This is my second (and last… at the moment) recipe from the Umbria stop of the ‘20 di cambiamento project”. Roveja polenta with anchovies (polenta that here takes the name Farecchiata or Pesata) tells of a pulse, much less known than the Castelluccio Lentils, indeed I would say almost unknown outside the area where it is grown: Roveja.
Roveja is a small pea-like pulse with a pod that, at first green in colour, turns dark purple as it matures; it is harvested between the end of July and the beginning of August. The dried pulse is brown in colour.
Dried Roveja, the raw material for soups and flours (photo: La Repubblica)
In ancient times, Roveja was cultivated on the entire Umbria and Marche Apennine ridge, from the Colfiorito Plateau to the Gran Sasso mountain through Cascia and Castelluccio, thanks to its resistance to low temperatures and its low need for water for cultivation.
Although it was the mainstay of the diet of shepherds and farmers, especially in soups prepared also with other pulses, Roveja almost completely disappeared from the market after World War II due to its tiring and unprofitable cultivation methods.
To save this cultivation from oblivion, in 2006 Slow Food turned it into a Presidium involving a few farmers from the Valnerina valley in the municipality of Cascia who continue to cultivate it to this day very similarly to lentils. Roveja can be eaten fresh or dried, or it can be stone ground to obtain a flour with a slightly bitter aftertaste, and it is the main ingredient in our recipe.
Roveja flowers (photo: Bikers in cresta)
A recipe for ’20 di cambiamento’
And this is my second recipe (the first recipe was Ricotta and lentil tart) because I tasted Roveja for the first time in my life thanks to a trip to Castelluccio and to my friend and blogger Cristiana Curri (https://blog.giallozafferano.it/chicchecris/). It is a pulse and therefore it does not contain gluten, but it does contain complex carbohydrates which, by absorbing a lot of water during the digestive process, contribute to a gradual rise in blood sugar levels, keeping them constant and avoiding peaks.
I also like the fact that the Polenta is flavoured (given the difficulty of finding salt in these mountains, it is no coincidence that unsalted bread is also common here) by an anchovy sauce, the fish that used to be preserved in salt, becoming long-lasting, nutritious and practical to transport, which is present in many recipes from areas that are far from the sea precisely because of these extraordinary characteristics (just think of Piedmont’s Bagna Cauda).
It is an iconic dish of Umbrian cuisine and by preparing Roveja polenta, we will therefore be doing ourselves a favour, but above all we will be helping to safeguard the biodiversity of this area and to keep alive a product and its centuries-old tradition. Furthermore, you will only need four ingredients to prepare a truly amazing dish… in addition to water!
A little anecdote: when I first made Roveja Polenta, I cooked a lot of it because I did not know its yield, texture and taste. In fact, I ended up with a whole dish full of Polenta I hadn’t even touched! The next day, when the Polenta was perfectly firm, I used it to prepare a gratin by alternating layers of Roveja Polenta, stewed Tropea red onion, chopped celery and grated salted ricotta cheese… a delight!
Roveja Polenta with anchovies
7.78g carbohydrates per 100g
Ingredients for 4 servings
- 450g water
- 100g Roveja flour*
- 60g extra virgin olive oil
- 10 fillets of salted anchovies or anchovies in oil
- 1 clove garlic
- coarse salt for the water
- celery (optional)
*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on Prontuario AIC)
- Put the water on the stove and bring it to the boil; add salt to the water and when the salt has completely dissolved, remove the pot from the heat just long enough to pour in the Roveja flour, stirring with a whisk so that no lumps form.
- Put the pot back on the heat and stir the mixture frequently with a wooden spoon so that it does not stick to the bottom. Cook the Polenta over low heat for about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. If you decide to use salted anchovies, remove the salt on the surface with a sharp knife and remove the central bone. For convenience, I opted for anchovy fillets in oil. Then put the oil in a small pan, add the garlic cut in half and let it brown slightly, then remove it and add 6 anchovy fillets and let them melt.
- When the Polenta is ready, assemble the dishes by making a layer of Polenta, season it with the anchovy sauce and finish with 1 whole rolled anchovy fillet. I decided to serve the Polenta accompanied by celery sticks to give the recipe a fresh touch and make it more suitable for the warm season.
Version with gluten of Roveja Polenta with anchovies
The recipe contains only naturally gluten free ingredients, so no adaptation is necessary for its version with gluten.