It is customary in Teramo that “Le Virtù” are served on the table almost May on the table.
This ancient dish of peasant origin and closely linked to the rhythms that nature imposed, is the sublimation of the “kitchen leftovers”. In the days before May 1, the housewives cleaned their cupboards from the vegetables and legumes collected in the previous season because: nothing should be wasted.
To these vegetables herbs were then added, in a propitiatory manner, plus the first fruits of the fields and then the scraps of the pig: ears, feet, nose, bones.
Everything is cooked for three days!
When I had the opportunity to eat them the first time, as a guest of a lady from Teramo, religiously linked to the peasant customs and traditions, I was told that in the past Le Virtù were produced by the entire community which then distributed them to the poor.
This custom had changed, with the socio-economic evolution, but the habit of cooking Le Virtù in great abundance and offering them in homage to neighbours, loved ones and even simple and occasional acquaintances, remained.
How to prepare Le Virtù?
Roughly, I go from memory as well as following the memories of the taste buds (I hope the Teramani will forgive me).
Each ingredient must be cooked individually: the dried legumes must be rehydrated (therefore at least 12 hours of soaking) and then boiled, flavouring the various cooking processes with sage, bay leaf, garlic.
To the beans must be added pork rinds, ears, feet, snout of the pig and other meat obtained from the pig itself.
Vegetables are prepared separately: onion, celery, carrots, scrippigni (thistle), borage, marjoram, dill, chard, pipirella (a sort of thyme), and fennel which are gradually added to the legumes.
Then, all the vegetables, all strictly from the field, are chopped, boiled and sautéed in a pan: chicory, chard, spinach, lettuce, wild herbs, asparagus, leek, celery, wild fennel, zucchini, carrots, potatoes.
Then the meat and bone sauce is prepared – the meat is lightly fried – as well as the small minced meat balls (pallottine). Peas and broad beans are cooked separately are also combined. There are more vegetables and legumes than meat.
Everything is gradually assembled in the large saucepan over a low heat.
Per ultimo si aggiunge la pasta, secca e fresca, con e senza uovo, tagliata in vario modo: tagliolini, rombi, quadrucci, maltagliati.
In abbinamento a questo piatto, decisamente laborioso anche per la digestione, è consigliabile un Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo (“cirasce” in Abruzzese)
Finally, the pasta is added, dry and fresh, with and without egg, cut in various ways: tagliolini, rhombuses, squares, maltagliati.
In combination with this dish, which is decidedly laborious also for digestion, we recommend a Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo (“cirasce” in Abruzzese means cherry), obtained from Montepulciano grapes vinified as white. A light, table wine, typical of Abruzzo farmers and ideal for freshening the mouth.
I conclude by offering a very warm greeting to Teramo, which for three years has been my “homeland” and in my heart it always is, with the hope that San Berardo will protect us in this circumstance too.
Cover Picture by “Tesori D’Abruzzo”