Copyright Piacere - Food & Travel without rules! 2023 - Theme by ThemeinProgress
The medieval village rests on a small hillside 7 km from Ventimiglia in the Val Nervia dominated by the ruins of the Chateau des Doria. The medieval bridge stretches over the Rio San Rocco river connecting the two sections of the town and is a symbol of Dolceacqua. Terraces (fasce) are carved into the hillside where olive trees, vineyards, flowers and eucalyptus grow. Art and history create a visual feast of beauty that caught the eye of Claude Monet who painted Dolceacqua and said that it was an “extraordinary picturesque village”.
The sunny Piazza Garibaldi acts a theater for feasts and events in the village such as the Festa dell”Olio Nuove (Festival of the new oil), and is lined with restaurants where you can enjoy the famous pizza made with local light olive oil. Stone pathways with arches connecting the buildings called “caruggi” (narrow paths) wind upwards through the stone village that protected its inhabitants from invaders and the weather. Small shops tucked along the caruggi house workplaces of carpenters, electricians, galleries, small B&B’s and agriturismi that cater to today’s residents and guests. Each day as we passed we could hear the sound of classical music combined with workmen’s tools as they go about their tasks.
The ancient village is slowly being renovated into charming apartments and rough stone spaces still await a loving owners to bring them back to life. Many French come over the boarder to enjoy the views, the famous pizza at one of the 15 restaurants, and mountain breezes that provide a naturally cool and pleasant environment during the summer months. This is mountain life and the pace is slow and peaceful. People meet in the café’s, drink cappuccino reading the newspaper in the mornings, and socialize with friends over a glass of wine in the afternoons. The fish man comes along in a small truck selling fish from the sea as people go about their business working in the shops or greenhouses that ramble along the hillsides and olive groves that seems almost impossible to reach.
The region has a culture of roses and floriculture with tangerine trees lining the streets and the sweet aroma from the multitude of flowering bushes. Although the region has been deeply affected by difficult economic times, 80% of Italy’s flowers are grown here.
Dolceacqua means “Sweet Water” maybe named after the very nice red wine called “Rosses di Dolceacqua” that has the deep red color of roses. Made from grapes grown in vineyards where their roots cling to the hillsides, it was highly revered by Napoleon Bonaparte and Pope Paul III who made sure that casks were shipped home.
Maybe it is the olive oil that is the sweet water of Dolceacqua. The silver green leafed olive trees covering the hills produce light yellow oil perfect for fish, wild boar and rabbit dishes typical of the cuisine of Liguria. Beer is also brewed here, and is deep yellow, served very cold in glasses similar to a Bordeaux glass. The beer is a perfect accompaniment to the thin-crusted pizza made in wood fired ovens covered with local dried salumi, porcini, fresh vegetables or shellfish, the best pizza I’ve had in Italy.
Just up the road about 4km is Apricale, one of the” Rock Villages” certified as the most beautiful villages in Italy. Stone houses and alleys lead around the castle housing artist’s workshops and painted murals. Paintings and stone carvings can be seen along the caruggi and doorways decorated with flowers that add color to the grey stone structures.There are a few B&B’s and restaurants in the center of the piazza where there is a washing trough and along the caruggi you can see the old village central oven. The village is also well-known for its summer theater. A local Balu tournament is held in June and July with 16 teams taking part. A popular Ligurian game using an elastic ball is played against the walls of the ancient village. The local players are even more popular then football players.
Sun showers light into the dark covered caruggi during the day lighting the painted and carved murals walls. At night it is the stars that light the ancient village, which seems to sit just below the sky. The villages were owned by the Counts of Ventimiglia, captured by Grimaldi until Andrea Doria liberated them. Apricale even has an American history as Giovanni Battista Martini fought at Little Big Horn and was the only living survivor.
Both Apricale and Dolceacqua belong to the prestigious “Associatione dei Borghi piu belli d’Italia”, (The Association of beautiful villages in Italy) and there is no doubt why many foreigners have bought apartments in appreciation not only of the villages but the life style of the mountains.
Ventimiglia is 7km, San Remo is 14km and the French border is 16km from Dolceacqua making this little village a perfect base for visiting the Alpe Liguri – the backdrop of the Riviera dei fiori is a refuge from the crowded beach towns along the Riviera. There are many apartments for rent by the week or weekend. Renting an apartment offers you the opportunity to experience village life and select some of the local cheeses, salumi, wines, foccica, bread and pastries to enjoy at home. The local merchants are very helpful and always happy to recommend local specialties. French and Italian are mostly spoken here and even though only a few people speak English you can always find ways to communicate with the friendly locals. There is little night life except for the restaurants and a few clubs, yet you are a very short distance to the sea side towns.
Cars are not allowed in the old villages anywhere along the Riviera, so be prepared to walk up hill or steep steps to reach an apartment or B&B. Villages have parking lots; some are free at the entrance of the village. Summer months are crowded with heavy traffic clogging narrow roads through the towns along the sea. The best time to visit the area is in May to Mid June or from September through the fall.
Pizza Verde Dolceaqua
Cook time: 200c (400ºF)
Time: 20-30 minutes
500g flour (1.1.lb)
5 tablespoons extra virgin ‘Taggiasca” olive oil
250gr water (1 1/4 cup)
40gr yeast (1 1/2 oz.)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 whole eggs
750gr chard (1 lb. 10 oz.)
150gr Parmesan cheese (10 1/2 oz.)
1 1/2 onions
Extra virgin olive oil
Black Taggia olives
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and a teaspoon of sugar and allow it to rest in a warm place.
Pour the flour onto a work surface and add the yeast mixture, and salt to the flour. Bring it together into a ball and knead it. Let it rest under a clean cloth, preferable woolen, of a bowl until in a warm place for at least 2 hours.
Take the risen dough and knead a second time until you have soft dough and let it raise again under the cloth for another 2 hours.
Roll it out and put it onto a pan greased with olive oil and let it rest again before covering it with the greens.
Chop the uncooked chard and add the oil, salt, eggs, onion and cheese. Spread the prepared mixture onto the dough and sprinkle olives and whole cloves of garlic over the top. Cook in the oven at 200/300º (400ºF) for 25/30 minutes.
Michetta, The sweet bread of Dolceacqua
The story of michetta:
The Marquis Doria sent a young bride who refused to give herself to him to prison to die. The population of Dolceacqua rose up and forced the Marquis Doria (1364) to stop his abuse of power and on the 16th of August there is a festival to celebrate the event. The women of the village created the “michetta” now the symbol of love and freedom.
1kg flour, (2 lbs 3 oz.)
100g yeast, (3 1/2 oz.)
350g sugar, (13 oz.)
250g butter, ( 9 oz.)
Grated lemon zest,
Warm water and Marsala
Bake time: 200ºc (400ºF). until they puff up and have alight brown color on top.
Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the warm water and add it to the flour. Add the eggs, butter, lemon zest, salt and Marsala. Let the mixture rise for one hour and knead it. Shape it into an oval or knot shape. Place the michette on an oiled baking sheet and bake in the oven at 200ºc (400ºF).
Dampen the tops with a little water and dust with remaining sugar.
The polenta, porcini and truffles and Genovese pesto spaghetti were dishes we had for lunch at Locanda dei Carugi, Via Roma 12/14, Apricale, a small little inn and restaurant – they were excellent.
Torta di Ricotta e Riso
Ricotta is typically made from the whey of mozzarella, provolone, and other cheeses in Italy. It is made from sheep’s, goat, buffalo and cows milk whey. It is a sweeter, dryer cheese then the version made in the US, which is made of cow’s milk. It is lighter and is naturally low in fat. Used in many dishes in Italy such as cassata, biscotti, pizza, and pasta i.e. lasagna and ravioli, Ricotta is the favored cheese in Easter dishes in Italy. Calzone, Pizza Rustico, cassata, torta di riso, cannoli are made in every household on Easter.
Torta di Ricotta e riso is an Easter specialty in my family. Some might call this a calzone or pizzagaina, but we call it a torta or pie. If you are a vegetarian this torta is the original recipe and requires no adjustments as it contains only rice and ricotta. I have added a little lemon zest to the original recipe. This happened by mistake one Easter as I had in my mind another of our Easter recipes and mistakenly add the zest. I really liked it and kept it in my torta recipe. You can use orange zest also, which goes very well with Ricotta. We also make a pizza rustico, ravioli and a torta de formaggio or Italian Ricotta cheesecake.
Torta di Ricotta e Riso makes an impressive luncheon dish.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 30-40 minutes @ 350 degrees
Yield: 4 loaves. 8-2” slices per loaf
7 cups flour
2 eggs (allow them to come to room temperature)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup warm to mix as needed
2 lbs. whole milk ricotta
1 1/2 cups cooked long grain rice
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
Dough in a food processor
Make the dough by mixing the eggs, and flour, baking powder, shortening and salt in a food processor using the dough utensil. Add the water slowly and allow the dough to form a ball. Remove it to a board and knead it for 15 minutes until it becomes smooth. Cover it with plastic wrap or with a clean kitchen towel.
Put the flour on a board and make a well in the middle. Add shortening and salt and baking powder. Put the eggs in the middle and using a folk, begin to bring the flour into the well until you have all the mixture and flour blended into ball. If you need to add water, do so but only a little at a time. Knead and set-aside covered with a cloth or plastic wrap.
Cook the rice for about 20 minutes until done and allow it to cool. While the rice is cooking prepare the ricotta mixture. Mix the ricotta, eggs, and lemon zest (zest is optional) and salt. Combine the rice after it has cooled with the ricotta mixture.
Roll the dough out to a 12”x 8” oblong shape. Place the filling in the middle and fold the dough over the filling in an envelope shape. Crimp the edges by folding the dough over one section at a time starting at one end. Brush with an egg wash (egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water beaten together) and bake until golden brown. Cool before cutting the torta.
My grandparents came from Vieste (FG) Italy. In my quest to learn more about my heritage I went to Vieste and took a cooking program. My husband and I had 4 chefs at a five star hotel to ourselves for a week and learned many traditional dishes made in the village and Gargano. I’ve had many people ask me how to make pizza dough at home. The recipe below was given to me by Chef Marco at the Pizzo Munno Vieste Palace Hotel.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: N/A
Yield: 1 large pizza, 2 medium size pizzas
3 1/2 cups flour 00, reserve 1/2 cup for working the dough
1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup water, tepid
PREPARATION IN A FOOD PROCESSOR
Put the water in a bowl and mix in the yeast and sugar. Place it in a warm place such as the oven and allow it to activate for about 15-20 minutes or until it doubles in size.
Put 3 cups of flour and salt in a mixer with the dough element and pour in the yeast mixture. Process it until it forms a ball. If working it by hand, place it in a bowl and mix the flour and yeast mixture with a wooden spoon or your hands.
Knead the dough lightly and place it in a bowl brushed with the olive oil and cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Place it in a warm place and allow it to rise for at least 1 hour.
Punch the dough down and let it raise for another 1/2 hour covered. You can use as much of the dough as you might need and freeze the rest. When defrosting it, allow the dough to raise again.
Roll out the dough using the reserved flour and you are ready to prepare your pizza, calzone, cheese bread, stromboli etc.
When spreading the dough out, use your hands if you don’t want any air bubbles, use a rolling pin if for a flat crusty crust. I prefer stretching the dough with my thumb and the back of your hand. Use you finger tips to then rotate it on a board stretching it and turning it over a few times.
Most of us don’t have wood burning pizza ovens however; a pizza stone is the best solution for a home oven. You can also use terra cotta tiles, which can be bought in a home supply store. If you do this, purchasse 2 or 3 layers, they will keep the heat in really well and do the trick without spending a lot of money for a pizza stone. It is very important that you buy tiles that have not been made with chemicals.
Spread a medium grind semolina flour on the bottom of the pizza pallet, place the rolled out dough on the board and prepare your pizza. This will allow you to slide it off the board easily onto the tile or stone. flour will also do, but the dough slides off the wood palette more easily with semolina. You can also put parchment paper on the board and slide it onto the stone.
Cook the pizza in a very hot oven at least 500º F or as high as it will go. Put your pizza stone in the oven at least 1 hour until it is hot. If you are grilling it in a fireplace or on a grill, I have found that a metal grate works very well and makes it easy to turn it on the grill. I like this method because it also allows the heat to brown the bottom making it very crispy and gives it a smokey flavor. The coals should be red hot. The cooking time is about 15 to 20 minutes, but this depends on how high the heat is, so keep checking the bottom, it should be brown and crispy.
Don’t be afraid to use whatever you like. Goat cheese, Gorgonzola, Fete cheeses are great as are olives, most vegetables, meats and seafood. Be creative!
You can use fresh tomatoes, or Passate di Pomador0 or just pureed can tomatoes. An Italian home is not complete without a bottle of Passate de Pomadoro in the refrigerator. It is great for flavoring soups and vegetables as well. Some people like to use prepared tomato sauce that has already been flavored, but I really prefer the fresh taste of tomatoes adding the herbs that you prefer. Sprinkle with chopped garlic, oregano or basil, salt and pepper; add whatever you like on the top. Mozzarella is traditionally used layered on the top. Whatever cheese you use, add it a few minutes before the pizza is done. Just long enough so that it melts. This allows everything to cook on top without the crust getting soggy or the cheese overcooking.