Tony Mantuano goes to Molise – part 4

(Read previous parts here) There are three dishes the Molisani are particularly proud of: Fusilli al Ferro, Pampanella and Zeppole. During our visit in Molise, we had a mission: Cathy and Tony would learn how to make these dishes and would include them in the menu at their restaurant Spiaggia.

6a00e55029641d8834011570a85838970b-800wi Those who know us know that when we have a mission, nobody can stop us: We had Fusilli al Ferro, Pampanella, and Zeppole at breakfast, lunch and dinner. We welcomed ourselves in private kitchens (left in Grazietta’s home), we went to restaurants and food shops and Fusilli, Pampanella and Zeppole was all we had and we talked. Almost.

Fusilli al Ferro is fresh pasta that is wrapped around an iron stick (hence ferro – in the past, they would use the rays of broken umbrellas). The pasta is a short hollow shape which is reached with a destrous movement of your hands. Cathy and Tony became experts. More Cathy than Tony.


Pampanella (left) is pork meat marinated overnight with garlic and ground sweet red pepper. When it’s time to cook it, you add some water, cover the pan with perchament paper to maintain the moist and put it in the oven. After a couple of hours, out of the oven, you add some white wine vinegar and the dish is ready.

The problem with Pampanella is the ground sweet pepper which is not for sale, or, what is for sale does not cut the mustard, at least for Tony’s and our demanding taste. Don’t worry, Tony, we’ll find a way to bring the real molisano ground sweet pepper in.

6a00e55029641d883401156fb2de5f970c-800wi This is Pia, Francesco Travaglini’s wife, preparing the Zeppole, another Molisano dish. This is dessert. It is fresh dow filled with wine must and molassa and then baked. We tried many Zeppole, and they were all good, but Pia’s  were the most fragrant and tasteful.

Tony and Cathy cooked, watched, learned, asked questions. They were ennamored and inspired with everything they saw and tasted. As soon as they got back to Chicago, they met with their chef, the very talented Sarah Grueneberg and they shared with her the precious recipes and tips they had collected. Sarah and Tony are already working at the new Molise menu. It will be ready very shortly.

Join the Conversation

Comments are closed.