When in central Italy from spring to late fall, you can’t miss feasting with the “locals” at a sagra (village food festival of local specialties cooked and served up by local volunteers). Each sagra features various dishes cooked up with delicacies of the area: snails at Cantalupo, pork shank at Petrignano, eels at Beroide (near Spoleto), wild asparagus at Eggi, goose at Bettona, wild greens near Spoleto, la porchetta in Costano, crawfish and lake fish in San Savino, borlotti beans at Cave, hot red peppers at Pila, roasted chestnuts at San Martino in Colle, polenta with sausages at Carbonesca, porcini mushrooms at Pianello, pici pasta at Petroio, squab at San Fortunato in Collina….just to name a few.
In early August, that most Italian of all dishes – spaghetti – headlines at Casa Castaldo, small village in the hills near Assisi, at the Sagra dello Spaghetto. Culinary stars of the 46th edition this year?
- spaghetti all’amatriciana casacastaldese (the Casa Castalda amatriciana cooks use onion, garlic, pancetta ie, Italian bacon)
- spaghetti carbonara casacastaldese (most pancetta-rich carbonara I’d ever seen!)
- spaghetti oro rosso di casacastalda (the dish I chose with saffron as the oro rosso or “red gold” – and finely-diced garden zucchini, a bit of pancetta, too)
- spaghetti casacastaldesi (with sausage, baby tomatoes, arugula, pecorino cheese)
- spaghetti al tartufo (with truffles)
….and if none of the above, entice, spaghetti in bianco was offered, too, ie, just seasoned with local olive oil and Parmesan.
While I enjoyed my pasta, Pino opted for bruschetta, then un secondo: mazzafegati con erba, local grilled sausages of pig liver with sautéed chicory and our local Umbrian hearth bread, la torta, on the side.
He shared my arrosticini, too: the grilled lamb tidbits on skewers I’d chosen for un secondo.
[lcaption]My pasta choice: spaghetti oro rosso di casa castalda[/lcaption]
[lcaption]Young server volunteer serves up Pino’s bruschetta[/lcaption]
[lcaption]Mazzafegati con erba for Pino’s second course[/lcaption]
[lcaption]Lamb skewers – arrosticini – for me as a secondo[/lcaption]
All..buonissimo….! But the sagra night highlight for me was the invitation to the kitchen to see all the cheery, hard-working local volunteers, sweating proudly over hot burners on a sultry August night, cooking up the goodness:
[lcaption]The antipasto team: Daniela, Rosetta and Melita[/lcaption]
[lcaption]Ada and Mafalda, amatriciana squad[/lcaption]
[lcaption]Fiorella and helper dish up that carbonara[/lcaption]
[lcaption]Massimo on the meats[/lcaption]
[lcaption]The torta crew[/lcaption]
[lcaption]Paolo heads up the kitchen crew and Sonia and Silvia are part of his team[/lcaption]
[lcaption]Good times in the sagra kitchen[/lcaption]
[lcaption]All those spaghetti dishes leave the kitchen for the dining room[/lcaption]
…..and outside the kitchen, the “younger set” handles drink orders:
…and others serve at table – and the younger ones set them up:
As we were leaving, the band was starting to play and the ballroom dancing was just starting off. The delectable dishes at prezzi popolari draw many to the sagra – but so does the ballroom dancing.
That’s why our young neighbors, Rossanna and Silvio were there.
Whether the dancing or the dishes draw you in, experience the simple pleasures of Italy: don’t miss le sagre.
Read more about Rossanna and her family – and our other rural friends
Read about the traditional way to make spaghetti all’amatriciana (and cooking it up as a fund-raiser)
Click here to see the making of la torta with Peppa
Click here for a torta recipe, adapted to oven-baking
Snails star in Cantalupo in this wintertime sagra
Pork shank sagra near Assisi draws many in the early summer
Click here to read about – and see! – the Cave borlotti sagra
More here on the Petrignano roasted pork shank feasting
Click here for news on the Pila summertime peperoncino sagra
What good eating with roasted chestnuts at the San Martino in Colle November sagra
Read more here on the Pianello food feast starring mushrooms
Read about pici good eating here
Click here for more on San Fortunato in Colle good eating
Read about a family group’s “favorite day in Italy”