If you have a Trentino recipe that you wish to share or a recipe that you had enjoyed and wish us to describe,
do not hesitate to send it to us by email to louis.brunelli@att.net

Tyrolean Polenta

Trentini are often referred to as “polentoni” …more affectionately than derisively. It is the food that is the very symbol of the area. It is also one of the oldest foods eaten in Italy, dating back at least to 990 BCE. In its original form, polenta –known to the ancient Romans as pulmentum — was a porridge made from spelt. In later ages other grains such as barley and millet as well as pulses and even chestnuts were used to make various kinds of gruels eaten generally by the poor. It is said to have originally been an Etruscan dish, which the Romans adopted and spread throughout the Empire. It has a glorious history helping Rome conquered its vast empire? Well, there are traditions that relate that the Roman soldier was given each day a ration of grains called puls in which he made in his very helmet a pulmentum. Of course, it was not a corn or maize pulmentum…or polenta since corn had not as yet arrived from the Americas. But indeed, polenta can be said to have a glorious past. But did you know that it touched our very own American history? George Washington, the Father of our Nation, the symbol of our nation, got to savor his very first ethnic meal at Monticello at the hands of Thomas Jefferson. George was served the one and only polenta that Jefferson had learned from his mistress Maria (she was not a Trentina) when he served as the ambassador to France. Wow!

Let’s make polenta…It is easy to make but requires patience and care.

all you need is corn meal, salt and water. The corn mealshould be coarse or stone grown. If necessary, get to a health foodstore to get the real things and not the flour like degerminated type inso many of our supermarkets

Looking at the illustration, you will need a large pot..preferably a copper pot (transfers heat better), a whisk, and a large spoon or a polenta stick called a cana della polenta or a trisa.

You will also see the optional tabiel where the polenta is placed on completion.

How much water? Cannot say…I have never seen Trentini measure the water or the corn meal. They filled the pot with water just below the brim and brought the water to a boil, added salt and added the corn meal all pioggia…like a rainfall, whisking all the time to avoid lumps. The amount of corn meal is what needs the care..too little and it is soupy too much and it hard to handle and hard to the taste. Once integrated, then you start the turning with the trisa or the wooden spoon. Lower the heat just a bit and turn from time to time. Many Trentini will insist that it takes 90 minutes. My mom would tell me to cook it long enough so that it begins to detach itself from the parol…pot…so much that when the polenta is ejected, the crosta..the crust comes out almost as a shell (delicious to nibble on..truly corn chips!)

Whereas a pasta or a minestra are considered primi piatti, first dishes, polenta is a combination and is both first and second dish. It partners with so many things in the Trentino cuisine. It combines with Krauti(sauerkraut), luganega, spezzatino (stew) of beef, veal, rabbit or chicken, cotegin (pork sausage), lapeverada (sauce made with bread crumbs and the water of the cotegin. We will explore some of these combinations in future editions.

If you have a Trentino recipe that you wish to share or a recipe that you had enjoyed and wish us to describe, do not hesitate to send it to us by email to louis.brunelli@att.net

Our Cuisine: Gnocchi de Patate

Gnocchi completes the blessed trio of Tyrolean cuisine: Polenta, canederli e gnocchi! It makes a great deal of sense. Our people had corn meal, grew and ate potatoes and with their stale bread and left-overs, they made canederli. While not the most wholesome or healthy of foods, they are so good. . .and probably provide us with many memories of our kitchen tables. . .I do remember that our table in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, my mom, Adele, would make gnocchi and my father, Gustin. . . brother Nino and I would compare with determination as to which of us could eat more individual gnocchi. . .They are easy to make but probably are themselves quite fussy about what sauce are compatible with their history so keep them any such marinara sauce.

All you need are potatoes, some flour and eggs. The potatoes are usually boiled with their skins to preserve their starch. When cool the potatoes are put through a ricer, found in many stores or on Amazon. One adds an egg and flour. Like so many recipes from our none, there is that mysterious undefined measurement of. . .en cit di questo. . . oren micol . . . or “a little of this and a little of that.” Here are the pro-portions that I distilled from a variety of persons here in the Trentino (where I am writing this).

Assemble 2¼ pounds of potatoes, 1¾ cups of flour, an egg, salt. Steam the potatoes until tender. Pass them through a ricer while still hot (watch your fingers). Add a slightly beaten egg and the flour and salt kneading it to a soft, elastic dough. Note. . .if too much flour and the gnocchi will be hard; too much potato, the gnocchi will disintegrate while cooking. Shape the dough into long rolls just over 2/3 inch in diameter and cut into ¾ inch lengths. Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi, a few at a time, and remove them with a slotted spoon as they rise to the surface. Drain, place on a warm plate and add your sauce. Our peasant ancestors simply add melt-ed butter and grated cheese.

Our Cuisine…Strudel

By far there is nothing more Tyrolean than Apple Strudel and it remains the typical if not the quintessential dessert of Austria and the Trentino. Apfelstrudel in German, strudel means whirlwind in German. Some say that is derives from the Byzantine Empire and its closest relative is Bakvela. It is made with an elastic dough composed of butter or lard, oil and water. It is not as often made with puffed pastry in the Trentino Alto Adige. Besides its pastry history, it is an example of yet another food . . . in this case a dessert . . . made out of the practicality of using everything…in this case an excess of apples. It is simply rolled dough stuffed with apples. There are many versions of strudel and what follows is a relatively easy recipe by hand or in a Cuisinart. Femte il strudel. Let’s make strudel.

The Dough
Assemble 200 grams of flower. Integrate with your fingers 50 grams of butter, then integrate 4 teaspoons of vegetable oil and finally 80 mi of lukewarm water. This can be prepared with a Cuisinart. Allow to rest for an hour.

4-5 yellow delicious apples, Half cup of plain bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons of butter ,2/3 cup of raisins, chopped walnuts (optional), lemon peel, ½ cup of sugar (preferably raw sugar) cinnamon. Peel, core and slice apples into thin wedges. Place them in a bowl and add all the ingredients except the butter, bread crumbs and sugar. Heat the butter in a small sauté pan and add the bread crumbs. Cook, stirring over low heat for about 5 minutes until the bread crumbs turn a deep golden color. Cool and add to the bowl along with the sugar.

Roll out the dough to a 20 x 15 square. Transfer to a large towel or, preferably, a large piece of parchment paperPlace the filling opposite you, to pull the dough over the filling sealing the edges.Paint the strudel with an egg wash: one egg-pinch of salt.

Our Food: Canederli

If there is a Blessed Trinity in the domain of Tyrolean foods, we would single out polenta, gnocchi, and…of course…Canederli. In German and in the German parts of Tyrol, they are called knodel . Canederli are a very well known and appreciated dish in the Trentino. Like many dishes in our cuisine, it uses the avanzi..the left overs…in this case, stale bread and other ingredients readily available to create the dish.. They are typically served in broth or sometimes as an entrée with sauce. The origins are a very old recipe of peasant origin. farmers, in fact, preparing this dish using their avanzi, left overs, leftover bread become stale, along with the products of their farms :eggs,sausage, bacon and cheese in fact, the backbone of food Trentina even today. Nowadays, the dumplings have evolved and in fact we can find all kinds of fillings with always different to the classic bacon or cheese, with spinach and the herbs.


Use ¾ pound of stale bread, Cut the bread into cubes, place in a bowl with three eggs beaten with a bit of pepper,salt, and nutmeg and about 1½ cups of milk. Mix it well and let it stand for 2 hours covering the bowl with a towel.Stir occasionally turning it over and over. Add two tablespoons of chopped Italian parsley and grated cheese.

Ideally, chop a ¼ pound of speck and 2½ oz. of pancetta…hard to find in the USA. Some alternatives are smoked cured pork flank, bacon or Genoa salami. Some even combine Genoa salami combined with chopped ham flank.

Meanwhile, saute half of a medium onion in butter and extra virgin olive oil. Introduce the chopped meats into the sauteed onions. Cool for a ½ hour and combine with the soaked milk. Add (at least) 1 cup of flower and mix.

Wet your hands and create balls of the mix, roll in flower and place in boiling broth for about 15 minutes.

The canederli can be served in a bowl of broth or with a sauce, e.g., burro fuso with sage. Enjoy the canederli and our families who made them for us.

You can listen to Per Far i Canederli by going to the website filo.tiroles.com

Our Cuisine: La Torta Secca

In trying to track down the origins of Torta Secca ( translated “dry cake”), I inquired from friends inthe Valsugana, Val Rendena, and the Val di Non.No one ever heard of it…mmmm. I had evidence that it was made in the Val delle Giudicarie since Mabel Riccadonna of St Mary’s, PA and Lisa Brunelli of Brockport, PA had made it for me when I visited with them as did Meri Caliari, Flora Benini, from Greenwich Village in Manhattan, Anna Noemi Paenelli of N. Canton,Ohio. More important evidence for me was my mom, Adele Bellotti Brunelli made for me lovingly. Each and every one of these wonderful paesani and my mom originate from the Bleggio in the Val delle Giudicarie so I was reassured that it had certifiable Tyrolean roots even if only one valley might have made it. This is not unusual since this could be another example of the effetto montagna , the mountain effect…those differences — food or dialect –created by mountains, valleys, streams. It had another characteristic…it was a confection of the poor who used what-soever left over (vanzadi) to their benefit. The challenge of so many of the recipes of our people has been that they were not formatted by Betty Crocker…so that you were told…en micol di questo e en micol di quest`altro…a little of this and a little of that …Ugh! Here is how I demythologized the recipe to enable my children to make it…

Here are the ingredients represented as things easily found at your local super market somewhat pre-measured by their containers. They include: 22 ounce can of plain bread crumbs, 4 sticks of butter, 16 oz can of walnuts, a cup of sugar, 1/3 cup of flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, half teaspoon of salt, two eggs and the rind of a lemon.Grate the lemon peel with a grater. Chop the walnuts by hand or by a food processor and combine the dry ingredients: the walnuts, breadcrumbs, sugar, flour, baking soda and salt. Place the dry mixture in a mixer or in a bowl. Melt the butter and pour into the mixture. Mix thoroughly. Beat two eggs and insert into the mixture. Add the magical elixir of ancestors — grappa or brandy — the amount to be determined by you. Butter the pan, place the mixture into the greased pans, pressing it down with a fork. Sprinkle some white sugar on top. Cook at 350° for approximately 40 minutes. Cool before cutting it into squares. ENJOY!

Tortei delle Patate e dei Pomi 

A tortella is a little cake and tortei is the plural in dialect . . . while the potato was the mainstay of the Tyrol, the apple (pom or pomi in dialect) became the special and revered product of the Val di Non.It bears repeating that the cuisine of the Tyrol is essentially that of the peasants seeking to make the most of whatever they had. . . and hence, creative expressions. Both the tortellas or the tortei are quite typical of the Val di Non. The tortei di patate is similar to potato latkes of Jewish traditions. In that culture,they are made during the celebratory days of Chanukah. In the Trentino, they are served with salted meats . . . cold cuts such as carne salada, coppa and lucanica as well as bortotti . . .Roman beans.

TORTEL DELLE PATATE . . . Here is the recipe . . . or simply the procedure . . . it involves grating several potatoes . . . a bit of flour (the little bit not defined by anyone that I talked to, but remember that potatoes have their own starches).

Grate the several potatoes with a grater . . . in Italian, the mandolino. Add flour, less than more . . . Add salt . . . make patties and place the patties in hot oil. Remove and place on paper towels. They can be served as a compliment to the secondo piatto (second dish) or along with some good cold cuts.

TORTEI DEI POMI Peel, core, and cut into slice 5 or 6 Delicious apples. Place in a bowl. Combine one egg, 2-3 tablespoons of flour,1/2 teaspoon of salt and 3/4 cup of milk. Combine the wet ingredients with the apples. Prepare oven pan by adding a sufficient amount of cooking oil. I prefer butter. Heat the pan in the oven. Place the apples in the pan and place in the pre-heated oven of 350 degrees. When the surface develops a golden crust, remove form the pan and sprinkle sugar (I add brown sugar and cinnamon).

The Apple and the Val di Non

The typical agricultural form in Val di Non is a small land ownership: the territory is mostly mountainous with little arable land and poor soil fertility. Between the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the main crops were wheat and rye, followed by maize (corn), wheat or buckwheat “formenton”, and potatoes. The landscape was characterized by a variety of plant species growing wild next to fruit trees such as apricot, walnut,fig, chestnut, cherry, peach, pear, apple. At the edge of the forest there were strawberries, bramble bushes, chamomile, mallow, oregano, evening primrose, violet,yarrow and other herbs. They were hedges: field: bar berry and privet, blackthorn, hawthorn, elder and pink car.Until the beginning of ‘900, there were abundant vine-yards, especially in areas of Revò, Tavon, Nanno andDenno. Throughout the nineteenth century until the early twentieth century, the Val di Non pursed the cultivation of cereals, vineyards and the mulberry tree for the production of silk. When devastating diseases struck these plants, there emerged the critical need to change.Hence, in the 1840s and 1850s, most of these crops were abandoned to make way for pear and apple orchards. The apple tree was introduced in the years around 1800 in the area of Revò, favored by the mild climate and fertile soil. After 1870, growers succeeded in the production of a specific apple, the Renetta. The Renetta was popular beyond the valley and remained at the top of the production until substituted by the Golden Delicious.

In 1929, the cultivated fields in Val di Non apples were a total of 116 acres, compared with 208 acres vineyards.Between 1920 and 1940, apple and pear production increased, due to their profitability as crops.

In the thirties, apple and pear production counted for 40% of the province’s area. At that time, however, the practice that still prevailed in the Val di Non was the meadow-orchard. On one side of the field were planted fruit trees to trees that are geographically distant and another part was planted with grass to obtain the fodder intended for animals. After World War II, the cultivation of fruit brought wealth and changed the appearance of the Val di Non. Surely, the improvement of irrigation systems gave a significant contribution, as well as the creation of cooperatives. Between the mid-nineteenth century and the thirties of the twentieth century were built the most important work of collecting and channeling of water, with the aim of bringing irrigation in rural areas. One of the most important aqueducts was builtin Val di Tovel , finished in 1852. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there emerged the Cooperative movement begun by Don Guetti, which gave rise to some wineries,the syndication of the fruit growers to Family.

Cooperatives food stores and Casse Rurali, cooperative banks.. The first Fruit cooperative was founded in Revò, followed in 1910 and Denno and Nanno in 1912. The cooperatives also began to manage the stores containing fruit, which were born after 1924 and developed particularly in the fifties. In 1989, the Melinda Consortium was founded, in order to certify the origin and the production of apples. Today, the Consortium brings together more than 4,000 fruit growers, who grow to 54% of the apple production.

Written by Dottoressa Giulia Stringari, Associazione Pro Loco Cles e Associazione ProCultura Centro Studi Nonesi

I Gristoi…

Grosta is a crumb e.g. bread…There are many proverbs in our dialect referring to the groste. del pan..the bread crumbs. Grostoi is a fried dough, a quintessential peasant fare that involves the few ingredients available to them in their poverty. In the Tyrol, Grostoi are made during the Christmas holidays. I make them for Christmas and Easter. My grand children love them and they suddenly acquire a moustache of powdered sugar. I make them in the Tyrolean manner with grappa and my accommodated way is without grappa. I am going to present the recipe without grappa since I do realize that many of our readers do not have grappa in their homes I have always hesitated to present Filo` recipes whose ingredients are simply not available in North America. For example, I would love to present polenta con la peverada but I cannot find a coteghin, a large pork sausage. Grostoi are simply flour, a bit of baking powder, and eggs. They are rolled out thin and cut into strips with a knife or a pastry wheel…and then sprinkled with powdered sugar or honey with confetti. The Tyrolean manner was ten “cucchiai” of flour, only two whole eggs, no extra egg yolks, 1 1/2 tsp of sugar, salt, and a “biccherino di grappa”. The “cucchiai” (spoons) and “bicchierino”(small glass” are the mysterious vagueness of their measurements that create difficulties for an American baker.

Ingredients & tool
1 1/2 flour
I tsp of baking soda
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks

Mix the ingredients and knead.
Allow the mixture to rest
Roll thin the mixture by either rolling pin or pasta machine.
Cut into strip with a knife or preferably by a pastry cutter.