Let Italy’s Food Festivals Inspire Autumnal Wood-Fired Oven Dishes

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is upon us, heralding the arrival of new in-season ingredients, able to contribute to the creation of fantastic dishes in your wood-fired oven

To discover which ingredients could add seasonal authenticity to your dishes, look no further than the autumnal food festivals that bring joy and communal festivities to many different villages and towns in Italy at this time of year.  To help you do just that, and to concoct wood-fired dishes based on autumn produce at its best, we’ve rounded up some of the best October and November events in Italy.

Autumnal festivals to inspire your wood-fired cookery

Held every weekend in Piedmont (a north-west region of Italy) from October to November, the International ALBA White Truffle Fair is a true celebration of the rare, luxurious and delicious, truffle. The Alba White Truffle World Market takes centre stage and is the perfect place to taste and buy truffles from the Langhe, Monferrato and Roero area.  Truffles can be purchased directly from all the participating sellers (Trifulau), under the supervision and support of the Quality Commission (growing and selling is a serious business!) 

Alongside the truffles, visitors can explore the best local food and fine wine from the region, as well as immerse themselves in the event’s vibrant atmosphere.  It’s a unique opportunity to see and experience traditional music and folklore, cookery demonstrations, historical re-enactments, wine tasting and theatrical performances.

Truffles are one of the easiest ingredients to incorporate into your cooking. Just add some fine shavings to your pizza or pasta, served straight from your wood-fired oven, and your dishes will go to another level.  We can also highly recommend a drizzle of truffle-infused oil over a fresh rocket salad, topped with a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan.

Festa dei Marroni

There’s something about the aroma of roasted chestnuts that invokes images of traditional winter fairs and markets here in the UK, but these little delicacies are also celebrated all over Italy alongside the October harvest.  The largest festivals are the Festa dei Marroni, in Combai, in Veneto, from October 8 to 31, at which you can taste various dishes based on Combai mushrooms, including ice cream.  Combai chestnuts are an important part of the local economy and, as well as tasting all of the chestnut dishes, you can also browse exhibitions of almost forgotten crafts.

Also taking place in Veneto are the Festa della Castagna – Tarzo Chestnut Festival (weekends up to October 17), and the Mostra Mercato Marroni del Monfenara held in the Piazza IV Novembre at Pederobba on weekends up to October 31.

Of course, you can enjoy the sweet, smoky taste of roasted chestnuts straight from your Valoriani wood-fired oven.  Remember that, the more you char them in the oven, the more intense the flavour will be.  These are a great little winter treat to enjoy on a chilly autumn night and we love Greedy Gourmet’s helpful tips on how to prepare them, so that you can then just pop them on a skillet and slide them into your wood-fired oven. 

Celebrating apples

October is apple season and apple is one fruit that we definitely recommend incorporating in to your culinary repertoire.  

In Italy, the Sagra della Mela (Apple Festival), in Valtellina in Lombardy, is an annual apple and grape festival that takes place across three days.  A joyous celebration of the sweet apples that grow on the slopes of the Alps, with plenty of folk music, entertainment and stalls to browse, it’s one to definitely head to, if you are in the area.

Olive magazine has a delicious recipe for a Toffee Apple Crumble that we have tested out here at Orchard Ovens and it get a huge thumbs-up!  The apples caramelise beautifully, thanks to the heat of your wood-fired oven and the hazelnut crumb can be toasted to perfection, offering a slight smokiness to the palate.  We definitely recommend giving it a try.

Cleverly matured cheese and cooking cheese in wood-fired dishes

How can we not end with some insight into the foundation of all good food – cheese!  The Italians sure know their formaggi and celebrate them regularly.  If you are travelling to Italy in late autumn, we recommend the Sagra del Formaggio di Fossa, in Talamello in the Pesaro-Urbino area, which takes place on weekends in late November and early December.

This cheese, created with both cow and sheep’s milk, is buried and ripened in special pits, dug into rock, and then left for over three months.  The people of Talamello  are hugely proud of their cheese and host a lively festival, to allows visitors to sample this beautifully matured creation.

Whether it’s fresh mozzarella on a sourdough pizza, a baked cheese fondue with Gruyère with bruschetta for dipping, or macaroni cheese, the list is literally endless when it comes to the delights of cooking with cheese.

For a family-sized, winter evening meal, try this Three Cheese Meatball Lasagne from BBC Good Food.  With plenty of cooking space in your wood-fired oven, you can pop in some bruschetta, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil, allowing this to toast as the lasagne is coming to the end of its baking time – just as the cheesy, gooey top bubbles.  You then not only have a wonderful lasagne but a great accompaniment too!

If you would like to bring a little wood-fired Italian influence to your home kitchen, garden or outdoor kitchen, via either our ‘pronto’ range of Fornino ovens or an artisan-built wood-fired oven build, get in touch to discuss how we can help.  Just call us on 01772 250000 or email info@orchardovens.co.uk

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