Stewed snails: an elite traditional Italian dish

Most people know about snails (escargot) in French cuisine but the Italian tradition has more distant roots in time and a particular taste that is being discovered all over the world.

Snails have been the mysterious object and represent one of the most controversial foods, now elevated to an elite food and rejected as a meal of the poor. However, the gastronomy experts have managed to find an opinion shared by everyone regarding snails, that are considered today as a nutritious and refined food.

Snails, earth snails, have always been consumed, since the stone age.

There are many Greek and Roman sages and authors spoke about snails in their works, thus confirming how much they were known and appreciated that many centuries ago.

The Greeks and Romans considered them as delicious products and particularly appreciated the aphrodisiac virtues. For a long time they were served in the banquets of the Empire, as they were considered fashionable food.

There are various legends related to snails. It is said that a Roman soldier, during the siege of Carthage, while ‘chasing’ snails, of which he was a gourmand, discovered the secret underground passage that allowed his forces to penetrate inside the city walls.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries snails were above all a popular food, consumed mainly as “lean meat”.

They remained food for the “poor” until the first decade of the nineteenth century, when after a famine they ended up regaining a place of honour in high French cuisine.

The French appreciated the snails so much that they even included them among the most elite recipes, as demonstrated by the refined dishes based on escargot, still very popular today.

The Italian gastronomic tradition of stewed snails has them prepared with tomato sauce then used to season a pasta dish or to taste over slices of artisan bread.

It is a dish to try at least once. Once it was tradition, especially in San Giovanni in June, today with quality farms having been started throughout the Italian peninsula they can be enjoyed practically throughout the year.

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