold and damp climate. Every part of the pig is used, and this is seen through the multiple uses of its parts: fresh coppa, pork loin, pork chop, temple, ribs, trotters, ears, rind, heart, liver, lung. Another traditional dish is ragò, made with roasted cabbage with pork ribs and rind, or fried with polenta.
Game also features here with hare stewed in rich sauce and pheasant alla cacciatora, mushrooms such as honey fungus, with are plentiful in the countryside, cooked with sausage, loin and polenta, rind with lentils or mashed potatoes. Equally as inviting are the dishes made with snails and with the characteristic local fish: carp, northern pike, tench, eel, fished with small nets in irrigation canals, or the highly appreciated tiny end-of-season fried and crispy. Without forgetting courtyard animals, goose, duck, chicken, guinea fowl and turkey.
Wild greens are cooked in a saucepan with butter or in omelettes (not very well-known but typically local is omelette with “luvartis”, wild hop), while asparagus accompanies eggs.
In the summer the local cuisine mainly features frogs, being the most common inhabitants of ditches and rice fields; for many generations of youth, frogs were their first hunting prey and source of amusement through traditional frog fishing. Weed killers and fungicides often used excessively to eliminate weeds from rice fields and the different treatment of farm land have compromised the formerly plentiful population of our amphibian, one of Lomellina’s symbols. Frog can be prepared fried, stewed, in an omelette or in soup.
The Lomellina area does not have a substantial confectionery tradition. Various type of cakes are prepared for special occasions: virulà (white and black), rice cake, bread cake and paradise cake. Plus, Bramantini di Vigevano biscuits, rice biscuits and the “dolce del Moro/Moro pudding”, with its recipe dating back to Ludovico il Moro. During the carnival period, the tradition is to prepare fried doughnuts or bugie (also referred to as “galle”). The queen of Lomellini confectionery is a fine, fragrant and genuine biscuit: Offelle di Parona