Back in August I went on a press trip to Mantova ( best known as Mantua here in the UK). I had always yearned to visit the Ducal Palace, in Mantova, the home of the Gonzaga family . They had been wealthy horse breeders who had risen to power in the 14th century to become one of the Italy’s leading Renaissance families. The person I was most interested in was Isabella d’Este who had married one of the Gonzaga’s and became famous in her own right as an intellectual, a great art collector and certainly a woman who knew her own mind and stood up for herself. Exploring the Ducal Palace was an experience I will never forget and my great guide Lorenzo Bonoldi brought its history to life.
Apart from exploring the history and culture of Mantova I was intrigued to find it had an interesting selection of culinary delights to try. Obviously the dish that caught my eye initially was Donkey Stew -Stracotto d’asino. I was determined to try it while I was there but these days the restaurants in the centre of town don’t serve it for fear of upsetting the tourists. I finally tracked down a restaurant that did serve it and I got to try it out. It was certainly delicious but really didn’t taste much different to beef. A famous cake of the area is Torta Sbrisolana which is made from white flour, finely ground cornmeal, butter, sugar, sweet almonds and a touch of vanilla .According to tradition the sbrisolona is not cut into slices but is broken up by punching it in the middle. If it crumbles it has been well made.. Another local speciality is chocolate salami, similar to chocolate biscuit cake which we put in the fridge, but in the shape of a salami. I had mine with some amaretto cream. . I thought I had died and gone to heaven it was so good.
The other typical Mantuan dish I tried was tortelli di zucca mantovani. .It’s a pasta dish similar to ravioli with pumpkin and amaretti biscuits. It was delicious but you don’t need much as it is very rich.
There were plenty more local dishes to try but as I was only there for the weekend I ran out of time. However I intend to return someday and when I do I will try a few more local dishes and report back.