Everyone in Romagna knows that pairing food and wine is a serious matter, definitely not something to joke about. Making the wrong dish or choosing the wrong pairing can badly spoil the mood of fellow diners (though there is virtually no dish that a glass of Romagna Sangiovese DOC cannot tastefully pair with, to the delight of both cooks and guests). On this International Day of Pranks and practical jokes, we offer you a series of pairings starring Romagna wines and, of course, traditional fish-based Romagna dishes.
April Fool's Day: mark your (Gregorian) calendars
Before getting to the cellar or the stove, we must first dive into the highly disputed origins of this very special day. April 1st is a day for pranks and practical jokes, also called April fools. And if, as Italians say, all jokes are good during Carnival, April Fool's Day is here to up the game, letting pranksters from all over the world (almost) get away with any practical joke. Let's start by saying that, although there may be a lot of theories, none of these have completely and indisputably convinced researchers on the origin of April Fool's Day. Some argue that it may date back to the Classical Age, finding resonance with the Veneralia, an ancient Roman festival celebrated on April 1st in honor of Venus Verticordia and Fortuna Virilis.
Others argue that it started in 16th-century France. It was then that King Charles IX, with the Edict of Roussillon, established the beginning of each new year on January 1st and no longer on a day between March 25th and April 1st. The Edict of Roussillon formalized the reform proposed by Pope Gregory XIII who introduced the Gregorian calendar, promptly named after him, in 1582. Before the Edict of Roussillon and the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, it was customary to exchange gifts during the week from March 25 to April 1st to send good wishes for the beginning of the new year. After the reform made by King Charles IX, the only ones who continued to exchange gifts on those dates were people that were too tied to the ancient tradition or ... pranksters! Whatever the most plausible theory may be, what matters is that this feast has certainly stood the test of time and withstood all the changes that rapidly occurred from the 19th century onwards. On April 1st, all we have to do is play along, keep some jokes up our sleeves and enjoy, together with an excellent dish specifically prepared for the occasion.
Stewed eel with peas and Novebolle Romagna DOC Spumante
Maybe it’s because of its particularly enveloping and delicious flavor or because it is relatively easy to find or raise, especially in the valleys of Comacchio: eel has always been a key ingredient in Romagna cuisine and a number of enthusiasts are always ready to serve it to friends and family. We recommend this tasty dish paired with a glass of Novebolle Romagna DOC Spumante, a pleasant and velvety sparkling wine, perfect for “cleansing” the mouth and enhancing the very rich flavor of eel.
2 cloves of garlic
300 gr of tomatoes (or tomato puree)
800 gr of peas
1 eel (about 800 gr)
Salt and pepper to taste
If you have had your eel cleaned by the fish seller, please proceed further into this recipe. Otherwise, make a cut just below the fish's head to remove the skin around the cut.
Hang the eel by the mouth on a hook and remove the rest of the skin by pulling firmly downwards until it is completely peeled. Remove the entrails, wash the fish carefully and then start cutting it into regular pieces. Cover the eel with flour to prepare it for cooking.
In a saucepan, fry the garlic cloves in plenty of oil, then add the eel covered in flour. Add salt and pepper to taste and continue to cook until the eel is golden brown.
Add the tomatoes (or tomato puree), cover and let cook for about half an hour over low heat. Then, remove the eel and pour the peas into the saucepan. Cook for at least another 20 minutes. Put back the eel, heat it up and, as soon as it is ready, serve with a glass of Novebolle Romagna DOC Spumante.
Marinated sprat and Romagna Pagadebit DOC
Stewed, fried or marinated: this fish from the Adriatic Sea is king of Romagna seafood. Sprats, also called saraghine, are closely related to anchovies and sardines, but with an even more delicate flavor that makes them a versatile ingredient that can satisfy even the most demanding and indecisive palates. Out of the infinite recipes available, we recommend a simple one that masterfully brings out the flavor of sprat, enriched by the marinade and the floral aromas of Romagna Pagadebit DOC.
500 gr. sprat
Half glass of vinegar
2 tablespoons of flour
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
You can use the Testo Romagnolo, the classic pan used to cook piada; otherwise, a classic pan or grill will be fine. Clean the fish by cutting along the belly and carefully remove the entrails. Wash the fish in running water and dry them using absorbent paper.
Heat the pan and carefully cover the sprats with flour. When they are ready, cook them. In another pot, bring the vinegar to a boil.
Once the fish is cooked, spread the sprats in a pan or a glass dish and pour over the boiling oil and vinegar, season with salt, pepper and minced garlic. Let the fish marinade for at least one night to let it completely absorb the strong aromas of the vinegar and garlic. Serve chilled with a glass of Romagna Pagadebit DOC.
Fritto di Paranza and Romagna Albana Spumante DOC
We all know that mixed fried fish is an extremely flavorful and quantitatively rich dish. Yet, it has long been considered as a “poor” dish, one eaten by fishermen who, after selling the large fish at the market, kept the smaller ones – or those that were not particularly popular with the rich – for themselves, frying them for their meal.
Mixed fried fish, or rather, fritto di paranza, is a dish that is made in all the coastal areas of Italy, and Romagna is no exception. The region boasts enviable shores, caressed by the generous and magnificent waters of the Adriatic Sea. We recommend Romagna’s fritto di paranza: forget the boring shrimp and squid and get ready for a rich range of flavors. The wine? Definitely, Albana: the fish will perfectly pair with the vigorous and elegant bubbles of Romagna Albana Spumante DOC. See it for yourself.
1 kg of mixed fish (anchovies, goatfish, cod, merling, sole, scaldfish, smelt, horse mackerel and sprats)
Salt to taste
The secret is to have a trusted fish seller who can supply you with excellent quality and fresh fish ready to be cooked. After finding your fresh ingredients, wash the fish, dry them and cover with flour. Bring the oil to the right temperature (use a thermometer or let a lump of flour fall into the oil to see if the characteristic bubbles form around it, confirming that the temperature is right).
Fry the fish, putting in small handfuls, and regularly check them while cooking. Strain all excessive oil and, once the fish is fried, add in salt and serve with a slice of lemon and a glass of Romagna Albana Spumante DOC. Enjoy your meal!