Unearthing the tastes and slow food of Brescia Italy

Unearthing the tastes and slow food of Brescia Italy

Mangiare per vivere e non vivere per mangiare

Italian proverb

Translated – Eat to live and not live to eat

How could you go to Italy and not enjoy the food? It is, of course, one of the delights of travelling in Italy and one of my passions. But food in Italy is more than about taste.

It’s about respect for the land, the people who produce food and wine and the ancient knowledge and traditions that have been developed and refined over many centuries. This philosophy is often called slow food.

On a recent trip to Brescia in East Lombardy, I met some of the producers, cooks and wine makers and tasted their amazing food and wine at a special dinner in the streets of the city.

The Slow Food movement in Italy

Grapes at the market Brescia - Slow Food Italy

Founded in Italy in 1989 as a response to the increasing industrialisation of food production, the Slow Food movement is an international association that promotes good, clean and fair food across the world. The movement has evolved to become a global organisation present in over 160 countries and involving millions of people.

From the very beginning, Slow Food championed regional traditions and biodiversity – the understanding of local food varieties and production processes.

“Food history is as important as a baroque church. Governments should recognise cultural heritage and protect traditional foods. A cheese is as worthy of preserving as a sixteenth-century building”

Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement

The movement believes that if we understand where our food comes from and how it was produced, then we can make better choices about the food we buy and enjoy it more.

There is no better way to do this than to meet the producers themselves. And that’s exactly what I did in Brescia.

Tastes of Brescia

The region of Brescia is part of East Lombardy, named as a European Region of Gastronomy for 2017 in recognition of its rich culinary heritage. Over the centuries the people of the area have worked with the unique natural resources of their fertile valleys, lakes and mountatins to produce dishes and wine that have been refined over time.

So what are the unique tastes of Brescia?

Cheese

Grana padano Brescia

Brescia is heaven for cheese lovers. Thanks to the fertile Brescian plain and mountain pastures, there are hundreds of varieties of cheese produced in the region. Almost every town or region has its own speciality.

In the village of Bagolino, Bagòss cheese is made from the milk of Bruna Alpina cows who graze on mountain pastures. Pear shaped Provolone Valpada is made from spun curds of cows milk and Fatulì is produced from goats milk.

But the most famous of these is Grana Padano. Made to a 1,000 year old recipe from raw cows milk, the cheese is known worldwide for its hard crumbly texture and piquant taste.

Lake fish

The lakes of the region are a bountiful source of fresh fish. In Lake Iseo over 23 species swim its waters including trout, perch and pike. Lake Garda is home to to pike, trout and rare carpione – a fish that can only be found in Lake Garda.

Dishes made with the local fish are simple and cooked to enhance its natural properties. You can often find grilled whitefish with alla pescatora sauce on local trattoria menus.

Caviar

Calvisius caviar from Brescia

I had no idea Italy produced fine caviar until visiting Brescia. But it makes sense now. An abundance of fresh spring water in the region’s Po river valley provides the perfect conditions for farming sturgeon for caviar.

Calvisius Caviar pride themselves on respecting their environment and sturgeon which, in turn, yields a superior product. Fish are reared for 12 years before the caviar is extracted using manual methods.

This ensures the caviar is creamy and delicate. It is perfectly matched with the local Franciacorta sparkling wines.

Olive oil from the shores of Lake Garda

Olives have been grown in Italy’s lakes region for over 2 thousand years so the locals know a thing or two about producing extra virgin olive oil.

It’s a delicate process. Especially if you want to extract the health benefits that the oil is marketed for around the world.

The oil produced in Brescia is made from Casaliva, Frantoio and Leccino olives and is light and peppery. And, like all the best extra virgin olive oils, it has a low level of acidity. This is due in part to the grape varieties and also to the methods used to extract the oil – refined and enhanced over the centuries.

Olive oil is used widely in the region’s cuisine as it enhances the flavour of the local produce – especially fish.

Stuffed pasta – a regional speciality

Casoncelli Brescia

You can’t mention Italian food without discussing pasta. When you visit Brescia, casoncelli or stuffed pasta is on the menu. Hand rolled pasta is filled with meat, breadcrumbs and herbs and folded into the shape of a bonbon.

The pasta is gently cooked and served with a sage butter sauce. Yes, it’s delicious

Wines from Brescia

Brescia wine regions

Where there is great food, there is great wine.

In Brescia they are proud to produce 10 DOCG and DOC wine varieties – those that have been specially classified to recognise the quality and authenticity of the production methods.

The most famous of these is DOCG (controlled and guaranteed designation of origin) classified sparkling white variety – Franciacorta. The wine is made to the traditional method with two fermentations, the last in the bottle, and aged at least 18 months.

Franciacorta takes on the quality of the region’s rich mineral soil and is made from a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot blanc grapes.

Brescia slow food Italy

Brescia’s terroir and unique micro climate close to the lake are the perfect conditions for growing the Trebbiano di Lugana grape variety. This local variety produces a rich and golden wine known as Lugana usually drunk as an aperitivo or with lake fish.

Along the Colli dei Longobardi Wine Route there are many treasures to be found including the world’s largest urban vineyard. Found at the base of Castello di Brescia are 4 hectares of ancient vines that produce both white and red wines.

Brescia con Gusto – a slow food festival

Brescia con gusto 2017

Having stumbled upon a food festival in nearby Como last year, I jumped at the chance to join Brescia’s annual slow food festival – Brescia con Gusto.

Since 2000, producers, restauranteurs and wine makers of the region have gathered to celebrate their food and wine culture over a night of feasting and gathering.

The festival is a walking tour of some of Brescia’s historical sites, stopping along the way to enjoy dishes made from the local produce by the city’s restauranteurs. Each dish is matched with a regional wine.

Brescia slow food festival

Brescia con Gusto offers 4 routes showcasing the food and wine of 6 different restaurants and wine makers. We followed route D and tasted a local beer, fish from the lake, and a salad made from farro.

The highlights of the evening for me were the Pappardelle al salmì di lepre (pappardelle with hare stew) and Valcamonica rosso IGT by Cantina Bignotti. You can try the rabbit stew at Osteria La Grotta in Brescia’s centro storico or old town.

I can’t think of a better way to discover regional cuisine than through this relaxed and friendly festival. Leaning against an ancient fountain as I ate my pasta, I wished everyone could experience Brescia con Gusto.

Not just for the wonderful food and wine but also for the opportunity to learn about its origins and history from the people who make it.

Slow food is real food

A slow lunch in Brescia

Where does our food come from? What are the processes and science behind the taste?

These are not conversations we have often in Anglo Saxon culture. But we should.

In a world where chronic illnesses are flaring and health gurus promote every kind of diet imaginable, isn’t it time to stop, slow down and respect the centuries of knowledge and experience of farmers and food producers such as those I met in Brescia.

After all, they draw upon thousands of years of experience and knowledge to create tastes that you talk about forever.


I was a guest of Brescia Tourism for Brescia con Gusto 2017. All opinions are my own.


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Italy food guide - discover the slow food of Brescia, Italy - pasta, wine, cheese, caviar
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29 Comments

  1. 27th July 2017 / 8:47 AM

    I’ve never heard of slow food, but do love learning about where my food comes from. I would like to slow down our travel more so that we can stay longer in places to really learn more about such things! #FarawayFiles

  2. 27th July 2017 / 8:59 AM

    Oh man! Reading this has made me so hungry! Getting hold of good cheese and wine is so very difficult in India 😉 #FarawayFiles

  3. 27th July 2017 / 9:17 AM

    Ah yes, I remember slowfood when I visited Turin a couple of years ago. It’s just the best and there is nothing like properly enjoying food. Husband and I are headed for Bologna in September and basically, I can’t wait to dig in 😉
    #FarawayFiles

  4. 27th July 2017 / 11:02 AM

    I would love to enjoy all of these, especially that amazing stuffed pasta. Slow food and slow travel, nothing better.

    • 10th August 2017 / 5:17 PM

      I wholeheartedly agree Lyn!

  5. 27th July 2017 / 12:39 PM

    I’ve never heard of slow food but I really like the concept. There is so much artificial stuff in much of the food these days that it’s sometimes hard to know what foods are clean and what are not. #FarawayFiles

  6. 27th July 2017 / 2:55 PM

    I’d really love to try Franciacorta – it sounds so delicious. Food tours are such a great way of exploring a region. It’s great to get that background into a place. Thanks for putting Brescia and its delicious flavours on my foodie map. #FarawayFiles

  7. 27th July 2017 / 3:06 PM

    My partner’s family is Italian so I have a big old love of Italian food. That pasta actually made my mouth water! #FarawayFiles

  8. 27th July 2017 / 4:17 PM

    Italians do really cherish their food! That stuffed pasta picture… oh man, that looks amazing!!!

  9. 27th July 2017 / 4:45 PM

    Slow food is delicious food! I love Italian food so much. Whenever I go there I gain so much weight from all the delicious ragu and pasta, gelato, tiramisu, ravioli… I could go on.

  10. 27th July 2017 / 8:41 PM

    Oh I do love Italian food although the best I’ve had was actually in Australia! Many years ago (1990s) I worked on a fruit farm in Donnybrook, run by an Italian family who’d emigrated to Oz after the war. The wife, who I worked with, was in her 70s but still cooked the most amazing family meals which we were often lucky enough to join in with. Simple food, everything made from scratch, still memorable all these years later. I’ve had great food in Italy since but nothing beats traditional cooking! #farawayfiles

  11. 27th July 2017 / 10:29 PM

    Some of my most memorable food experiences have been in Italy. I can almost still taste a rich wild boar stew with a delicious montepulciano enjoyed in a tiny square in a tiny village in Tuscany some years ago now. I love the concept of slow food, enjoying simple food that has been produced with love and care and produced locally is my idea of great food.

  12. 28th July 2017 / 3:11 AM

    This is a fascinating post! I am sure you know how much I love food and reading about its roots and varieties feels like pure joy for me. I would go crazy trying the stuffed pasta, cheese and fish. Surprised to learn about caviar. I thought I didn’t like it but that changed when I tried the high quality stuff. It just melted in my mouth. #FarawayFiles

  13. 28th July 2017 / 5:13 AM

    Absolutely agree with you that we need to slow down and appreciate food. I find that we are constantly in a rush – 30-minute lunch or lunch at the desk – or not having a proper meal for dinner, it’s all stressful, isn’t it? I’m glad that there are proponents for Slow Food and what better to enjoy real food, slowly and appreciatively, than in Italy 🙂 Great info, Katy and, as usual, love your images. It’s almost lunch hour here as i write this, your post is making me crave for a lovely dish of Italian food! #FarawayFiles

  14. 28th July 2017 / 7:33 AM

    I love and completely agree with the idea that ‘slow food is real food’; I think the movement has been fantastic for showcasing the quality and traditions behind different food products. We’ve countered it in a few countries now but was particularly taken by the way it’s growing in America. Brescia sounds absolutely delicious – definitely surprised about the caviar!

  15. 28th July 2017 / 8:23 AM

    I have to say that out of all cuisines, Italian has to be my favourite! I was in Lombardy recently but unfortunately didn’t get much further than Lake Como but I did get chance to make the most of the delicious food! The food of Brescia looks delicious – especially the stuffed pasta. I’m a sucker for sage butter sauce!

  16. 28th July 2017 / 10:59 AM

    Slow food should be everywhere! What a wonderful cuisine and culture it’s created #farawayfiles

  17. 28th July 2017 / 2:52 PM

    I remember when the slow food movement developed — such an exciting concept that really takes us back to what food should be. It also helps that your list of food is practically my ideal list: caviar, cheese, wine and best of all stuffed pasta! Obviously, the slower the better! #farawayfiles

  18. 28th July 2017 / 4:03 PM

    What a wonderfully delicious post! Cheese is easily my favorite food, and sampling it fresh where it’s made… what could be better! #farawayfiles

  19. 29th July 2017 / 3:08 AM

    The special stuffed pasta sound incredible – I remember reading about it in your other post. Oh, Italy. #farawayfiles

  20. 30th July 2017 / 10:01 PM

    What a great insight into these local foods and wines. I think it is so important to know where are food comes from and how it is produced – I absolutely agree that if we know more about this background then it will help us make better food choices. I loved reading about the caviar and that it takes 12 years! The stuffed pasta sounds pretty amazing too – but not at all surprising given that it is Italy! #farawayfiles

  21. 31st July 2017 / 5:12 AM

    As our world gets faster and we buzz about keeping up, at least we can prepare, eat and enjoy our food slower. Our bodies and minds will continually thank us. #FarawayFiles

  22. 2nd August 2017 / 3:58 PM

    A food festical in Italy sounds like something from a dream! This all looks marvelous 🙂 #farawayfiles

    • 3rd August 2017 / 9:09 AM

      I can highly recommend this experience Chiera – quite unlike the food truck scrums we are used to in the UK and Australia I have to say!

  23. 3rd August 2017 / 2:47 PM

    Whoa! This looks absolutely amazing! Such a cool experience and the food looks phenomenal! I would love to experience something like this. Thank you so much for taking me back to Italy on #farawayfiles. ❤️

  24. 3rd August 2017 / 3:51 PM

    You describe some lovely food and drink. The casoncelli look amazing. What a gorgeous trip to go on. Brescia is definitely an underrated gem. #FarawayFiles

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