Gastronomic traditions of Bolsena Lake

Scritto il 22/04/2021
da Giovanni Campisi

The eels of Pope Martin IV

A great classic in the traditional cuisine of the Bolsena Lake area is “eels in vernaccia”. This recipe originates from a curious anecdote in which Pope Martin IV (1281 - 1285) was the protagonist, and that event is reported by various ancient authors. One of them is Dante, who mentioned him in the Divine Comedy, for being a gourmand of this dish - it is no coincidence that he included Pope Marin IV in the gluttonous circle - and referring to him says: "... and that face beyond him, more than the others, quilted / had the Holy Church in its arms / from the Torso was, and purges by fasting / the eels of Bolsena and Vernaccia" (Purgatory, Canto XXIV, vv. 19 - 24).

The original recipe consists in leaving the eels drowned in Vernaccia wine and then, once flavoured, roasted with a bay leaf. The legend says that this delicious dish was the very cause of Martin IV's death, so much so that this epitaph was composed: "Gaudent anguillae, quia mortuus hic iacet ille, qui quasi morte reas escoriabat eas!" (Enjoy the eels, because here lies dead the one who flayed them as if they were guilty of death!).

The combination of eels and Vernaccia is still used in the local cuisine, the only variation is that the poor eels are marinated after being caught, but we can assure you that the goodness of this recipe, remains the same.



The “Sbroscia”

This is one of the traditional dishes in this area. It is a soup prepared in a typical terracotta pot, called "pignatto”, where are cooked slices lake fish, of different species, ", together with oil, garlic, onion, chilli pepper, potatoes and aromatic herbs according to taste. Heated for a few minutes, adding some tomatoes, then added some water, cook slowly until you get a delicious thick broth. When the soup is ready, it is poured into bowls with toasted bread or hardened bread. It is still a custom among fishermen to eat the sbroscia by hand.



Tench soup

After cleaning the fish, fry the oil with onion, carrot, celery, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper in a pan. Then add the tench and fry all the ingredients for a few minutes, after add tomato puree diluted with water until the fish is completely covered. When the sauce becomes thicker, everything is transferred to another pan and more boiling water is added. Once the tench is removed, the broth is ready for the soup, which following the best Bolsena tradition is mainly made with “tagliolini”, a typical italian pasta.



Roast vendace

Clean the whitefish and put it on a grill, seasoning it with oil and salt. When cooked, open the fish and dress it with oil or green sauce.

Coregone of Bolsena Lake, also known as lavarello, belongs to the Salmonidea family and was introduced into the Bolsena basin at the end of the 19th century, following the repopulation carried out on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture. This particular fish has excellent meat, lives in relatively fresh waters and feeds on plankton. The product is included in the national list of traditional food products under Ministerial Decree of 22 July 2004 - 'Fourth revision of the national list of traditional food products'.