For along time the world considered the cuisine of Naples and Campania the true expression of Italian character. Indeed, it was in Naples that dishes such as Macaroni in tomato sauce, spaghetti vongole (spaghetti with clams) and pizza were invented. Since the days of ancient Rome, the term cene capuane (Capuan Dinners) has been synonymous with extravagant, well stocked, banquets. Goethe visited Naples in 1787, and wrote -
"There is no season when one is not surrounded on all sides by victuals. The Neapolitan not only enjoys his food, but insists that it be attractively displayed for sale. In Santa Lucia the fish are placed on a layer of green leaves, and each category - rock lobsters, oysters, clams and small mussels - has a clean, pretty basket itself. Bu nothing is more carefully planned than the displays of meat, which since their appetite is stimulated by the periodic fast day, is particularly converted by the common people.
In the butchers stalls, quarters of beef, veal or mutton are never hung up without having the unfatty parts of the flanks and legs heavily gilded.
Several days a year and especially at Christmas the Neapolitan's are famous for their orgies of gluttony and feasting. At such times a general cocagna (cuccagna, feast) is celebrated in which around five hundred thousand people try to out-do each other. The Toledo and other streets and squares are decorated most appetisingly; vegetables, raisins, melons and figs are piled high in their stalls; huge paternosters of gilded sausages, tied with red ribbons, and capons with little red flags stuck in their rumps are suspended in festoons across the streets overhead. I was assured that, not counting those which people had fattened in their own homes, thirty thousand of them had been sold. Crowds of donkeys laden with vegetables, capons and young lambs are driven to market, and never in my life have I seen so many eggs in one pile as I have seen here in several places.
Not only is all this eaten, but every year a policeman, accompanied by a trumpeter, rides through the city and announces in every square and at every crossroad how many thousand oxen, calves, lambs, pigs, etc .., the Neapolitans have consumed".
The regions terrain is extremely fertile. The outdoor life, regardless of the weather, is one of the genuine pleasures of the region. The climate is considered ideal, mild in winter and not too hot in summer, with a steady, pleasant breeze throughout the year. The regions natural landscape is breathtaking and the region is a paradise for tourists, and has one of the most beautiful coastlines in all of Italy, the Amalfi coast.
The harvests of Campania is so plentiful it supplies not one but two major cities, Rome and Naples. Before unification Naples was the capital of the kingdom, but suffered many drawbacks. One of Naples biggest problems was the turbulent Neapolitan crime scene, which was known throughout the world. Even today Naples has high-levels of unemployment as the city has never, and some may say still doesn't, have any industries.
Two one side of the region sits Versuvius and on the other sits Pompeii, both serving as a constant reminder of the fragility of the region. The soil is saturated with volcanic lava, a constant reminder of the great historical disaster, but it also contains a natural rich fertiliser, seaweed. On this rich, fertile land, flavourful vegetables, fruits are grown close to the sea and the volcano. The regions most famous produce being its artichokes, apricots, apples, white figs and the most incredible lemons in all of Italy. Another famous product of Campania has know achieved worldwide fame, the tomatoes of San Marzano. It was in Campania that tomatoes began to be cultivated sooner than elsewhere in Europe, and Naples has created many signature dishes using these wonderful tomatoes, everything here is drizzled in tomato sauce. The fruit of Campania constitutes a third of all Italian fruit production. In addition, durum wheat, the essential ingredient for dried pasta, is grown here.
Campania also specialises in buffalo breeding. Up until recently there was a marshy strip that ran between Rome and Naples. This swampy area was drained under the instruction of Mussolini, but until then I was impossible for any livestock to graze on this land, so the inhabitants raised buffaloes, instead of conventional cattle, which happily grazed on these flooded wetlands, as buffaloes thrive in wet environments. As a result there is no cows milk used in Campania, only buffalo milk. Although raw buffalo milk is not as good as cows milk, it is great for the regions, possibly Italy's, most famous cheese Mozzarella. Everything concerned with the production of mozzarella di bufala is, of course, closely regulated from its process, it's recipe and is weight. the ciliegine (cherries) are little balls of mozzarella weighing no more than 25 grams. The bocconcini (little morsels) are balls of no more than 50 grams and aversana are the very large balls weighing no less than 500 grams. According to widespread conviction throughout Campania that mozzarella should be eaten immediately on the day it is made and can not be stored or transported. But since mozzarella lovers live all over the world a way of satisfy this demand had to be found. The method found was to seal fresh mozzarella in airtight plastic bags or containers containing a little of the brine that the mozzarella was pulled in. Now today, good quality, massed produced mozzarella can be found all over the world, but in truth this is not really true bufala di Campania and, as anyone from the region of Campania will tell you, never tastes as good. We all know fresh mozzarella should be eaten as quickly as possible, preferably on the day of purchase. To prolong its life a little, mozzarella (well provola, the most solid variety of mozzarella) can be smoked, which gives it a dark brown coating, while the centre remains bright and white. Mozzarella also dominates the cuisine of Capri, since life on the island is considered the height of earthly luxury, no one their should spend hours slaving over the stove. Thus the cuisine of Capri is light and quick to prepare. Mozzarella balls and tomatoes are cut into large rounds and arranged on a plate with salt, black pepper, black olives, basil and drizzled with olive oil. This insalata caprese (caprese salad) is lunch, dinner and side dish here.
After the reclamation of its marshlands, Campania acquired many new arable lands, ready to be planted with wheat and vegetables. The channels which once acted as drains for the marshes new are used as irrigation channels. It is thought that the best dry pasta in all of Italy, and possibly the world, is made in Amalfi. This is due to the high-quality durum wheat and readily available, mineral rich, freshwater. The pasta in Campania, mainly long pasta, are usually served with shellfish or simple tomato sauce (pummarola) or, traditionally in Naples, baked in the oven.
Naples was also the birthplace of possibly the most famous Italian dish in the world, pizza. In 1889 Raffaele Esposito, the owner of Brandi in Naples, created the patriotic tricolour pizza (tomato, mozzarella and basil) and named in after Margherita of Savoy. Pizza had been around in one form or another since ancient Greek and ancient Roman times, but it was the Neapolitan's that took the idea of pizza and turned it into what we know today.
The sea supplies Campania with a bounty of fish, mollusks, shrimps and crabs, however, the islands of Capri, Ischia and the other islands around the Gulf of Naples have a far less maritime based cuisine than the rest of the region. The islanders favour rabbit as the mainstay of their cuisine.
Desserts have a great importance in the cuisine of the Campania. This passion for desserts can be traced back to the regions ancient conquerors, the Bourbons and Austrians. The region is known for its pastries and cookies many of which are traditionally eaten around Christmas.
The Wines Of Campania
As with most of Italy's wine producing regions, it was the Ancient Romans that realised Campania's ideal climate and conditions for wine making, but nowadays Campania's wine production is rarely recognised outside the region and beyond the tourist centres of Amalfi, Naples, Ischia and Capri, Campania itself is a very impoverished region. In terms of wine production Campania can boast 27 DOC, DOCG and IGT wines, but you a true sense of it's significance when you know that these classified wines only account for 5% of the regions total wine production. In actual fact, some of these marks of origin only produce between 13,000 and 16,000 gallons of wine per year. Capri only produces 6340 gallons of wine per year, compare that in terms with Australia and it wouldn't fill a stainless steel storage tank. So it should come as no surprise that names such as Capri Flegrei, Cilento Falerno, Galuccio, Guardiolo, Sannio, or even Salopaca are hardly known outside the region itself (click here to find out more about The Wines Of Campania ).
Typical Dishes Of Campania
Sartu - a ring mould of rice, giblets and mushrooms with peas and mozzarella.
Pasta with broccoli.
Spaghetti alla vongole - spaghetti with clams.
Pasta puttanesca - pasta with a sauce made of tomatoes, olives, capers and anchovies.
Paccheri - ribbed pasta (like rigatoni) served in tomato sauce.
Macaroni timbale - with hard boiled eggs, meatballs and aubergine.
Frittata - made with pasta and black olives.
Boiled anchovies with oil, garlic and lemon.
Roasted young goats head served with soft, crust less bread.
Minestra maritata - (married soup) a made by "marrying together" meat and vegetables.
Spigola all'acqua pazza - fish soup with three handfuls of barely ground pepper.
Marinated zucchini with mint.
Calzone - folded pizza.
Mozzarella in carrozza - mozzarella, breadcrumbed and fried.