Reggio Calabria and its territory
Reggio Calabria and its territory corresponds to the southern part of the region. The city is situated twenty-nine metres above sea-level, on the slopes of the eastern border of the straits of Messina which have always been a political and economic boundary. The province contains the high massif of the Aspromonte which breaks down into two slopes to the Ionian and Tyrrheanian coastlines across an unbroken series of hills and terraces. It is essentially an agricultural area noted for its production of olive oil, wine and citrus fruits.
It is the part of our peninsula which is closest to Sicily, the influence of which can be noted in some of the local dishes, particularly desserts.
One special feature of this area comes from the fact although the development of the coastline would lead one to understand the importance of fish, meats are a fundamental product, pork especially together with lamb, kid and wild boar. The ‘mursiellu’, a popular dish, is composed of various offals, to be cooked slowly with the addition of ribs and lean meat followed by tomatoes, fat bacon and Mediterranean herbs. A point to note: it is not a dish in itself, but should be stuffed into a ‘pitta’, the name of which recalls an ancient flat bread imported from Greece.
There are many well liked spicy sausages and salamis, all made from pork, the foremost being pancetta, which is used in the preparation of a number of dishes. Also to be remembered are the capocollo (a type of cured ham), the soppressata (a type of salami) and the sausages which are included in many recipes and which are often cooked in a pan with tomatoes.
Amongst fish dishes, the ‘mustica’ is particularly noteworthy, a special preserve of anchovy fry – the ‘whitebait’ from Liguria. This dish is a speciality typical of the Ionian coast. The ‘whitebait’ provide the main ingredient – the young anchovy which feature in the gastronomic repertory of many Italian regions. It is prepared by the Calabrians in a particular fashion, first of all laying them out on a wooden table in the sun, covering them with powdered chilli peppers and then, when dry, putting them into glass bottles and immersing in olive oil. The ‘mustica’ is also known as ‘rosamarina’ and can usually be found in delicatessens and food shops throughout the region. ‘Mustica’ is a spicy hors d’oeuvres which is eaten spread on slices of toast.
There is a very considerable range of desserts, the area having acquired many Sicilian traditional recipes. One old recipe which they follow is the ‘turtiddi’, reminiscent of the Sicilian ‘cicerchiata’ . The ingredients are: five hundred grams of white flour, one hundred and fifty grams of honey, one hundred and twenty five grams of olive oil, one quarter litre of Moscato wine, powdered cinnamon, an orange and oil for frying. To prepare, the recipe suggests putting the flour on a platter and making a dough with the olive oil, wine, a pinch of cinnamon and grated orange peel. The dough must be smooth and soft. Make a cylinder about three centimetres in diameter, cut into pieces and press onto a grater then fry the large gnocchi in boiling oil. Meanwhile, put the honey and the orange juice in a pan, heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the honey has melted. Pour the boiling honey over the fried ‘turtiddi’, lift out with a fork and serve hot on a plate.