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Bigoli in salsa, the tasty pasta of the Venetian tradition

Bigoli in salsa is a specialty of Venetian cuisine, traditionally consumed during the lean days of the Christian calendar such as Christmas Eve, Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent. A simple and quick first course, so poor in ingredients as rich in taste — only sardines and onions, combined in the perfect sauce for bigoli, the typical pasta from Veneto.


The origins of bigoli in salsa

Bigoli have always been part of the regional cuisine of Veneto, so much so that many folk songs and festivals have been dedicated to them around the region. There is even a saying: “andar a bigoli” which means “let’s go eat”. But while in other cities it is easy to find bigoli paired with meat-based sauces, for example with duck ragout, those “in salsa” are a strong Venetian tradition.

It is said that the recipe for bigoli in salsa was born within the Jewish community of Venice. Today this dish can be found all year round, but it is customary to enjoy it especially on the days of lean, that is, on the eve of religious holidays during which you usually fast and don’t eat meat. And here is the “salsa”, which although its name has nothing to do with the Italian tomato sauce. In fact, the Venetian “sauce” is made with olive oil, onion and sardéle, which once was the cheapest fish available in the lagoon.


Bigoli, the Venetian long pasta

When it comes to pasta, we can only mention bigoli, whose shape is similar to thick spaghetti with a particular rough surface. The original recipe is prepared with flour, water and a pinch of salt, however the best known version also includes eggs. In another one, white flour is replaced by buckwheat (or wholemeal) flour to obtain a darker type of bigoli, called bigoli mori.

The history of bigoli dates back to the 14th century, during the war between the Serenissima and the Turks who sanked the Venetian ships carrying grain; so a cook, making do with what he had, invented a new dough that was immediately successful. However the fame of bigoli grew on a large scale in 1604 thanks to Bartolomio Veronese, known as Abbondanza, a Paduan pasta maker who patented a wooden machine. It was the bigolaro, a manual press equipped with a bronze die which allowed to easily produce different types of pasta. Needless to say, among these there were also the rough spaghetti so loved by the Venetians.


Our recipe for bigoli in salsa

Ingredients for 4 people:

400 g bigoli
10 fillets of salted anchovies
1 large white onion
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
½ glass of water and wine
Chopped parsley

  1. Clean the onion and cut it into thin slices.
  2. Pour the olive oil into a large pan. Add the onion and let it sweat without browning it too much. If needed, add a little water and wine.
  3. Clean the anchovies removing the salt and the fishbones, then cut into small pieces.
  4. Once the onion is transparent, add the anchovies and stir until completely dissolved. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Cook the bigoli in boiling water, lightly salted. Once drained, transfer them to the pan with the sauce and stir well.
  6. Serve hot with a pinch of chopped parsley. The final touch: if desired, add some bread crumbs seasoned with oil, salt, pepper and rosemary.

Pair them with a fresh glass of white wine, like a Collio Bianco Frontiere from Vigneti Sant’Helena. Buon appetito!

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