The Cooks’ Alliance flies the flag for herders and mountain Presidia

27 July 2021

The series of Taste Workshops at Cheese includes a new category: ten events where the protagonists are members of the Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance who present dishes made with one or more Presidium cheeses from their local areas or the meats of local breeds.

A tour of Italy – with a brief tour to Swiss Alps – to discover mountain pastures and refuges, smell the perfume of the meadows and taste the quality of their dairy products, thanks to the hard-working ambassadors of these lands who transform these resources into cuisine.

Today we take you one by one through the Workshops on offer to explore the wonderful worlds the Cooks’ Alliance is bringing to Bra.

The Cooks’ Alliance and Alpine Pastures

Pasture Silter cheese Lombardy Presidium Taste Workshops
Silter PDO, Slow Food Presidium, Lombardy. Photo: Valerie Ganio Vecchiolino

Local sheep breeds of Veneto

On Friday, September 17, Giovanni Caltagirone of the 13 comuni restaurant presents pasture-raised local sheep breed meet from the highlands of Veneto. He’s worked for years on the recovery of the Brogna Sheep, a Slow Food Presidium. It’s a sheep that’s been part of Giovanni’s life since his earliest memories of searching for mushrooms in the mountains and buying eggs from local farmers. Among the barnyard animals there were Brogna sheep, a rustic breed that can survive on little. In this workshop we’ll explore the nutritional and sensory characteristics of their meats, and the aromas and flavors of pastures.

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Piedmont and Trentino: the cuisine of mountain refuges

On Saturday, September 18, we have a double-barreled tasting dedicated to the mountain cuisine of Piedmont and Trentino Alto Adige. On one side, from Piedmont, we have the Paraloup Refuge of Rittana, in the Stura Valley. This is where cook Valeria Morichi and herder Gian Vittorio Porasso have established their pact with pastures, milk and goat cheese, and a cuisine that’s closely tied to the local area. On the other side, from Trentino, we have the Maranza Refuge, in the mountains above Trento. The cook, Paolo Betti, offers typical products of the Trentino pastures: Lagorai Mountain Cheese, Slow Food Presidium, produced from June to September from the milk of Gray Alpine, Brown Alpine and Pezzata Rossa cows; ravioli stuffed with raw milk casòlet, and served with Primiero Mountain Botiro, both Slow Food Presidia. The Maranza Refuge is an enchanting spot where Paolo and his team cultivate six hectares of land to grow the vegetables uses in the kitchen.

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Butter traditions in Piedmont and Tuscany

On September 19 Piedmont meets Tuscany to discuss their traditions relating to butter, thanks to Marta Foglio of Foodopia in Biella and Cristian Borchi of the Antica Porta di Levante in Vicchio. For Marta, butter is the expression of a specific breed, the Pezzata Rossa d’Oropa cattle, which is small, tenacious and particularly well-suited to alpine pastures. Its milke is used to make Upper Elvo Raw Milk Butter, Slow Food Presidium, which you’ll taste in its pure form, scented with mountain thyme. The Tuscan side of the tasting is composed of an ancient grain pasta with butter and Massese lemon; bread, butter and marmalade.

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Great Presidia of Lombardy

The protagonists in this tasting are three Presidia from the mountains of Lombardy. The first is Saviore Valley Fatuli, whose name in dialect means “a small piece”; it’s a rare and unusual goat cheese, still made by a handful of cheesemakers with raw milk from a breed native to the area, the Bionda dell’Adamello. The second is a rhododendron honey that – together with fir tree and wildflower honey – are part of the Alpine High Mountain Honeys Presidium, made by bees who gather pollen over 1400 meters above sea level. The third is Silter PDO, made with milk from summer pastures. It has a hard texture, with little springiness, slightly crumbly and sometimes with uniform, small-to-medium eyes. You’ll taste it here in a casserole with pumpkin, porcini mushrooms, beetroot wafers and extra virgin olive oil from Valcamonica. 

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From the Italian to the Swiss Alps

On September 18 we hear about the experience of Giovanni Melis, Sardinian-born, Swiss-based chef and member of the Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance. The dishes he presents at Cheese 2021 include two historic Swiss Presidia: Mountain Pasture Sbrinz, whose history stretches back over 500 years, and the great – in both flavor and size! – Traditional Emmentaler. You need 1200 liters of milk to make a form, which can easily weigh over 100 kilograms!

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The Cooks’ Alliance and the pastures and cheeses of central and southern Italy

monks' provolone
Monks’ Provolone, Campania. Photo: Fabio Aceto

Parmigiano Reggiano from White Modense Cows

On September 17 we head to Emilia Romagna, thanks to Belinda Cuniberti of  La Zaira, an enoteca in Valsamoggia. The protagonists in this tasting are lamb’s meat, cooked in the Bolognese style of Artusi, and a crème caramel made with Parmigiano Reggiano from White Modenese cows, Slow Food Presidium. Near Modena, in Zocca, the Rosola Dairy has bee producing Parmigiano with mountain milk from this particular breed since 2005, making two forms a day.

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From Egypt to the Roman countryside

On September 19 Tiziana Favi and Hassan Ismail Gafar of Namo Ristobottega in Tarquinia show us how their journey together in the kitchen is creating a new Mediterranean culinary fusion. Hassan brings to Cheese an Egyptian dish of fava beans, fava bean falafel (as opposed to chickpea falafel), while Tiziana offers lemon rice with Roman Tonda Gentile hazlenuts and Roman Countryside Caciofiore, a Slow Food Presidium made with sheep milk and a vegetable rennet extracted from artichoke and cardoon flowers. A workshop that offers a balance of tradition and innovation, in the spirit of Namo.

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Among the pastures of Campo Imperatore

On September 20 we follow Massimiliano Colelli of La Scarpetta di Venere in Campo di Giove as he takes us through the highlands of Abruzzo, and discover the Slow Food Presidium of Castel del Monte Canestrato, one of the finest testaments to the culture of transhumance in Abruzzo and the dairy productions that derive from it. Another of Massimiliano’s specialties that you can taste here is mugnaia, a dish made using another Slow Food Presidia, Vastese Ventricina. It’s a cured meat made with the noblest cuts of the pig (the thighs, loin and shoulder) seasoned with salt and mild ground chili pepper, or sometimes with wild fennel and a sprinkling of pepper

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Monks’ Provolone from Campania

On September 18 it’s the turn of Franca di Mauro of Cellaio di Don Gennaro in Vico Equense to teach us something through her cooking. The protagonist in this tasting is Monks’ Provolone, made by processing the milk of Agerolese cows. It’s an ancient cheese, produced since the 18th century, when herders living on the Vomero hills were forced to move due to the urban expansion of Naples. The families went to the Lattari Mountains and began to use the ample pastures of the area to make caciocavallo cheese, which was then sold in the local markets in Naples.

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Transhumance in Calabria

We conclude this itinerary of the Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance Taste Workshops with dishes from the agro-pastoral tradition of Calabria as prepared by Fabio Torchia of Tana del Ghiro in San Sosti. Fabio presents a tasting which reflects the pastoral, religious and rural traditions of Calabria and nearby Basilicata: goat alla feraiola, a simple dish with a gourmet taste. The goat is one of the symbolic animals of the area, both for its meat and milk. In times past there wasn’t a farmer n the region who didn’t have at least one or two goats to provide milk for the family.

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by Silvia Ceriani,

Cover image Castel del Monte Canestrato, Slow Food Presidium, Abruzzo. Photo: Slow Food Archive