Anne's Blog

With Giuseppa in Deruta, La Torta Umbra Takes the Stage

Date: March 2, 2022 - categories: , , , , , , , , , - Leave your thoughts

If you read my recent note on Giuseppa making her homemade fettuccine, you’ll already know that the best in the rural cuisine of Umbria reigns in the farmhouse kitchen of Giuseppa, in the Deruta countryside.

Come with me for lunch at Giuseppa’s after our morning tour of Perugia and enjoy the feast.

After the pasta, perhaps she’ll offer us the Umbrian bread la torta al test0 which she bakes on the top of her woodstove on il testo, a large cast iron disc:

This quick bread’s name literally means “cake of the tile,” though “bread on the tile” is a more accurate translation.  In Gubbio,  la torta is called “la crescia” and in small towns north of Assisi, “la caccia.”

The torta – not needing the leavening time of  bread –  has ancient origins, dating back to the Romans. The disc for cooking is about 1-1/2″ thick and the word “testo” comes from the Latin testum, or that disc of stone warmed over the embers for the cooking of the flat bread, la focaccia. The Romans made the discs either by sculpting and forming large stones or by making the discs of clay mixed with gravel.

Nowadays, the testo may be made of cast iron (like Giuseppa’s) – or cement (like one used at our house).

The ingredients are simple: flour, salt, extra-virgin olives oil, a packed of leavening,  eggs (Giuseppa and I gathered hers together before making  la torta).  And Giuseppa surprised me with her addition to the mixture: about three tablespoons of grated Parmesan.

Quantities?  Q. B. (“quanto basta” i.e., “as much as you need”) – as is typical of most Italian dishes.

Giuseppa started making this bread as a young girl, learning from Mamma and Nonna – and never seeing this recipe in a cookbook!

As is traditional, Giuseppa wished to fill our torta bread with cooked greens and her Swiss chard was simmering on the woodstove.

She also wanted  young Sonia (with me and shooting these photos) and me to have slices of the torta filled with slices of the family prosciutto:

:

She sliced prosciutto on the slicer they use for capocollo, pancetta, prosciutto – and salami. Giuseppa, in fact,  also sliced some salami, made by son Loris of meat from their pig and a wild boar he had hunted.

The affettate (sliced meats) were ready:

:

Now time for making the torta.    I’ll be posting the video Sonia made of the torta-making on my YouTube channel within a few days.

In the meantime, enjoy a few photos of the process (and what strength in those hands during the kneading!)

. :

Giuseppa paused for a minute to sprinkle flour on the testo, heating up on the woodstove. The flour beginning to brown slightly would indicate to Giuseppa that the testo had reached the perfect temperature for the baking of la torta al testo:

When the testo was ready, Giuseppa gently lifted that torta, as if lifting a baby in blanket….

….and spread out the dough on the testo  – and what a perfect fit!

Greens simmered nearby, the sugo (sauce) for our pasta bubbling behind the greens.

Giuseppa periodically poked the torta to assure even, uniform cooking:

The torta was browning nicely and would soon be flipped…

With a rapid motion, Giuseppa flipped the torta:

Perfezione!

Pinpricks, too, on the other side after flipping..

And then Giuseppa sliced the hot torta…

… and brought it to the table, along with the greens and affettate:

Giuseppa held a plate with a pair of torta slices, sliced and filled: one with the cooked greens, one with sliced salami.  She’d wanted to introduce Sonia – from Treviso in northern Italy – to Umbrian goodness.

Sonia, this is the only photo of YOU taken that day as you were so busy shooting photos for me and also making videos of dear Giuseppa.  Mille grazie!

I am so very glad you joined me and now know that there is no more enjoyable place to taste Umbrian rural cuisine than at Giuseppa’s!

Click here to see Giuseppa making homemade pasta

Read more about a Giuseppa feast here

Read about Deruta joys

Read about eating with Giuseppa, giver from the heart

Giuseppa wins over everyone

Read why you can’t miss lunch with Giuseppa

 

 

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Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)