An unmistakable amazing landscape, and one of the oldest still inhabited cities in the world with settlements dating back to about 10,000 years ago. Matera, the "City of Stones" is one of Italy's pride for its architectural, historical and gastronomic delicacies.
Matera is also one of the first cities in southern Italy to have received the recognition of UNESCO World Heritage Site for its famous "sassies". Furthermore, last year, Matera was the European Capital of Culture, becoming a centre for wonderrful theater of initiatives, exhibitions, meetings with tourists visiting from all over the world. Matera is not just famous for its natural beauty and its religious architecture of the famous Cathedral and the Stone churches but also for its architectural beauty of the Lanfranchi and Annunziata palaces; but it is also well known for its local cuisine.
Matera, today as in the past, is known above all for its agriculture. In fact, the products that have made it most famous is the famous bread that bears the name of the city, pasta and Matera DOC wines.
With a weight of 1 or 2 kg and a straw-yellow colored crumb, Matera bread is now an iconic product of the city and is made exclusively with durum wheat semolina. In addition, the rite of the three cuts impressed with the dough knife, which represented the Holy Trinity, is particularly impressive; gesture of deep devotion with which families thanked God for the possibility of taking advantage of this primary good.
A speciality leveraging this famous Matera bread is la ciallédd. To create this recipe, stale bread is used. In history known as a poor dish, it was seasoned with potatoes, onion and wild herbs from the Murgia. Another particular ingredient that was used was flowers, in particular asphodels.
For the ciallédd both the white and the yellow breads were used, but the latter were the most popular because they were sweeter but above all more protein and therefore used instead of meat.
Perhaps this is the dish that most celebrates the bond of the Matera people with their land. This legume soup was in fact prepared at the end of the threshing, to celebrate the good yield of the harvest. All the women of the Sassi district found themselves preparing crapiata using wheat, spelled, lentils, chickpeas, beans, broad beans, potatoes and peas
Even though this dish has many names; the preparation always remains the same. Sheep (or lamb) herbs, tuber potatoes, mushrooms are placed inside an earthenware clay dish with a narrow neck, without forgetting a few pieces of bacon and cheese rinds, or leftover cold cuts. These ingredients are made soft by the very slow cooking, which takes place by sealing the container, on the fire of a fireplace.
Orecchiette alla Materana
This dish needs two preparations. The ingredients for the sauce, such as lamb, tomato and onion, are cooked separately. After boiling the orecchiette sufficiently, they are added to the sauce enriching it with mozzarella and pecorino cheese for the second cooking, which takes place in the oven.
A standard to finish off lunch or dinner at Materan families on holidays, the strazzate probably take their name from the local dialect: "strazzet" means "torn", and actually seem like balls roughly torn from a larger mass.
These are almond-based pastries, with egg white, sugar, grated lemon, food ammonia and, optionally, coffee or liqueur and dark chocolate flakes. Crisper on the outside, more crumbly and soft on the inside, strazzate are now a symbol of Matera bakeries.
If you don't feel like cooking, when in Matera, try and visit at least one of these restaurants who offer the typical dishes of this town and region. Such as Ristorante Baccanti, located in the heart of the ancient area of Matera, the Sassi, the restaraunt offers a unique view and panorama.across Matera. or try Dimora Ulmo.
Or Ristorante Dedalo, also located in a sassi in Matera - but the concept is more modern and trendy with stunning sculptural interior; in line with Matera's claim to fame of being the City of Culture 2019. The restaurant's traditional cuisine is enriched with a fusion and creative touch. The freshest raw materials from the region are carefully selected seasonally by the chefs to offer an unforgettable sensory experience.