La Roveja, che zuppa!

by Annie
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

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