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The Cooking and Cuisine of the Veneto


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For February we'll be covering the region of the Veneto. As when we covered Lazio and Campania, most cookbook literature available in the U.S. at least is dominated by its best-known city, Venice.

A number of the eating guides to Italy I've read lament at how hard it is to find truly Venetian food anymore as the city has become more and more dominated by tourist-friendly locales. And that's too bad, since Venetian food certainly has an appeal to it. We went there for our honeymoon and I spent most of my efforts researching ideal places. We went to al Covo, which judging by the Venice thread stickied at the top of the Italy page isn't too well thought of, but it was everything I find appealing about Venetian food. We started with a platter of steamed shellfish, continued with a pasta with cannocce (mantis shrimp) and gnocchi with baby mullets, and finished with fried fish. The next night we wandered into the far eastern section of the city (if you go into the peripheries of the city the restaraunts seems to get more strictly local) and ate at some humble trattoria, again serving good, honest seafood dishes. There's a strange interplay of elegance and yet simplicity to Venetian food that I really enjoy.

And of course, one great food tradition in Venice is cicchetti(sp?); snack type food usually eaten standing up with a small glass of wine (ombra). One great place to experience this is at Cantina do Mori, a 500 year old wine bar near the Rialto market, but numerous bars all over the city specialize in them. I particularly enjoy the seafood versions. Another fun place was Bar da Fiore (no relation to the famous Osteria da Fiore that I know of) where we had a platter of shrimp the size of your thumbnail, tossed in hot oil, shell, head and all, that you then ate whole.

But outside Venice there's alot of great eating to be had in the Veneto. Once you get inland, away from the sea, the food of the hill and mountain towns becomes more hearty and rib-sticking again, with polenta and gnocchi playing a key staple. Verona is known for its gnocchi, as well as a vast repetoire of dishes based on horsemeat. Wild fowl, particularly duck, plays a role in a number of dishes in the region. Bigoli are a rough, thick homemade spaghetti, usually made from wheat flour, that are laboriously extruded through a special tool used only for that purpose (although Mario Batali has made them with the meat grinder attachment of the KitchenAid mixer, which I may give a try). Radicchio is eaten with relish here, with varieties all named after cities they are grown in or near: Treviso, Verona, etc.

Cookbook resources are not terribly plentiful. A search for "Veneto" on Amazon only turns up one book, but a search for Venice yields more, usually with other regions of the Veneto thrown in.

Chow Venice: Savoring the Food and Wine of La Serenissima, by Shannon Essa and Ruth Edenbaum

Food of Venice, The: Authentic Recipes from the City of Romance by Luigi Veronelli and Luca Invernizzi Tettoni

Veneto : Authentic Recipes from Venice and the Italian Northeast by Julia della Croce

The Da Fiore Cookbook: Recipes from Venice's Best Restaurant by Damiano Martin

The Cooking of Venice and the North-East

The Cuisine of Venice and Surrounding Northern Regions by Hedy Giusti-Lanham

LA Cucina Veneziana: The Food and Cooking of Venice by Gino Santin and Anthony Blake

Harry's Bar Cookbook by Harry Cipriani

I have the Veneto book by della Croce, the food of Venice by Veronelli, and the da Fiore cookbook. I really enjoy the da Fiore book; it is beautiful to look at and has a number of enticing recipes. The Food of Venice presents a nice survey of the best dishes of its local restaurants. Della Croce's book is notable since it does span the other cities of the Veneto beyond just Venice, although a couple other books I listed above look like they do the same.

I really like the cooking of this region; it frequently gets unfairly overlooked or underestimated. Hope we all have fun this month.

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Thank you for the introduction, Kevin! You know, it just dawned on me that you chose the month of Carnevale for Venice!

Both Hathor and I checked into the city a little early with sardines, stuffed Venetian style with anchovies, breadcrumbs and herbs.

With Sardegna, Sicily and now Venice, I have eaten a lot of sardines this year...

N.B. the link to the recipes on the site I've added seems to be broken. For now, there is merely "background" information, but I hope that will change.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Ah, the legendary en saor preparations of Venice. Of course, the version with sole is perfectly good. However, for a different take, there's a version in the da Fiore cookbook that uses citrus as its sour basis instead of vinegar. I really liked it and it almost seemed Asian in some ways.

There's also, ahem, my own concoction that I really like using shrimp instead of fish.

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Fried olives and a glass of simple, crisp white wine...

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Fegato alla veneziana... doesn't that sound better than liver and onions? :huh:

Sounds only slightly better.. this dinner was basically a present for my husband who loves offal.. I don't ... At least I got the kick out of it to be able to contribute something to this thread!


Edited by Chufi (log)
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Question: any showstopping Veneto-desserts I should know about? I'm still looking for dessert for my husbands birthday dinner in a couple of weeks. It will follow lasagna!

Tiramisu is claimed to have been invented here, though Lombardia, Piemonte, and Rome also make the same claim. I'll root through my books and see what I find.

While I'm with you on not being too keen on liver and onions, I'll bet the smell of it cooking was amazing.

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Question: any showstopping Veneto-desserts I should know about? I'm still looking for dessert for my husbands birthday dinner in a couple of weeks. It will follow lasagna!

I'm not sure it would fit what you are thinking of for a birthday celebration dessert but I remember having wonderful scroppino in Venice in the summertime. It's basically an "alcoholic smoothie" blend of lemon sorbet, prosecco and vodka.

One could serve them with "Zaletti" or Venetian cornmeal diamond cookies. I've made the cookies and and served them with sorbet or ice cream.. The zaletti I've made have some grappa, raisins and lemon peel in them in addition to the base ingredients of flour, cornmeal, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.

I've served lemon sorbet with vodka but have not made scroppino, persay. Here is a recipe I found on-line that also adds a little cream to the mix. click

The other pastry-like dish I've read about from Venice are their Carnivale fritters.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Question: any showstopping Veneto-desserts I should know about? I'm still looking for dessert for my husbands birthday dinner in a couple of weeks. It will follow lasagna!

I cannot think of any of them that is really a classic for birthdays:

Torta Nicolotta, that would be with stale bread

Torta fregolotta, similar to sbrisolona

Torta putana (yes, with one t), with polenta, raisins, apples, sometimes squash

Torta sabbiosa (sandy), this is very good but to me it is more a tea cake

Torta di paparele, this one is interesting. Paparele are fresh pasta tagliolini...possible ottoman influence through Venice. There is something similar also in Emilia: torta ricciolina.

Or maybe you could use pandoro as layers for a dessert :huh:

After lasagne I would make zuppa inglese!

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Saturday's inaugural meal was a "let the market dictate" affair, with me going to our Central Market with Venetian themes in mind but then picking out the specific ingredients based on availability.

Spaghetti with crab:


The main was baked "rock cod" (?) with potatoes and jerusalem artichokes:


I've made up a tentative list of ideas for meals this month and just now realized that they're all Venetian and so don't really branch out to other areas of the Veneto, my opening post in the thread notwithstanding.

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The crab with pasta to me sounds so Venetian and looks divine Kevin. I've been waiting all year (well more than a year actually) to try my hand at makign Bigoli with duck ragu from Batali's book using whole wheat and a meat grinder. So, that is my pledge for this month.

Also, I could not find any specific Venetian bread to make in my books. any ideas?

Definitly a risotto or 2 and some polenta preparations.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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No bread recipes to report, but FYI, I have a recipe for a carrot cake (torta carotina).

Anna del Conte also has a recipe for Pancotto Veneziano, a bread soup in which she merely indicates the loaf should be white, "country-type". She also laments the fact that foreigners all know the Tuscan pappa col pomodoro, but not this tomato-less version with a good stock, garlic, pine nuts and eggs, flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon & Parmesan. Except for the lack of lemon zest, the flavors remind me of a certain risotto from Le Marche.

* * *

Kevin: spaghetti looks REALLY good. Why qualify "rock cod"? Substitution?

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Kevin, I agree with the others, you spaghetti look very good.

Curiosity. Do you know how jerusalem artichokes are called in Italian? Tobinambur, I don't know where the name comes from.

Foodman, I have in my hands the Slow Food edition for "pani d'Italia".

I'll copy the list for Veneto:

Bibanesi (short breadsticks)

Bossolai (from Chioggia, kind of taralli)

ciòpa, very typical from the region. Belongs to the category of "pane a pasta dura", low hydratation bread, around 40% water.

Montasu', like ciopa is a pasta dura bread, you will find it also in Emilia. I have a recipe for it if you are interested. I don't have a direct link, but if you want to see how it is shaped, go on www.glutine.com look for pane bolognese, at the end of the page there are instruction on how to shape montasu'.

pan biscotto

pane al mais

pane azzimo (due to the jews presence in Venice)

piava (from Padova)

Puccia (different than the southerner version. This is a 70% rye flour, has caraway and fennel seeds in it, plus a wild oregano of the area around belluno called zigoinr) Servede with cheese and salumi up in the montains.

rosetta (but you find it all over the place and impossible to make at home)


Edited by Franci (log)
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Thanks for the compliments, everyone.

I qualified "rock cod" because I'd never seen it before and I wonder if it's one of those marketing names capitalizing on the seeming popularity of cod right now. Several years back when everything was being designated "snapper" I ran across "rock snapper" which was of similar flavor and texture, so I wonder if they're the same thing. Where's Adam Balic, when you need him, dammit?!

FM, I had the same observation about a lack of Veneto breads a few years back when I covered the region. I ultimately made "rossette Veneziana" from Field's book. They were dinner rolls, but I made a full-sized loaf that way.

Franci, I think the topinambur name may come from the variety of sunflower the 'chokes derive from. I'm more curious how "Jerusalem" got in there.

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Thanks guys, I know where the tuberous comes from. It's the origin of the name that I am not sure.

I took my books on regional cooking here some classical dishes that might inspire


Bigoli: with molluschi (shellfish), with granseola (crab), with duck, with sardelle (with sardines), scuri in salsa

brodetto polesano (it's a fish soup)

Liver canederli from Ampezzo

Casonsei ampezzani (ravioli with redbeats and poppy seeds)

gnocchi di zucca

malafanti (a polenta with beans)

Paparele con fegatini or with green beans

Polenta: with bisato (eel), with sucui (zucchini), with shrimps (often used white polenta with fish), with baccala', with cuttlefish, with porcini.

Risi e bisi,

Risi in cavroman

Riso e zucca

riso in peverada

risotto with asparagus

Risotto with radicchio di treviso

risotto with bruscandoli (here for a picture, they are the tip of the hop)

risotto with atichokes

Risotto al Tastasal

Risotto all'isolana

Risotto alla pilota

Risotto with frogs

Sopa coada



Anara col pien (stuffed duck)

Baccala' alla vicentina

Bollito con la peara' (with a sauce with marrow bone and breadcrumbs)

El Bisato sull'Ara (bisato is eel, anguilla)

Capesante gratinate (scallops)

Cappone alla canevera (basically the capon is cooked in pork bladder and a "canevera" a cane is used as vent)

Capriolo braised



faraona in peverada (pheasant in peverada sauce)

stuffed faraona

Fegato alla veneziana

Moleche col pien (softshell crabs, stuffe)

Pastissada de caval (it's a horse meat stew, I'd be very happy finding the horse meat..)

Pit in tecia (it's chicken cooked in tecia=terracotta pot)

Roasted chicken with beans

Rognone (kidney with mushrooms)

Seppie alla veneziana (cuttlefish)

torresani (colombo)

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Curiosity. Do you know how jerusalem artichokes are called in Italian? Tobinambur, I don't know where the name comes from.

I've heared that the name "Topinambur" is derived from the brasilian indians "Tupinamba".

H.B. aka "Legourmet"

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Question: any showstopping Veneto-desserts I should know about? I'm still looking for dessert for my husbands birthday dinner in a couple of weeks. It will follow lasagna!

Something light and fluffy would fit "Zabaione al caffè"

H.B. aka "Legourmet"

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Polenta: with bisato (eel), with sucui (zucchini), with shrimps (often used white polenta with fish), with baccala', with cuttlefish, with porcini.

Thanks for the fabulous list, Franci!

Since the regulars are so seasoned here and finding recipes for Venice presents far less of a challenge than the less familiar region we glanced at in January (really, I think the weather right now in much of N. America might have nudged us a little more quickly into the world of sauerkraut, sausage and bread balls), I will forgo linking any more sites that contain recipes.

One thing I will recommend, though, is eating a strawberry or two in homage to Death in Venice and maybe renting Visconti's movie since it is available on DVD.

Franci, the reason I quoted this particular line is the fact that I have both zucchini and a new supply of polenta at home. I found nothing online using the spelling of zucchini offered here. Would you happen to know what Venetians do to zucchini when they're served with polenta?

Is this actually a vegetarian main dish? Or do you you serve something with protein on the same plate? :blink:

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I've heared that the name "Topinambur" is derived from the brasilian indians "Tupinamba".

They are called "topinambourg" even in France.

True, the name comes from the name of a tribe in a brazilian island, called "Topinamboux". A group of natives arrived in Paris, when Queen Maria de Medici was ruling (with her son Louis XIII). At the same time large quantities of this tuber arrived on the Paris markets, and people thought it came from the same brazilian Island.

Infact the "Topinambourg" was first discovered in 1605 on Cape Cod and it was coming from North America


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A little Veneto history and region breakdown.

After the relative austerity of Trentino Alto Adige, rip open your cabinets, gather up your spices, butter up your fishmonger, get the spit ready for some birdies, and open a bottle of Amarone. We are wallowing in an abundance of ingredients!

The Veneto reaches up into the Alps, and then spreads the hem of her skirts along the Adriatic, beguiling and bewitching with its lagunas and estuaries, refreshed by the Po and Adige rivers and various lakes. The Veneto is divided into seven provinces: Venice, Verona, Vicenza, Padua, Treviso, Belluno and Rovigo. It’s the number one tourist destination in Italy. And the capital of the Veneto is that most amazing of cities, a floating fantasy, a folly, a magical apparition: Venice. gallery_14010_2363_34961.jpg

The Veneto cuisine runs the gamut from the simple mountain cuisine of Belluno to the celebrated dishes of Venezia and Verona. Spices, or more practically speaking, the trading of spices, was very important to Venice. Pepper was particularly prized, as a spice and preservative, it was sometimes used as part of a dowry or as in inheritance.


As in common where there is a dominant city with royalty and an upper class, there will be two distinct styles of cooking: the elaborate, highly spiced cuisine and the humble food of the peasant. Venice is certainly no exception, especially where the use of spices granted you the status of a rich man.

One dish that is always mentioned as the signature dish of Venice is: risi i bisi. A humble origin dish, that transcends to the sublime when the peas are fresh and shelled moments before mingling with the rice. What is interesting is that in the Veneto, rice and polenta figure more prominently than pasta. Aside from the famous risi i bisi, which is somewhere between a soup and a risotto; rice is combined with myriad ingredients including, but certainly not confined to: cabbage, broccoli, celery, tomato, and sausages for an infinitive variety of soups.

The pasta exception is bigoli, which is an extruded pasta. This pasta combines soft and hard wheat and eggs, making an exceptionally firm pasta which is too strong to be rolled and pressed in the regular manner, so a torchio, or press, with various sized perforated plates is used. Older versions of the torchio had a little bench to help give you some leverage to turn the screw of the press. gallery_14010_2363_95652.jpgTraditionally the bigoli is served with a variety of sauces, including a simple sardine or anchovy sauce, or a richer duck sauce.

In older texts, there is frequent mention of “la zuca baruca”, a magnificent yellow squash, that is cooked in the oven and then sold on the streets. Does anyone know if this still happens?

Fish and shellfish come in seemingly endless varieties in Venice. The lagoons being a very benevolent place to breed all sorts of goodies: scampi, crabs, ray, branzino, sole, anchovies. Fish in the Veneto is cooked in primarily two ways: roasted or fried. And yet, with all this abundance, the Veneziani (?) are particularly fond of baccala (salt preserved cod fish) or stoccafisso (air dried cod fish). Pay attention here; some recipes use the two words interchangeably, but they produce different results. In Italy, it is more difficult to find stoccafisso outside of the Veneto and le Marche than it is to find the traditional baccala. “Baccal mantecato” is often mentioned with particular fondness, and it seems to be a dead ringer for the French brandade de morue: cod, potatoes and garlic are emulsified into a sort of pudding. Now, I’m not going to debate the origins of this dish, because even the Spaniards lay claim to inventing it!

Another typical Venezia flavor combination is ‘in saor’, which is a sort of sweet/sour flavor, with the sweet coming from sweet onions, and the sour coming from vinegar. In the winter months, raisins and pine nuts are commonly added. A classic recipe: “Sardines in Saor”, is wonderful, only coming to full flavor after about 5 days of being submerged in a pile of onions, raisins, and pine nuts.

Although meat is not a prominent feature of the Venezia diet, “fegato alla Veneziana’ is a prized dish. This dish uses veal liver, thinly sliced and cooked in a combination of olive oil and butter, onions and parsley. “Agnello alla Veneziana” calls for lamb shoulder combined with butter and milk and roasted. “Langue alla Veneziana” is a beef tongue dish, served cold and thinly sliced as an antipasto dish.

Throughout the Veneto, courtyard animals are eaten, frequently roasted on a spit, and game birds are also prized. There are wonderful descriptions of spit roasted quail, wrapped in pancetta, with juices caught in a pan and then served on either a bed of beans or polenta.

My trusty 1931 “Guida” lists the following breads as coming from Venezia, but it lacks any sort of description of the bread itself: “ciope”, “rosete”, “pan Tedesco” “montasu” and “saltimpanza”, which is descriped as bread made from milk and used for soup. Obviously, further research is required!


The cuisine is described as being very similar to Venezia. Rice and polenta play an important role, along with fresh made taglatelle and lasagne, and dried bigoli. Prized for its delicate, almost sweet white meat is the Padova hen. Reading older recipes, it seems that the Padova people were also fond of confit of goose, duck and chicken. It is described as “oca in onto”, goose meat preserved under fat, which sounds like confit to me.


Verona is said to have the oldest vegetable market in the country, which would be quite amazing if it could be proved, or if it was true! In Verona, meat plays a large role, with dishes such as “riso efigadini: a risotto made with chicken, beef, chicken liver, and sausage. “Peperat” or “peara`” is a typical dish of boiled meat combining breadcrumbs, ox bone marrow, abundant black pepper cooked in an earthenware pot over a slow flame.

The Veronese (?) are particularly fond of gnocchi made from potatoes and flour. An old tradition on the last Friday of Carnevale involves a parade of people dressed in 14th century costumes and is presided over by the “Father of the Gnoccho”.


The cuisine of the Rovigo province is described as simple and modest. Here various meats are roasted, snails are cooked with onions and river fish are prized. A particularly good sounding recipe for guinea hen calls for the bird to be stuffed with a clove studded onion, and cooked in a pot with oil, butter, pepper and onions.


This province is simple Alpine cuisine. Descriptions of various soups reveal the poverty that must have existed in this region: simple potato soup, orzo with milk, flour which has been fried in fat and then served in salted water, breadcrumb soup. Frequently milk is used as the basis for the soup instead of meat based broths. Polenta is a substituted for bread. Game birds figure prominently, along with other fruits of the woods: nuts, chestnuts, and berries.

One of Belluno’s most prized products is the “Lamon bean”, which appears to have been brought from Spain in the 16th century and currently has a consortium dedicated to developing and promoting this bean.


By far, Treviso biggest claim to fame is the red raddiccho that shows up at the end of November and is available at the market until February. The Treviso radicchio is the first Italian vegetable to gain IGP (Indicazione di Origine Protetta) status. The growth and ‘curing’ process of the radicchio is quite complicated. In mid-November, mature chicory plants are harvested, with their long root intact. The plants are gathered into bunches and placed into deep trenches that are covered by plastic. The plants are then removed, all decayed leaves are removed and the plant is put into a vat of cool, running water. After 2 weeks of forcing, a sprout will have formed and the plants are transferred to a warm and humid environment to continue growing. Once again the large outer leaves are removed, the root is trimmed, it is treated to another cold water bath and finally the radicchio is ready for market. This radicchio is highly prized and can be served both raw and cooked.

The area is also well known for splendid fruits and vegetables, including wonderful peaches and the “Asaparagi delle Rive”.


This province may have the most varied ingredients: lamb, beef, pork, chickens, ducks, game birds, fresh water fish and many types of fruits and vegetables.

One particularly prized vegetable is the white asparagus of Bassano del Grappa, which recently acquired DOC status. The asparagus is grown under the earth, must be completely white, although a tinge of pink is permitted, absolutely no green must be present. They are huge asparagus, about the size of a large Cuban cigar, but incredibly tender and delicious. gallery_14010_2363_934.jpg

So, although Venice dominates the Veneto, there is a cornucopia of ingredients and recipes to keep us entertained and stimulated this month. And what good fortune! This month is Carnevale…so men: get your wigs and tights out; ladies: start practicing walking sidways thru doorways (and don’t plan on eating anything…or breathing…until you get that d*mn corset off!!). gallery_14010_2363_118154.jpg


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