Anne's Blog

Near Foligno, Gnocchi Take the Stage

Date: July 31, 2019 - categories: , , , , , , , - 8 Comments

Unusual July rainy weather did not keep us away from the gnocchi sagra (a village food festival) in San Giovanni Profiamma near Foligno.

I’d never seen the interior of the 12th-c. Romanesque church there and was hoping it would be open for an evening Mass that late July Sunday.  Pause in the rain when we arrived there…but the church was closed.

Across the road, cars were starting to pull into the parking near the sports field, site of the sagra. People headed to the food tents, holding umbrellas.

The tables outside (usually full) were empty and wet….

…..but inside,  hungry villagers – and not only! –  feasted  at some of the long plank tables:

We joined the short line where food orders were taken quickly (rain on a sagra night is good fortune!).  The menu enticed:

As this sagra starred gnocchi, I ordered the tris di gnocchi or homemade potato dumplings served with three different sauces: one with goose meat, one with fava beans and one with Montefalco’s famous red wine, Sagrantino:

That gnocchi goodness was served up by a young volunteer, Giulia:
Those buonissimi gnocchi were the same choice of another couple at our table, Alessandra and Menolo.  Pino ordered one of his favorites dishes,  pork shank with roasted potatoes:

While we had waited for our orders, I’d wandered to cooking area of the tent asking if I could possibly take some photographs in the kitchen. All the volunteer cooks were delighted to be in a photo…..

– and many urged me not to miss Nunziata, “la regina dell’oca” (“the queen of the goose”)

As she sliced up the roast geese for one of the second courses, Nunziata chatted happily about her many years volunteering at this ten-day sagra which has been animating S. Giovanni Profiamma every July for twenty-six years.

At an adjacent table, bruschette toppings were in the making, including one I’d never tried: con cipolle (with onions). 

Diced white onions are simmered in olive oil with bay leaf

….and then spooned onto toasted bread:

Nearby, Nadia was rolling out that Umbrian flat bread, la torta, which would be filled with grilled sausages as an antipasto.

Luigi helped in grilling the sausages over the fires behind the kitchen and then he split them for the torta slices:

I met the full “grilling squad” outside the kitchen area:

All the team was most welcoming, offering me tastes of the skewered lamb tidbits, arrosticini. Signor Franceso even insisted I take a couple to Pino out in the dining area:

When it started to drizzle, plastic bags covered heads and the grilling never stopped:

Another creative “grilling headress” which caught my eye was paper towel under a red baseball cap: to absorb the sweat on long hot nights over the grill…..

….and what an array of tasty Umbria specialties on that grill….

….and near the sizzling meats, bread was being toasted for the various bruschette:

Mille grazie to all of you who volunteered to cook up or serve up Umbrian goodness for ten nights (most of them, hot, hot ones!):  Francesco, Massimiliano and Tommaso on the grilling squad….

……Anna-Rita picking up orders in the kitchen to serve at the tables……

…as did Sofia…

……and young Yuri on the grilling squad

….and Agnese serving at table..

… young Camilla did, too…

….. and Rebecca (age 10), too, who told me she that no, she certainly  was not the youngest one of  all:  “There’s a girl here working whose only eight –  two years younger than me!”

….and each of you – no matter the age – worked with such passione to make this a sagra to remember.

Click here for more on the sagra tradition (and do note the links on this one!)


  • Nikki Russo says:

    So nice! I love Gnocchi!! This certainly looks like an amazing get together full of fun, friends and food! Yum! I also noticed Crescia on the menu! My grandmother used to make this Easter Bread when I was a kid. LOVE IT!

  • Thanks, Nikki….and yes, in certain areas, “torta” is called “crescia” and Umbrians enjoy it all year. At Easter, they enjoy the Easter cheesebread, torta di formaggio – and here is a note in torta di formaggio:

  • Frank says:

    After seeing your pictures, I am so hungry.

  • Emilie says:

    Going to a sagra = one of my fav things to do in Italy!!! And if It’s with you (and gnocchi, let’s admit It), It’s even better 😀

  • Frank, let’s do a sagra together when you come back in September!

  • Emily, a great sagra will be going on near our house when you come visit i August..we’ll go together!

  • Mary Garland says:

    Wow Annie, This sagra looks like a total blast! Italians are so good at food and at sharing it all with one another. Those tortas? on that beautiful little girl’s plate with grilled sausage look like cheese crisps (the food of choice of young kids in the southwest). Are those made with the pasta you showed being rolled out? I’d love a recipe!
    We loved our time with you and Pino. This is a great way to prolong our too short but savory experience!

  • Mary…had tossed this…but yes, a winner of a sagra!

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