When most of Europe and the northern hemisphere celebrates Labour Day or May Day, in Abruzzo there is a wonderful food tradition each May 1, in a little corner in the north of the region. If you are visiting the northern province of Teramo in Abruzzo this spring then be sure to be there on the 1st May when an ancient food tradition will be featured all over the province.

Traditionally this time in May marks the end of the winter and the promise of spring. Food wise it was when the bare winter cupboards and pantry were emptied of what could be found and added with some greens of springtime. Hence the dish

“Le Virtu” (The Virtues) was created – a thick and hearty soup or ‘minestra’. It is a wonderful healthy and robust mix of dried legumes and beans, odd bits of dried pasta in varying shapes and lengths, some pieces of fresh or cured meats as well as fresh herbs and wild greens.

Every family in the province of Teramo had their own personal recipe and way of making it with what they had, so it was truly a peasant dish of the poor, known as ‘la cucina povera’. Today though, this type of cooking is appreciated again and has risen in it’s culinary heights and can be found in many restaurants in Abruzzo.

Le Virtu' a typical spring dish in Abruzzo
Le Virtu’ a typical spring dish in Abruzzo  (Photo from www.eventiteramo.it)

The variety of ingredients that were used led to great creativity in the kitchen. For example any of these typical fresh greens or foraged wild greens could be included, such as: wild chicory, wild asparagus, dandelion, silverbeet, spinach, artichokes, endive and borage. Legumes could be anything from lentils, borlotti beans, cannellini beans, chick peas, to fresh peas and broad beans of the season. Even the pasta could be a blend of dried pasta and some fresh pasta.

To flavour the VIRTU‘ dish many fresh herbs can be used such as sage, marjoram, thyme, celery, parsley, wild mint, wild fennel, dill and spices included pepper and nutmeg.

Wild Asparagus in Abruzzo
Wild Asparagus in Abruzzo

 

It is truly a feast for the senses!

On your next Italy vacation, tour more of Italy and a visit to Abruzzo is a must on your Italy tour programme where you can discover this seasonal celebration and other great traditional dishes.

If you want to try making this dish here is the recipe from Bon Appetit 

Well BUON APPETITO to you!