Comforting polenta, great cheeses, and much more: after a day in the snow, mountain lodges and trattorias offer you the Alps’ taste through the recipes of the Occitan, Waldesian, Franco-Provençal and Walser traditions.
Whether in a lodge or in a trattoria, the taste of the Piedmontese Alps is unmistakable. In the area of the UNESCO site Sacro Monte di Oropa, the classic dish is a creamy polenta conscia typical of the Alps in the Biella province. It is mixed with a local fat cheese and served with melted butter. In the Susa valleys, near Turin, one should try: gofri, crunchy waffles baked in red-hot irons to be served with cured meats, cheeses or a sweet filling; cajettes, sort of gnocchi baked au gratin; chestnut soup or bread-sticks soup and toma cheese; prosciutto cooked with hay and great cheeses such as Blu del Moncenisio and Plaisentif, the “pansy cheese”.
In the Cuneo valleys, the cuisine from Piedmont mixes with the French and Occitan ones: an example is the Valle Varaita gnocchi made with potatoes, flour and tomino cheese, served with alpine butter or a cheese fondue. In Valsesia, traditional, thin crunchy wafers called miacce can be served in endless ways; the sweet and savoury torta di Alagna is a mix of the typical flavours of the Swiss-German tradition, just like uberlekke, a rich dish of boiled meat, potatoes, carrots and turnips served with a horseradish sauce. The Alpine and Walser tradition are also found in the nearby Verbano-Cusio-Ossola area, for example in the rye bread and the Bettelmatt cheese, which is produced by just a few alpine dairies in the Ossola valley. The hamlet of Coimo in Val Grande is famous for an ancient bread usually eaten with mortadella ossolana, the latter is a cured meat flavoured with wine and spices and also a Slow Food presidium. And in the poetic Val Vigezzo, women are the keepers of the ancient recipe of gnoch da la chigiaà (gnocchi on the spoon), made with wheat flour and water. The same poor ingredients are used also to make stinchéet (or runditt), dry waffles baked on a special stone or iron griddle and served with salt and butter.
For the occasion we can choose wines from the so-called “heroic viticulture” in high-altitude vineyards. The area between Carema, Caluso and Piverone, around Ivrea, produces the Caluso registered designations of origin: Erbaluce, Spumante Metodo Classico and white-berry Passito. Carema Doc, a red-berry Nebbiolo variety, is also produced here. In Valle di Susa, the controlled denominations of origin includes local varieties such as Avanà, Becuet, Baratuciat (the first white wine in the area) and the aromatic Vino del Ghiaccio made in Chiomonte. In the Pinerolo area the controlled denominations of origin includes red wines produced between Bricherasio, Val Chisone and Val Germanasca: Nebbiolo and Doux d’Henry, Ramie, Avanà, Chatus. In Northern Piedmont, Prünent is worth mentioning: a native black-berry variety that is a clone of Nebbiolo.