CLASSY OIL: “La classe non è acqua”…ma l’olio sì !

RUSTICHELLA D’ABRUZZO AWARDED IN NEW YORK FOR ITS OILNew York: The World’s Best Olive Oils 2020 awarded Rustichella d’Abruzzo with two Golden Awardst o recognize the the Intosso, a monocultivar variety 100% from Abruzzo, and the classic extra virgin olive oil, the Dritta and Leccino varieties.
The olives, all grown in the Abruzzo region, are still harvested with the “manual burn” technique, which allows to preserve both the integrity of the centuries-old plants and the superior quality of the olives. The commitment and transparency that distinguishes the work of the Rustichella team are fully reflected in their oil, a winning and appreciated product on the tables of as many as 70 countries in the world”.
o divulge the news and promote their oils, Rustichella sent the to press two samples, the classic and the monicultivar. I ‘ll try both and let you know my preference. How classy!

Rustichella d’Abruzzo


PHOTOS BY CESARE ZUCCA After the discovery of Abruzzi thanks to the guidance of local pasta maker extraordinaire Rustichella, I collected my thoughts about their business model relying largely on export. Why would this company deeply rooted in this region of Italy have both the desire and the possibility to reach the four corners of the world? Wasn’t there a form of contradiction here between local and global?This happened to be around Oct 25th which is celebrated as pasta day around the world which put things in context, as pasta appears as an icon of Italiy and, at the same time, an international product, almost universal. Looking at things from a historical perspective, this is not that shocking or contradictory. Pasta is, by definition, a product made to travel. By “pasta”, I am referring to dry pasta made of durum wheat semolina, not fresh pasta made from tender wheat flour with the adjunction of eggs most of the time. Italy is the birthplace of pasta as a commercial commodity capable of withstanding long periods of time, being a dry product that can last for years. The first mention of commercial dry pasta making dates to the 12th century (way before the birth of Marco Polo you may note!) with a text from an Arab geographer referring to a large production of it in the vicinity of today’s Palermo in Sicily. It is clearly stated that the goods produced were sent by ships to various Christian countries.Genova was soon to become an important area of dry pasta production as well. Why? Because of the importance of its port and shipping capacities. Think about it: at a time with no refrigeration and slow means of transportation, how far could food really travel? Pasta, well protected from humidity, rapidly grew in popularity and started traveling the world, just like salt cod did! Fast forward: today, how can a medium-size company like Rustichella manage to have their products fly over continents to reach the kitchens of chefs and gourmet home cooks as far away as Japan and Brazil? How can they compete with industrial giants such as Barilla which benefit from massive marketing, advertising and financial power? The answer is both material and immaterial qualities, just like soul and body. How can that be in the case of pasta which is basically made of 2 ingredients, durum wheat and water, the latter being at the end eliminated for the most part by the way. How can such a basic and simple food product have a soul and how can it vary so much in quality? Food products are not only a collection of molecules. They carry with them emotion and identity. Think of Proust and his lengthy internal voyage through the remembrance of his past, just by biting into this piece of madeleine cake ducked in a cup of tea. Rustichella does everything to delivery emotions. Opening a package of their product is an invitation to a journey to Abruzzi without having to take a plane. Of course, having been there is a prerequisite to experience this motionless journey. People should really come and taste all that Abruzzi has to offer in order to tie emotional knots in their memory and feel something when they open a package of pasta coming from there. Who knows where Barilla pasta is produced? And more importantly, who cares? The giant company which headquarters are in Parma translate nothing of the soul of this beautiful city of Emilia Romagna.Besides this immaterial quality that Rustichella instils at the heart of its products, there is a good deal of very concrete and technological elements that make them stand out as a pasta like no other. In short, the product is not a mere invitation to dream of Abruzzi. If it carries a soul, it’s because its body is of the best quality to begin with. You wouldn’t have people dream and get off their feet with a food product that wouldn’t be worth their attention in the first place. Now, what are the material qualities that make a pasta exceptional and dream-worthy? First, the quality of the ingredients. Well, we do not have to go very far with that: durum wheat and water, that’s it. I had been told that the quality of the water was important, but Gianluigi Peduzzi – co-owner of Rustichella with his sister Stefania – seemed to dismiss that element. Just pure water. The ingredient that really counts is the durum wheat. The siblings being children of famous millers in the region of Vestina knew one thing or two about the ingredient! A great wheat will lend not only great flavor, but great texture. Whether imported or locally sourced, only the best quality is used. An organic line of pasta has also been created recently RUSTICHELLA
But the best durum wheat in the world won’t automatically make a great pasta. It would be too easy! Technique is essential. An exceptional visit of the factory was the occasion to have a clue of all the parts involved in the process. One of the key elements is the use of bronze dyes, which are pierced wheels of metal, if your will, through which the pasta dough is pushed through leading to various shapes of pasta. Why is this better than the Teflon coated molds used in basic quality pasta? Well, the bronze can never be totally smooth and thus the pasta will have a superficial rugosity which will help the sauce cling to the pasta. With plastic coating the extrusion is way faster, but the result is a pasta texturally bland. This represents a big cost for the company: not only does the production is slower, but the dyes need to be replaced more frequently.The second most important technical element is the drying process. Ordinary pasta is produced in a continuous fully automated way. As soon as the pasta is extruded and cut, it is dried rapidly with the help of heat. Well dried, I should perhaps say baked. Notice that deep yellow color of basic pasta: it’s the sign of a caramelization and pasta shouldn’t be resemble candy making! Here, the pasta is slowly dried in chambers. It is during that drying time that the flavor of the pasta develops. Artistry is at stake here: the pasta maker will have to consider the humidity in the air to see first how much water to add to the semolina in order to obtain the perfect consistency and then, one has to judge when has to make sure the drying process is done at the right temperature and for the right time. Technique and artistry work hand in hand. As Gianluigi shared all his insights in terms of the technology, his sister Stefania gave us to see how far her artistic involvement went. She not only designed various packaging but created pieces and oversaw the art direction of a temporary exposition dedicated to Rustichella from its origins to its latest creations.One of those creations is a revolutionary spaghetti name ? that cooks in 90 seconds without sacrificing the quality of the pasta. No precooking here, like those sheets of lasagna that do not need to be precooked in boiling water. It is a technological feat coming from the shape of the pasta itself.     Here again, a combination of imagination and technology, tradition and modernity.All this explains why chefs at the other end of the world decide to put the price in this high-end product. They have a story to tell, not noodles to sell. They also have a well-made product which won’t let them down in their kitchen. Because the quality of the ingredients and of the process, they know the pasta won’t get limp on them and will remain al dente. They can even pre-cook the pasta halfway and finish the cooking process in the sauce or with a short plunge in boiling water.
The pasta has the strength of a tank and the grace of a Ferrari!INFO


PHOTOS BY CESARE ZUCCA Have you already been to Abruzzo? No? Well time is due to discover this Italian region, due East from Rome, encompassing part of the Apennine mountains down to the Adriatic Sea where sits its capital: Pescara. But that, you may know already if you’ve had the chance to visit this region that locals like to nickname “Tuscany without the marketing”!Personally, my first Abruzzian experience dates no further than last July, in spite of many trips to Italy, both for pleasure and for research on my book on the history of Italian pasta (Les Pâtes du Terroir Italien. I knew that one of the most typical shapes of pasta in the region was the long threads resembling square spaghetti obtained by pressing down with a rolling pin a sheet of pasta dough against the strings of an instruments called a Chitarra (as it resembles in some way a guitar)One would want to also associate the region with the famous penne pasta (meaning pens or feathers) since there is a town by that name sitting less than 20 miles from Pescara. This brings me directly to the occasion of my four-day trip invited, by one of the most respected pasta manufacturers of not only Abruzzo, but the whole of Italy: Rustichella, a family owned mid-size company which origins go back to the 19th century in the town of Penne.The occasion was the annual celebration nicknamed Primograno (literally “first grain”) by the company in honor of the beginning of the wheat harvest in the area. It is the occasion for the family to host a selected number of importers, chefs and some happy few journalists, and here I am! The generosity displayed was beyond this world… yet, absolutely rooted in Abruzzo! arrived the evening of the big celebration where all guests were united under a tent set in the middle of a field  name ? to experience a culinary experience not to be forgotten in the breeze of a warm summer night.
Despite the number of tables and the absence of a professional kitchen, dishes arrived one after the other perfectly plated and magically hot. Chefs not only showcased the quality of the company’s Rustichella d’Abruzzo pasta, but had at heart to offer some other delicacies, such as this incredibly moist and tasty roasted guinea hen (called faraona in Italian). The magic continued after the dinner with a live band under the stars to shake off on the dancefloor those few extra calories of gastronomic indulgence, but also a firework display like no other. A man in costume at a rather close distance started to dance on a traditional music that was going to stick with our group for the rest of the stay covered with a hat shooting thousands of fiery spurs. Besides the food and the fun, I began to wonder how connected to reality was the celebration.
Was Primograno a mere nostalgic reference to a past when Italy was actually producing most of the hard durum wheat necessary to the making of dried pasta. Is this a question?My research had led me to discover that nowadays the great majority of durum wheat is imported from the US and Canada, fulfilling both quantity and quality necessary to fulfill the avid and well-advised Italian market for pasta, first consumer per capita in the world and by far.I was soon to discover that for Rustichella this celebration was “for real”, honoring the actual beginning of local wheat harvest that was going to end-up in form of semolina in their factory. With the development of local sourcing of ingredients and the “farm to table” craze, Rustichella, very smartly, developed indeed a line of pasta made only of local wheat. It is not only a marketing move, it’s an ecologically and socially responsible investment.A specific green packaging has been created for this 100% local pasta. Like a “cru” of wine, you could almost know which parcel of wheat was at the source of the handful of spaghetti you are holding in your hand. An approach very far from the industrial standardization at stake with the giant pasta manufacturers, for which uniqueness boils down to their single named brand not the actual pasta you’re about to drop in your pot!
Among the various shapes offered in this locally made and sourced line of pasta, I discovered two that I had never heard about. The first one, called “virtu” , is not a single shape, but a collection of little broken bits and pieces of seven shapes of pasta. It is to be used for a very special occasion, once a year, in celebration of spring. A hearty dish combining 7 shapes of pasta, 7 grains and legumes, 7 vegetables and 7 herbs. Now that is purely Abruzzian.The other discovery was the “traghetto” shape. This is a pure creation of the Rustichella R&D department, showing that innovation can work hand in hand with local and tradition. From a distance traghetti look like spaghetti, but they actually have a triangular section (thus the “tra” in their name), as if three capellini had been glued together on all their length. They are in fact extruded from a special bronze drawn that leads to this unique shape of long pasta, not to be seen anywhere else. The result? A different sensation in the mouth and a shape that will capture more sauce than a simple round or flat shaped pasta.The Rustichella team took Primograno as an occasion to have our happy group experience various highlights of Abruzzi from the inland the beauty of rolling hills where wild horses graze the grass to the coastline where one can breathe the salty breeze of the Adriatic while strolling on the beach or eating a fabulously fresh and piping hot fritto misto. Among Abruzzi’s specialties, I really loved those little grilled meat skewers, traditionally made with lamb.I was also really impressed with different local wines that I had never heard about before. For the whites, I loved the “passarina”  that we got to try, made from the grape of the same name yielding an incredible fresh acidity smoothed by a round fruitiness. In several occasions, we got to have fantastic rosés, notably. No doubt about it, Rustichella had it at heart to have us experience the best of their products, but also their region in general. And you should too. You will only regret to have to go back home…  But I have good news for you. First, if you fly back using the airport of Pescara, you will be able to purchase various gastronomic treats at the airport shop and stock up on Rustichella’s 100% Abruzzian green line of pasta. Unlike liquor, no limit there except the size of your luggage! Bring along a pack of traghetti, you will make your landing easier with a little piece of Abruzzi with you. Actually, chances are your trip may be prolonged in your home country, as Rustichella has decided to dedicate most of its production to export. In the following piece I’ll show why and how famous chefs around the world decide to use Rustichella as their primary source of pasta. In the meantime, look around because if you can’t make it to Abruzzi, Rustichella has perhaps already come to you!INFO
Rustichella D’Abruzzo


Spell it right! Two ‘C’ and two ‘T’. Here ‘s the BOCCONOTTO , a delicacy from Abruzzo.

The History of Bocconotti –
Tradition places the origin of the Bocconotto of Castel Frentano towards the end of 1700, during the period of greatest diffusion of chocolate in Europe, the main ingredient of the filling. A sweet idea, always based on what has been handed down, from the creativity of a cook who invented for her noble master, famous for being very greedy, a little sweet to eat in “a single bite”. Today the Bocconotto is one of the symbols of Abruzzese gastronomy: a casket of delicate shortcrust that contains a filling of chocolate, minced     almonds and a pinch of cinnamon. The Bucci family owns and maintains the correct doses of one of the first recipes handed down. At the right balance between the ingredients, it combines passion for the traditions of Abruzzo and Castel Frentano.
The history of the Bucci family – Like all success stories, even the Bucci family and Bottega del Bocconotto’s story begins almost by chance. Since the 1960s the Bucci family has been engaged in a florid and productive artisan activity, with a wide range of customers not only in the province of Chieti and in the region, but throughout Italy.
Their main office was in Castel Frentano – where the Bottega stands today – and, as soon as summer began Claudia Bucci, the current owner, used to spend time in her grandfather’s sales point. So, sitting on the entrance steps of the store, she realized that many people stopped to ask for information with a single question: “Where can we buy the Bocconotti, the typical sweets of Castel Frentano and Abruzzo?”.
Bocconotto’s tradition is a long tradition, linked in the territory to important events such as weddings, baptisms, confirmations and communions … in practice you can not talk about feast without having on the tables the delicious sweets from the heart of chocolate and almonds. So, after giving directions on where to buy the Bocconotti to many people, in his mind he took a very happy idea: to put the same Bucci family to work with the opening of a workshop and a shop for the sale of Abruzzo dessert ! Sure of his intuition decided in a very short time to kick off the activity, strong also of another element: he was the custodian of one of the oldest recipes ever handed down by Bocconotto, thanks to his grandmother Sabbiuccia, known for his reputation as a skilled custard. It was she who prepared the Bocconotti for all of Castel Frentano and for every party: why not make such a delight to taste even those coming from neighboring villages? It was 2008 … and from there, after a period of settling, the success came, thanks to an increasingly large audience of customers and consumers who were able to recognize in the Bottega del Bocconotto of the Bucci family a quality guarantee closely linked to the tradition of Castel Frentano.Today the Bottega del Bocconotto is a flagship of all Abruzzo, a family-run business supported by valuable employees, operating in all stages of processing, from the preparation of individual ingredients up to packaging and sale.



I Found an exquisite hotel in  Santo Stefano Di Sessanio, Abruzzo, Italy
its name is Sextantio Albergo Diffuso, a smattering of hotel rooms spread throughout a preserved medieval village nestled in the Abruzzo region of Italy.ImageProxy.mvcThe local farms have ancient Mediterranean varieties of spelt, lentils, and garbanzo beans growing on the rolling hills in much the same way they did over 3,000 years ago. Recipes going back generations are used in the hotel’s kitchen to serve up traditional Abbruzzese dishes in the private dining room.  camera-matrimoniale-albergo-diffuso-300x198

A stay here is an experience like no other. From the artisanal cheeses to the handmade soaps to the local tailors, this hotel encompasses everything the slow movement has come to represent.