Ever indulged in a lavish Calabrese BBQ and one in southern Italy?
Unlike BBQs that I’ve been a part of in Australia or other countries, a Calabrese BBQ is unique – you’ll be surprised at the amount and the type of food served up.
Food in Calabria
The freshness and amazing flavours of wholesome food in Calabria is attributed to produce being seasonal.
Typically in the south, if it’s not in season, it’s not in the shop – apart from imported bananas.
Sounds like the good old days when food tasted so much better? Well, maybe for some of us older folk…
Remember the taste of a vine-ripened juicy tomato bursting an explosion of flavours in your mouth? Hard to replicate these days. Tasted freshly home-made pasta that melts in your mouth? Unlike dry packet pasta, which is good although never the same, fresh pasta is wonderful.
What you can expect at a Calabrese BBQ
If you’re ever lucky enough to be invited to a Calabrese BBQ, you’re in for the long haul and many hours of sampling wonderful delights as the food leaves the BBQ plate. I’m not talking about just meat and sausages as the BBQ’s staple.
A steady procession of traditional Calabrese dishes including, wait for it…pasta cooked over a wood-fire in rustic conditions in the middle of a forest, is also served. Believe me?
Family and guests get together whilst stoking the fire…
…in this communal ritual to create the most delicious food that’s just as good, if not more so, than in any restaurant.
Of course, someone always brings a boom box as music plays a huge part in the Calabrese psyche. Festivities are typically associated with music.
You may also catch a dance group practising the Tarantella or a folk dance of long ago, in another BBQ spot close by.
If you’re lucky enough, you may even get to sample the Cuddrurieddri – traditional Calabrese potato doughnut that’s sure to win your heart whilst it hits your stomach hard…
Hang loose Beach BBQ
The first invitation to a Calabrese BBQ from our good friends in Rogliano resulted in a food coma.
Sublime Tropea red onion fried with sugar and pickled in thick olive oil – totally addictive – is served up with home-preserved olives, hard cheeses, home-made Soppressata, and many delightful salamis.
Long tables are laid in anticipation and everyone waits patiently for the cooking and feast to commence…
…and these are just my favourite BBQ morsels on the menu today.
Sila National Park BBQ
Stretching across 74,000-hectares, the majestic Sila National Park sees many local tourists flock to its wonderful mountains, enchanting forests, pristine lakes, and magnificent scenery. And, is also a popular picnic and BBQ haunt with locals.
The customary long table is heavily laden once more, with a banquet amongst the beautiful natural Sila forest.
The Master Chef sets to work creating masterpieces and this time it’s the very traditional Calabrese Cuddrurieddri.
Transporting ingredients to the forest, potatoes are boiled, mashed and preparation of the dough with yeast takes place in the open, then left to rise under a blanket for an hour before cooking.
Juicy thick Calabrese sausages are thrown on the grill…
…whilst a pot of oil is brought to the boil to cook the Cuddrurieddri.
Today’s menu also includes an endless stream of freshly-made heavenly Panzerotti – a small Calzone best described as a savoury doughy turnover, stuffed with Passata and Mozzarella before deep frying. Spicy Anchovy stuffed Panzerotti made with Calabrese love also arrive.
More chunky sausages are thrown on the grill in this continual feast.
One Cuddrurieddri is more than enough for some…but of course, in true Calabrese style, everything needs sampling – no point declining.
Freshy-made Vecchiareddre – a variation of the Cuddrurieddri minus the hole but stuffed with spicy anchovy and Passata – is even more pesante (heavy), but scrumptious.
After the deep food coma, an obligatory walk through the park is a welcomed break.
Hoping to catch a glimpse of the park’s symbol – the ever-elusive wolf amongst the towering Beech and Pine trees – today is not the day.
Stumbling on a dance group practising traditional dance moves, decide to stop for a while and absorb this Calabrese fun moment. Music and dancing are intrinsic to the Calabrese culture.
Where is Calabria?
Deep in the south of Italy lies the picturesque region of Calabria.
In case you haven’t heard of Calabria, this map gives you an idea of Calabria’s position in the boot – at the toe.
Long shores kiss the sparkling Tyrrhenian Sea, stunning mountains capture the Sila National Park, imposing ancient castles, and with a plethora of tumultuous history, Calabria is Italy’s hidden gem.
The gorgeous Sila National Park is a favourite skiing destination for locals. And, this 74,000-hectare expansive park is great for BBQs, picnics, hiking, and trekking.
Getting to Hang Loose Beach
Just under an hour’s easy drive on the highway from Rogliano you reach Hang Loose Beach, which lays along the shimmering Tyrrhenian Sea.
Finding a suitable clearing in the sparse tall-treed forest close to the beach, everyone goes about setting up the BBQ and starting a fire.
Picnic tables and chairs emerge as do the home-made appetising starters to nibble on whilst the BBQ’s fire heats up enough.
Getting to the Sila National Park
The BBQ spot in the Sila takes a little longer to reach from Rogliano than the Hang Loose Beach venue so over an hour’s drive, but worth it when we arrive.
Love coming to this part of Calabria. And, had a fantastic time deep in the park on a snow trek last winter with a bunch of friends last year.
Although this time there isn’t any snow around, this peaceful park still offers loads of spots for a lovely long stroll following the BBQ coma.