Whenever I happen to be in the Umbrian town of Assisi on a glorious sunny day such as this I treat myself to one of the best panini in town. Made with love by Fabrizio at La Bottega Dei Sapori. He always uses fresh local ingredients and I know I can’t go wrong. The hard part is deciding what I want on my sandwich.
First I have to choose the bread…the local flatbread, Torta al Testo, focaccia or a plain baguette. What do I want? Crispy or soft, thin or thick?
The flat bread it is…cooked in a cast iron skillet, Torta al Testo is thicker than a tortilla, a bread with ancient origins made from just flour, water, salt, and a pinch of baking soda.
Now for the filling…Italians don’t generally put mustard and mayo on their panini which is fine with me. Here I get to choose from black truffle spread, porcini mushroom cream, or a creamy artichoke sauce…so many choices. Today however I am going to keep it simple but only because we are going on a truffle hunt tonight. I am saving myself!
There are lots of different cheeses to choose from too. Delicious pecorinos of varying ages. Pecorino, made from sheeps milk has many different faces. Here too I can have truffles if I want or spicy peperoncino, but I decide on an aged variety, just sharp enough, nothing fancy. Now for some meat…
I think we all know that refrigeration is a relatively recent invention. In the past we would use cellars to keep our food cool and people who lived in areas that were cold enough to freeze lakes could cut blocks of ice out during the winter, put them underground and cover them with sawdust to slow down the melting process. Even that wasn’t enough to conserve fresh meat for very long and this part of Italy is not blessed with ice, but did have easy enough access to salt. Being surrounded on many sides by seas, Trade routes were often called via del sale because of it’s importance and in Italy that translates into a great tradition of salt cured meats. Umbria has a myriad of different types of salami and prosciuttos made from beef, wild boar, pork and venison. It’s foodie heaven! Today I am in the mood for Capocollo Umbra, which is salt cured for just four days and then given a bath with white wine. It is seasoned with coriander seeds and pepper and left to dry for at least 50 days. Made with pork cut from between the shoulder and the ribs it is about 10 inches long and rolled. It has a good amount of fat marbling (I love fat!) and is one of my favorite types of cured meat. Capocollo is something we used to get on special occasions from the Italian market when I was a kid.
Sundried tomatoes to finish it off! Here is the perfect panino…minus a few bites!
If you travel to Assisi and want a quick lunch be sure to visit Fabrizio’s shop, La Bottega Dei Sapori. You’ll find it in the main square, Piazza Del Commune tucked in between a couple of bars. A hole in the wall, there is not much seating but you will find a few benches out front. There are also a couple of slide out tables and folding chairs in his tiny shop if you have a less than perfect day.
If it’s sunny, get your lunch to go and take a five minute walk to Piazza di Santa Chiara. Here you will find a gorgeous lookout with an unforgettable view of the Umbrian countryside.Accompanied by a lovely glass of Rosso di Montefalco I couldn’t be happier. Be sure to visit and tell Fabrizio, Lisa sent you!