A meeting point between Europe beyond the Alps and the Mediterranean region, Valle d’Aosta is its own land.
Heir to the proud and independent spirit of the Salassi, the people of Celtic origin that lived in the tallest Alpine mountains before the arrival of the Romans, this region shows a thrilling individuality in its environment, the cultural identity of its people and also in its gastronomy.
Valle d’Aosta is a small Alpine region crossed by the rough waters of the Dora Baltea River that flows towards the Po Plain. It features splendid natural landscapes, snow-covered peaks, crystal clear lakes, wild animals. TheGran Paradiso National Park, the most important in Italy with the Abruzzo National Park, is located in the region.
This is a border land, and throughout the centuries it has witnessed a succession of peoples and cultures, especially descending from the Alps. Roman era finds are still preserved today in the medieval cathedrals, and the splendid castles.
There is also an autonomous culture: the Walser, a people of German origin that settled in the valleys of the Lys and Ayas in ancient times.
For its natural beauty, the renowned sky resorts and the important historical and artistic treasures, this land, although small, enjoys outstanding fame in Italy and across Europe.
Valle d’Aosta is traditionally devoted to game hunting, cattle breeding and agriculture, and this is also evident in its products and gastronomy.
From Valle d’Aosta’s most typical cheese, Fontina, comes a dish with clear French influence: Fondue. Although the success of the recipe relies on the special creaminess of the cheese, it also includes ingredients such as butter and eggs, unlike similar preparations from neighbouring countries.
Pasta and breads are made with mountain flours, rye and chestnuts rather than wheat, and are often used in soup preparations, with added meat stock, vegetables, and cheese. For example soups, such as Soupe Paysanne, Soupe Cogneintze and Soupe Valpellinentze.
As in other northern Italian regions, polenta is prepared with corn flour, typically dressed with cheese, such as Fat Polenta.
From the Walser’s German tradition, come Chnéf-fléne, dumplings made with flour and milk and douse with melted cheese, and topped with onions sautéed in a pan with butter.
Game meat and French-inspired preparations are frequently used for meat dishes: game in Civet, as in the Chamois or Roe deer Valdostana-style, served with fresh or grilled Polenta. Another dish worth mentioning is Chops Valdostana-style, stuffed with Fontina cheese and cooked ham, breaded and sizzled in abundant butter, and the ancient Carbonade, made with salted beef preserved with flavourings and cooked in wine, this too served with fresh Polenta.
Alpine pastry is made of simple recipes, like the traditional Tegole di Aosta, almond paste tiles covered in chocolate, Fiandolein, sabayon with milk, sugar, rum and lemon scented, Brochat, a sweet cream with milk and wine usually spread on a slice of dark bread, and Blanc Manger, literally White Eating, is a creamy dessert typical of Savoy.
The typical cheeses of the region are produced in Alpine pastures, and they are: first of all Fontina, then Fromadzo, Reblec, Salignon, Séras and many other quality cheeses with the scents of mountain flowers.
Mocetta, a typical deli meat, reflects the traditional way to preserve game meat: today it is made with beef or chamois, but it used to be prepared with the Alpine ibex’s haunch.
Other deli meats especially tasty and with unmistakable aroma are Valle d’Aosta Jambon de Bosses and the very mild Lard from Arnad, herbs-scented, traditionally produced by families of lower Valle d’Aosta.
The region’s valleys are suitable for apple and pear cultivations, in particular the Renetta apple and the Martin Sec pear, and to apiculture, with production of excellent and aromatic honey.
Wines from Valle d’Aosta boast some interesting labels that interact perfectly with the flavours of local gastronomy, i.e. Arnad-Monjovet, Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle, Chambave, Donmas, Enfer d’Arvier, Nus, and Torrette.
Illustrious gastronome Pellegrino Artusi in his best seller Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well of 1891, presents the recipe of Fonduta Valdostana-style. He defines it cacimperio (from the word cheese and the term cazzimperio, which in some southern and central regions of Italy is synonymous with pinzimonio, mixed raw vegetables) and, unlike Anthelme Brillat-Savarin who praised it in his Physiology oftaste, Mr. Artusi declared that he was not really crazy about it. And why? Because it is good “as beginning of a meal or as a quick solution when there is nothing better available”. In this judgement though, the gastronome from Forlimpopoli indeed was not so far-sighted: today this exquisite cream of Fontina is considered a particularly tasty dish appreciated all over Italy.
Some typical recipes
Here are some typical recipes, with step by step explanations. Have a look and try them!
Sformato di cavolo
A great recipe, enriched with delicious Fontina fondue, which embodies the tradition of Italian countryside cuisine.
Zuppetta di Cogne
Delicious layers of rice and cheese.
Cotolette alla fontina
A main course with intense and decisive flavour that wraps inside the essence of Valle d’Aosta.
Paciocco di mele renette di St.Pierre con salsa ai frutti di bosco
Apple delight lemon scented.