|Fig.1. A minestrone from Umbria with liver and Swiss Chard.|
Umbria is the only landlocked region in Italy and best known for the town of Assisi, the birthplace of St Francis. Its geography is similar to that of neighboring Tuscany, with rolling hills and sparse farmlands, except where the mighty Apennines pass. These imposing and high mountains are responsible for colder than usual micro-climates in many of the high altitude Umbrian towns; as a result, soups are popular in Umbria.
The soup featured in this post was inspired by The Duchess of Urbino, Beatrice Sforza (nee D’este). During the late 1400s, Sforza was a patroness of the Renaissance art scene, helping architects such as Donato Bramante and artists such as Leonardo Davinci. But Sforza was also a gourmand and might have seen cuisine as an art form in itself; not in-so-much as having hands-on creativity in the kitchen, (Sforza was Royalty, as such, she did not do her own cooking; although, she is reputed to have been a good cook herself) but by involuntarily inspiring her cooks to create dishes that the Duchess might find visually pleasing. So her cooks turned to colors and shapes, relying on visually appealing fruits and vegetables to please the Duchess. The Duchess was known in noble circles for having good taste, and along with her husband Ludovico Sforza, loved to entertain and were known for their lavish and elaborate parties.
This soup was known as Piatto alla Beatrice Sforza, Duchessa d’Urbino, it is currently known in Umbria simply as, Lumachelle All’Urbinate.
Lumachelle are snail-shaped pasta. I did not have any in my pasta armory so I used orrecheitte. The dish varies depending on what neighborhood of Umbria you are in, you can substitute different vegetables depending on what’s fresh; however, the liver is constant.
4 tbsp butter
2 large carrots, chopped
Meat from 4 medium sausages removed from their casings
2 veal livers, chopped
4 large tomatoes, diced
4 cups chicken or beef stock
Swiss Chard, 1 Bunch, chopped (you can also use cabbage, substitute 2 cups)
2 cups or lumachelle pasta (any small pasta will work)
Set a large, heavy bottom pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the butter, carrots, sausage meat, liver and tomatoes to the pot and cook, stirring often, until meat cooks through and the bottom of your pot is caramelized, about 12 to 15 minutes. Add the stock and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the Swiss Chard and simmer until carrots are tender. Add the cooked pasta to the soup and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot and with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Like all soups and stews, this one is better the next day.