Until recently Italians away from the coast rarely ate seafood. They would eat baccala (salt cod) on feast days, and make good use of the abundant lake and river fish. This was as true of Rome 25 km inland, as it was of Orvieto 90 km away from the sea. Umbria is Italy’s only landlocked province, and has a particularly large repertoire of freshwater fish cookery, two recipes of which are given here.
In the last twenty years, Italy’s seafood cuisine has expanded from the fishing ports into the interior, taking with it the essentially simple cooking techniques of grilling, baking, deep-frying of small fish and the making of bouillabaisse-like stews. In nearly all cases fish are left intact, scaled and gutted, yes, but heads are on and bones are in. This is the best way to eat fish, and I think people who are outfaced by the beady eye of a whole fish on their plate are wimps!
At La Cacciata we have limited access to very good fish. We use salt cod; shellfish are available for pasta dishes and seafood risotto; we can get squid; and lake fishes such as eel, pike and coregone (a large fish similar to grayling) are available. With this paucity of resources in contrast to vegetables, fruit, poultry and meat, seafood does not assume a big role in the cooking of the school. However, for reference, I include general comments on grilling, baking and frying fish as well as those recipes we have successfully deployed at the school.
© 1996 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.