La Roveja, che zuppa!

April 11, 2013 / Food & Wine
Cascia, Umbria
Bowls of zuppa di roveja will quickly disappear!The coldest spring in fifty years calls for zuppa di roveja! We first tried this “bonta’” on an icy January night at Cascia’s Festa delle Tradizioni Rurali. The festivities were launched by Peppe de Lillo, leading his long-horned oxen and playing his organetto as he sang le pasquarelle (traditional mountain verses). Medieval hilltown Cascia is famous for St. Rita (born here in the 14th century), black truffles, pecorino cheeses, saffron – and now – for la roveja.

Following the 1979 earthquake, the smaller farm villages ringing Cascia were abandoned. Many years and much restoration later, the family homes became summer homes: few people still worked the rugged land.

About twenty years ago, Silvana Crespi De Carolis found a battered can of legumes (survivor of the 1979 earthquake) in a dusty corner of the cantina (cellar). She showed it to elderly farmers but they were mystified. Undaunted, con curiosita’ e determinazione, Signora Silvana researched the legume and then relaunched its cultivation. Nowadays Signora Silvana’s family cultivates la roveja as do two other committed area farmers. Slow Food heard of this and declared la roveja a “presidio”, ensuring its preservation.

Lucia's aunt's stand offers farro, farro sfarrato and roveja flour for polentaSilvana and roveja-producer Geltrude offered festival visitors steaming bowls of roveja soup, enhanced with Cascia-area saffron – delighted when we asked for seconds!  In an adjacent booth, niece Lucia sold roveja beans and polenta flour, enthusiastically sharing “roveja lore” and recipes.

Nearby, young volunteers fed the bonfire, and toasted bruschetta. Cheese-producer Roberto slipped wedges of his caciotta (cow’s milk) cheese on top. They went fast. 

An icy mist draped Cascia but the simple delicious foods – and the festive camaraderie – warmed the winter night.

And it may be April now but la zuppa di roveja is bubbling away on our woodstove now.

Peppe di Lillo plays a Pasquarella  for his oxen

music in the piazza
Caciotta for sale at Roberto's booth
Signor Roberto contributed his caciotta cheese to the bruschetta feast
Caciotta slabs on the toasty bruschetta
Geltrude's stringozzi with farro, with roveja, of saffron
Geltrude and Silvana dish up their buonissimo zuppa di roveja
Buonissima zuppa di roveja - rich mountain flavor

Nightime arrives in Cascia

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

19 Responses to “La Roveja, che zuppa!”

  1. Ginny Siggia

    Wonderful photos! And to think I had plain old mac & cheese for dinner last night. Such a dish could be ambrosial but in my rustic (not in the charming sense) kitchen it is rather uninspiring; fuel for the body but not beautiful for the soul.

    I recently saw Highland Cows on a farm in Pennsylvania, but in terms of horns, they are mere prongs compared to those on the beasts in these photos!!

    Ah … a good bean-based soup, bread, and cheese. Doesn’t get much better than that, though I wouldn’t object to a cornetto at the end.

    Another city to add to the MUST SEE list in Umbria!

  2. JAmes S. Puliti

    looks deliciozo and oh so Appetizing. Wonderful story –too

  3. Sounds good, I’d like to try some. It was freezing here all spring also, only the last two days did it get warm enough to open the magnolia buds.

  4. David Bridges

    YUM! The only “complaint” I have with the post is that it makes us miss Italy VERY MUCH! Thanks for keeping us in touch with the wonderful customs and food of Umbria.

  5. on this cold, rainy, gray, Chicago day, that soup, cheese, and bread look like a warm embrace! Grazie, Anne! Great post!

  6. Anne Ladky

    Interesting note and wonderful pictures once again, Anne. So many wonderful places in Umbria to explore! Hope it warms up soon…

  7. Sandra Spector

    Another great story by Annie.
    She ought to write a book!!

  8. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    Hey Jasper you transposed several letters yes no “J” but influence of other cultures mandate that spelling. They are ‘field peas’ wild at one time also very popular in the hills of Puglia. Can be ‘pasted’ into a humus with garlic ,lemon and sesame seed

  9. Elaine Marone

    Makes my mouth water for this hot tasty soup with such delicious accompaniments. My husband just made a hearty pea soup with the leftover hambone from Easter and at least it will warm us for lunch today against these chilly Cape Cod winds. It would be great to find a source for these Umbrian beans so we could plant them in our garden for making roveja soup when winter returns. Then we can pretend we are contentedly consuming it amidst the fine camaraderie at the festa in Cascia. Anne, we so appreciate your story and photos which conjure up for us an image full of delights – and remind us too how resilience can result in reward.

  10. I’m a soup lover and that soup looks wonderful.

    And to Janice..we had 3 beautiful, warm days and my magnolia tree bloomed. Last night the temperature dropped so low the blooms froze. Third year in a row!!!!

  11. Jasper –
    when I deal with this letter in my class, I explain that Italian retains some vestiges of Latin spellings and Latin grammar.
    As to grammar, check out irregular Italian plurals to see Latin declensions still in action.
    As to spelling and pronunciation, “Julius” became “Giulio” to retain a sound consistent with Italian and “Jesus” became “Gesù.”
    In some instances, the “j” is retained between two vowels (as an alternate spelling) and pronounced like a “y” as in “lavatojo” for “lavatoio” (Seen most frequently in the north.)
    An Italian dictionary which provides phonetic guides will list SOME words in the “j” section as pronounced the way English does, as in “jeans” and “jogging.” Other words, like “jodel” and “Jugoslavia,” use the “y” sound, as does the soccer team “Juventus.”
    Anne – I assume that “raveja” uses the “y” pronunciation. Please set me straight! And do you know if these legumes are available, canned or fresh, in the U.S? The zuppa photos are making me hungry.

  12. J. Kevin Crocker

    Yum….am I commenting for my dinner?

    Your writing always and will forever return me to great memories and images. I can smell the wood stove, or hear that big fireplace crackling. I do remember those cold winter nights, yet with wine and conversation and of course the fireplace it there was always a warmth. Having re-discovered pictures from a long time ago I am truly lost in that nostalgia. Can’t wait and say hi to Pino.

  13. Marybeth Evans

    Just made the Golden Chicken that Anne taught us to make at the latest Umbrian Cooking class in Bethesda, MD. Brings back such wonderful memories of my time in Umbria, and the wonderful Tour by Anne of Assisi.

  14. Anne Paramonczyk

    I love the photos. Great writing again Anne.
    When I read the story I feel part of the community

    Thanks again


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