- Food & Wine
Local specialties in valtellina
A small area of Lombardy with a rich gastronomic tradition
Valtellina is a region rich with high-quality products that are famous all over the world. Their most important products include cheeses (such as Bitto cheese), wine, pizzoccheri pasta, bresaola (dried beef) and bitters.
Tradition has it that in the mountain pastures in the summer, the milk is transformed into precious Bitto cheese, while the return of the herds in the valley is linked to the production of the Valtellina Casera once only available in winter, which can now be found throughout the year. Expert shepherds and cheese makers, the Celts, to conserve and transfer the nutritional properties of milk over time, began to produce long-keeping cheeses, and it is likely that the etymology of the name Bitto, deriving from "Bitu", may indicate something that is persistent. Since 1996, these cheeses have been awarded the Protected Designation of Origin: their production technology is defined by the respective disciplines to ensure their unique quality. After they have aged for 70 days, the wheels of cheese are inspected one by one, by the technicians of the Consortium that apply the fire brand of quality.
The first historical evidence attesting to the production of Bresaola dates back to the 15th century. The origin of the name Bresaola can traced to the Germanic word "brasa", meaning embers, since braziers were used in ancient times to heat and dehumidify the air in the aging rooms. The braziers unleashed an aromatic smoke that was obtained by throwing juniper berries and bay leaves on burning coals of fir wood.
Another important delicacy is Pizzoccheri della Valtellina. The earliest origins of this buckwheat pasta can be traced back to 1750 when it was cited in a will. Buckwheat, the main ingredient constituting the heart of the recipe, originally came from Siberia (the cultivation of this crop in Italy is dated around the 15th century, in Teglio). The first crop of furmentun dates back to the 1600s. In terms of red wines, Valtellina is a major producer. The Denomination of Origin (D.O.) of Valtellina boasts 2 DOCG (Sforzato di Valtellina and Valtellina Superiore) 1 DOC (Rosso di Valtellina) and 1 IGT (Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio), with vineyards covering about 800 hectares.
Some of Valtellina's bitters most worthy of mention include braùlio and fruit grappa. Bràulio is a liqueur aperitif, digestive and tonic, with a pleasantly bitter taste and moderate alcohol content (21 %). Its main ingredients are herbs and medicinal plants, fruits, roots and wild berries, collected in the mountains surrounding Bormio, the pristine environment of the Stelvio National Park. Grappa, on the other hand, is made with characteristic flavours including blueberries, wild strawberries and raspberries.