Asti in my Heart

Asti is a city in Piedmont region in northwest Italy, and the capital of the province bears the same name. A world within a world with the same name. Asti spumante, the aromatic sparkling wine, has made the name of this city famous, and is one of the few DOCG wines of that category in Italy.



A part from Asti spumante, Asti really deserves a big attention for its great variety of high quality wines, food and ingredients and is really a magically various world from a general eno-gastronomical point of view.

I came to Asti for the first time in autumn 2001 to organize a trip to Asti for an Icelandic travel agency (that unfortunately did not come true, because of high flying prices at that time), and to write articles about the region for some Icelandic newspapers and magazines. It was a perfect period for getting the real flavor of Asti; full harvest time, Le Sagre, the huge gastronomical festa held in Asti every year, and various eno-gastronomical events around town. The province of Asti and the Piedmont region, entered deeply in my heart that week, and I became really amazed of the treasures that lie in its food & wine traditions.
I had the big fortune and honor to be invited together with L’Accademia della Cucina Italiana for a conference and lunch in Vercelli, which is the rice capital not only of Italy, but of Europe. I would like to know who was the genious that first discovered that the Piedmontese rice is the most ideal for slow cooking.
That was the day I joined the rice fan club, and experienced with my own eyes and tastebuds these famous food treasures of the Po Valley, so often mentioned in geography class.
Rice is to Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto regions what pasta is to the south you could say, and the risotto recipes are infinite.

Passion for food traditions


Vercelli – where life is all about rice

The reason for this gathering, was the publishing of the third volume of a book dedicated to Lombardy’s rice history and recipes, written by one of the Academy’s member, Enzo Lo Scalzo. The location of the trattoria in midst of the “seas” of rice could not have been better chosen. I was very lucky to be seated in front of one of Asti’s and Italy’s great gastronome, food historian of the Accademia della Cucina Italiana, Giovanni Goria, that passed away in January 2018.
He wrote several books about the Asti- and Piedmont culinary traditions.
I never met a person so passionate and enthusiastic about sharing his wisdom and love for the genuine food of his territory. His eagerness for spreading the food traditions and customs of Piedmont, and above all il buon mangiare or “to eat well” were amazing.

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Giovanni Goria’s big passion for traditional food lives in his works. Me a little dizzy at dessert, still listening to his wise words

 

Unfortunately I don’t remember all the things he said, but talking to him was so inspiring that the next day I bought a book of his. His writings will preserve his gastronomical historical treasures for generations to come.
On that day I didn’t only discover the great quality of the Asti- and Piedmont food tradition, but the quantity that often is served. The numerous antipasti appetizer dishes for me were like a whole meal, and then came a selection of  primi (first main courses), followed by secondi (second main courses), cheeses and desserts.

I regularly cook recipes from Giovanni’s books from the Piedmont tradition, and here follows risotto recipe included in his book “La cucina del Piemonte”. It is an ancient Piedmont recipe and particularly heartwarming in winter.

Risotto with sausage and rhum

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