07/07/2016

Discovering Capunsèl

What is and how do we prepare the historical Mantuan gastronomic specialty, that uses food leftovers

Everyone knows that the best way to become familiar with the traditions of the people is to taste the traditional dishes of their town.  This is why Solferino, a beautiful village located in a scenic position – overlooking both the planes and Lake Garda – held the twelfth edition of the the  Grande Festa del Capunsèl from July 1st to the 4th.  Each summer, this festival celebrates the most famous and characteristic fresh pasta dish of the Morainic Hills of Garda, a dish that is recognized and classified also by the Lombardy Region: the Capunsèl di Solferino, a very special type of bread dumpling whose recipe seems to date back to the Gonzaga era, when it was a custom to use sweet and savory together.

The chance to taste this dish, accompanied by other food such as grilled meats, cheese and sweets, was offered as usual by the Capunsèl Confraternity, in collaboration with the Pro Loco of Solferino.  The event also featured entertainment, music, dancing and stalls that made the celebration even more enjoyable.

Capunsèi are small bread cylinder-shaped dumplings whose ingredients are the same as those used to stuff capons, but in different quantities.  They belong to the ancient popular farming cooking tradition and were initially considered to be a poor dish because they were made with leftovers:  stale bread, lard, garlic, parsley and cheese crust, all mixed together with eggs and topped with melted butter. 

This popular specialty became important gastronomically when some restaurants with a centuries-old tradition decided to include it as a main course in their menu.  In time, this dish became more and more appreciated and requested, above all by tourists who were curious about is name and shape. 

Since 2006, the Official Gazette of the Lombardy Region has included  Capunsèl as a traditional and typical dish of the Morainic Hills of Garda, with precise guidelines for its promotion and protection. 

Spindle-shaped bread dumplings whose ingredients, even in different quantities, are the same as those used for capon stuffing.  They belong, in fact, to the ancient popular farming food tradition and were considered a poor dish for its use of leftover ingredients.  

The typical area can be reduced to the towns of Solferinio, Goito and Volta Mantovana and there are many different and greatly discussed way to prepare this dish.

Capunsèl di Solferino reflect the habits and customs ties to life in the countryside and the passing of the seasons that characterize this land and make it unique.  This dish is different from the ones prepared in other towns because it includes ground amaretto cookies that give the dish a particular taste.

 

Each area has its own recipe and its own secret, but the base of this recipe is rather simple and anyone who knows anything about food and cooking can make it.  

Ingredients for 4 persons include 500 grams of bread crumbs, broth made from different types of meat and vegetables, ground amaretto cookies, 100 grams of Grana Padano, 3 eggs, butter, salt, pepper, spices and a clove of garlic.

The recipe is very quick:  all you have to do is mix all the ingredients together with the boiling broth until you obtain a compact mixture, then add the eggs and mix again.  Make 5/6 cm long spindle-like dumplings and cook in boiling water until they come to the surface.  When they begin floating in the broth, they are ready.  Drain and serve warm in a casserole with steam melted butter, sage and a sprinkle of Grana Padano.  

This recipe helps avoid throwing away leftover bread. Our food tradition, a source of creativity and morality, has always created tasty and delicious dishes with leftover bread, and this is not only an act of parsimony, but also of responsibility, awareness and respect towards food and its ethical, environmental and social importance. 

by Alda Fantin

East Lombardy is the European region
of gastronomy 2017

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