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Traditional Carnia Cuisine
Do you know where Carnia is in Friuli?
The mountainous territory of Carnia is the part of Friuli which stands astride the border between Austria and Slovenia. Due to its anguished history, often marked by the extreme poverty of my people, Friuli is extremely attached to its land. The Friulian people over the last centuries have therefore learnt what the land has to offer and to use it in the best possible way.
Luckily the land’s characteristics have allowed for a variety of products, which time and experience have transformed into cuisine. For instance, a wide variety of herbs have been used to create an infinite variety of delicious recipes, both simple and more sophisticated.
The mountain area is the place of origin of this tradition, in fact, in the alpine and pre-alpine valleys, especially in springtime; some herbs are used not only in the preparation of delicious dishes but also in aromatic grappa and herbal teas. Grappa is essentially made from the remains left over from the season’s grape harvest. Every year, this tradition is celebrated in Carnia with village parties and festivals.
Especially and extremely rare is the “ radic di mont”, a mountain chicory which comes in three different varieties, one red (the most precious) and two green. It is harvested in the first weeks of May and preserved in oil.
Many recipes can come to mind: exquisite omelets and first course dishes mainly, as well as stuffing for meat based dishes or as an accompaniment to Sauri’s famous smoked ham.
I would like also to mention the famous Carnival of Sauris which takes place in the second half of February and if you are planning the trip to Carnia, you can enjoy it.
Sauris is, in fact, the highest town in the region and it is very cold at this time of the year. The Rolar is a magic, armed, demon figure whose role is to warm everyone up for the evening's events. His name derives from 'rolelan', the bells attached to his body which rings out as he moves. The Kheirar is the king of the masked demons who leads the ceremonies. He carries a broom to beat the doors of the inhabitants in Sauris where he wants to enter. He brushes their floors and introduces a couple of masked creatures. One is ugly and one beautiful who do a little dance to the accompaniment of an accordion.
The masks are based on original models found the Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions of Tolmezzo. The Carnival evening ends with stops in the typical wooden and stone 'baite' where mulled wine is offered and the fine local ham.
Cheeses of Carnia
Cheese is another characteristic product of Friuli and Asino cheese is one of the earliest of this region. Asino cheese gets its names from the fact that it is partly made up of donkey milk. The cheese originates in ancient time from Mònt d'As, in the fascinating frame of Pieve d'Asio, the actual districts of Clauzetto and Vito d'Asio. Probably born from the evolution of the ancient conservation process, Asìno was first mentioned by the historian Enrico Palladio in his book Rerum Foroiuliensium, in 1659.
Thanks to its savory flavor and soft, delicate texture, it used to be present in the earliest cuisines of Venice, Trieste and in the neighboring cities. Today in these areas it is currently called "salty cheese" or "Friulan cheese".
In the Friulian tradition the soft Asìno is served on grilled slices of bread or polenta, and matched with ham to preserve its salty flavor. Moreover, it is particularly recommended to blend with artichoke, asparagus, liver and risotto.
The classic Asìno, particularly delicious when fresh, produces a tasty cream and can be used to flavor both cheese sauces and fonduta. Matched with meat or grilled vegetables, it will satisfy you with its delicate but clear flavor. Would you like to try to do it by yourself?
Pasta with Asino Cheese Recipe
In a pan fry some onion in olive oil, put some pieces of Asìno cheese and some cream. Let them melt at low temperature. Add a small portion of minced pine nuts, chopped olives and raisins and allow it to cook for few minute at low temperature. Add fresh tomato and some basil leaves. Serve over the pasta that should be cooked in water without salt.
Another authentic and tasty cheese is Montasio, which is produced on the high Alpine plain. It is matured for a period of two or five months and one year for the full flavor and harder version .Frico is my favorite cheese and it is suitable for cooking in a frying pan. The last type, Cit is actually made from defective pieces of other cheeses and it is creamy.
Traditional Meals in Carnia
First course: Minestrone soup of cabbage or beetroot with beans and potatoes; Blecs - pasta squares served with rabbit and chicken sauce; Spaetzle -a type of Austrian gnocchi; Slicrofi - a Slovenian ravioli filled with potatoes, bacon, onions and parmesan cheese; sausage risotto and liver slices with aromatic herbs.
Second course: Goulash alla carne with a spicy sauce; fresh pork sausages with polenta; tripe, seasonal vegetables such as radicchio, with bacon and beans, ardelut or valeriana.
Traditionally, goulash is a Hungarian stew typically made with beef and flavored with paprika, but it’s also the most famous dish in my region.
Ingredients for 6 persons:
- 800gr pieces of beef
- half kg. chopped onions
-70gr of lard or pig fat
- 2 spoons of tomato paste
- sprig of rosemary
- one bay leaf
In a casserole melt the pig fat and cook the onions; add the beef to lively fire and brown, add the paprika, rosemary and bay leaf and tomato paste (dissolved in warm broth), Put the cover on the casserole and cook at low, adding more broth if needed, season with salt. Serve with boiled potatoes.
Want to sample the local cuisine? Here are some of the best restaurants in the area:
- Locanda alla Pace Via Roma, 38 Sauris di Sotto Sauris, Udine
- Ristorante Roma 33028 Tolmezzo Udine - Ristorante Cimenti 33028 Toolmezzo Udine -
- Ristorante Posta 33024 Forni di Sopra Udine
- Ristorante Edelweiss 33024 Forni di Sopra Udine
- Ristorante al Boschetto 33013 Gemona del Friuli Udine
Enjoy your meal!!!
By Elisa Bressan