(September 24, 2015) Each year in Foligno, one of the most attended festivals is the Primi D’Italia, where the “primi” or first courses from all regions of Italy are featured. There are villages with specialty menus—polenta dishes, risotto, pasta with various sauces and pasta shapes. In addition, there are gluten-free villages, and vegan/vegetarian areas, trying to appeal to the palates of everyone attending. Tickets are sold, and then exchanged for small sample plates in each of the villages—and all served with plates and forks that can be composted later. (And why don’t WE do this at home, with all of the trash going straight to compost for big events?)
We were quite a sizeable group, with Bill and Shelley Trowell, Shelley’s sisters Peggy and Carlene visiting from Utah, Paula and her cousin Giuseppina, and me. We were lucky to find parking with the huge crowds that attend, and met in the main piazza to plan our “attack.” Checking the event maps provided, we were off to one of the pasta areas first, and purchasing tickets to sample the pastas. We’ve come to understand that mass production of these dishes, served as quickly as they can be prepared, sometimes results in minor “quality issues,” but we still get to sample the special primi dishes from all over Italy, and all in one place, and in a party atmosphere with friends.
We all got the plates we wanted to sample, and found a table just being vacated—a real stroke of luck for a group of our size. We were pleased to find a “tris” of three pastas on one plate, and tried each one. Then, following Shelley’s lead, we all handed our uneaten pasta to Bill—who got the joke (and wasn’t expected to eat ALL of that pasta), and I got a photo. Lots of fun, this bunch!
We passed through many displays and vendors of regional specialties, and then found our way to the main tent, where we spent most of our time that evening exploring and sampling cheeses, spicy sauces, unique olives, breads and sweets. For those who still had not been filled, porchetta and mortadella panini were available, but we ladies were more interested in chocolate, spices, and especially liquirizia (licorice)—the real stuff, including licorice roots to chew, dozens of types of real licorice candies, and powdered licorice root for baking.
The last stop for me was the Pugliese bread counter, where I purchased a portion of one of the huge loaves, baked in wood-fired ovens, leavened with natural yeast starters, very dense, and made with salt in the recipe. The loaves are each about 18” across, and nearly 4 feet long—but Umbrian bread is very different, unsalted, and very light and airy. This Pugliese bread, for me, is such a treat each year, and I bring home a nice chunk and slowly use a slice at a time from my freezer until it is gone.
Where the seven of us go together, there is the party and laughter! We had such a fun time, tried a few regional pasta specialties, wandered around the crowded streets of festive Foligno, and came home to Spello with our licorice, candies, cookies, cheeses and my big chunk of Pugliese bread.