This Easter time specialty from Craco was passed down from Antonia Francavilla Spero (b. Craco 1889; d. NY 1961) to her daughter Lena and then to Lena’s daughter Annette Cono Mule. It continues to be made annually.
Dough: 2 1/2 lbs flour 1 tbsp. salt 1 3/4 sticks butter melted & cooled Crumble into flour, .make a well in flour and add 4 beaten eggs 2 oz. oil 1 cu. Warm water, add as needed Knead until smooth ball forms.
Filling: 3 links semi dry sausage cut into small pieces (You can use hot or sweet or a combination, remove casing of sausage). 3 lbs ricotta 3/4-lb mozzarella 3/4 wet basket cheese 1/2 dry basket cheese 6-8 eggs, 2 egg whites, reserve yolk for top brushing. Fresh parsley Grated romano cheese Mix well Use a deep 12″ pizza pan Roll out dough, fill with mixture, roll out cover, crimp edges, prick with fork, brush with beaten egg yolk. Bake 375 1 hr.
This recipe yields: 1 -12″ pie pan, 1-141/2″ pie pan, & 1-9″ round pie pan. The ingredients used above can only be found in Italian pork stores. The wet and dry basket cheese may only be available in some areas at Easter time.
Amaro Lucano is less bitter than some other Italian bitters, though it has no sweetness in it. The recipe, consisting of herbs and roots, is a trade secret. It has a light body to be used as a digesti, or an apéritif. As a digesti, you serve it neat. As an apéritif, you can serve it on ice with a twist of lemon or orange, topped up with soda water.
It is made in Pisticci Scalo in Basilicata (about 15 km from Craco) Italy, and sold in 700 ml bottles. (30% alcohol.)
Amaro Lucano was invented by Pasquale Vena in 1894 (born Pisticci, Basilicata 1871 – died 1937.) His three brothers went to America, but he stayed behind, and went north to Naples in Campania. There, he apprenticed to learn the art of pastry making in a pastry shop called ” the Scaturchio” in Piazza San Domenico Maggiore in Naples (the pastry shop is still extant as of 2006.) Out of his own personal interest, he learned about herbs and herbal mixtures.
He returned to Pisticci, and with the small amount of money he had saved, he opened a Bar called the “Caffé Vena.” The pastries that he sold from the cafe were a success – along with the bitters that he created. He left the firm to his two sons, Leonardo (1910 – 1993) and Giuseppe (aka “Peppino”, born 1918), who were 27 and 19, respectively, at the time.
In July 1965, the company built a new factory to meet increased demand for the bitters.
Literature & Lore
The label has a picture of a woman called “Pacchiana” (apparently a Campanian word for “farmer.”) She’s holding a basket of herbs. The motto on the label is “Lavoro e onestà”, which means “work and honesty.” The label also depicts various medals and awards, and crests from the Savoy and Duchy of Aosta families. In the bottom right corner is written “Pisticci, Lucania.”
Filippo & Rosa Francavilla’s Limoncello Recipe
(as enjoyed at the Crachesi del Nord America Reunion)
1 liter whole grain alcohol
8 lemons (yellow skin only)
1 liter water
10 oz. (about 1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
2 oz. (about 3 tablespoons) Karo Syrup
Take yellow skins from the 8 lemons (use a vegetable peeler to get the thin skins and avoid getting the white pith) and place in glassware with a lid, add one liter whole grain alcohol. Cover tightly and let sit for 3 to 4 days.
On the 3rd or 4th day, boil one liter of water, remove from heat and add sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Let mixture cool.
Take the alcohol and lemon peels and strain liquid into bowl. Then combine the cooled sugar water to the lemon mixture. Give a quick stir and then add Karo Syrup. Mix thoroughly and place in glass bottles. Keep this in the freezer at all times. The bottle will not break or explode in the freezer because of the alcohol.
Saluti! Filippo and Rosa Francavilla
Alternative Recipe (if grain alcohol is not available, try this)
1 dozen large lemons
1 750 ml bottle of vodka
2 cups sugar
3 cups water
Peel thin strips of the lemons avoiding the subdermous white pith. Steep the peels in vodka for a week or longer in a glass container or crock until the peels have lost their color. Strain. Make simple syrup by dissolving sugar and water over medium heat on a stove and let it cool. Add the sugar syrup to the lemon-infused vodka. Keep chilled in the refrigerator; not in the freezer – this version is not made with whole grain alcohol and it will freeze.
Combine sugar and butter. Add the egg white, the flour and the cocoa. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. With the mixture, decorate the bottom of the cookie sheet into a shape of choice (strips, flowers, etc.) and put it in the freezer until thickened. Spread the sponge cake batter over the decorative mixture to 1.5 – 2 cm. Bake at 2600 C (5000 F), 4 minutes approximately.
Arrange flour in a mound and make a well. Add the sugar, the anice, the fennel seeds, the melted lard and a pinch of salt. Combine all the ingredients and knead to obtain a smooth and elastic dough. Roll out little sticks with the dough and shape them into an 8, a braid or a ring. Bake in a preheated oven at 170° C (335° F), 20 minutes approximately. Take them out when they are golden.
Beat eggs with a pinch of salt and vanilla. Combine well. Heat an anti-adhesive pan and drop a spoonful of batter in it. Proceed as for a crepe. Turn it and cook until golden. Place it on paper towels. Continue with the rest of the batter. Pass the ricotta through a sieve. Combine with the confectioners’ sugar and the finely ground espresso coffee. Spread the filling over the crepes and roll them up. Transfer them on a dessert plate and dust with ground cinnamon.
Roast the walnuts and the almonds in the. oven for a few minutes. Peel and chop them. Soak the raisins in the water. Drain thoroughly. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Add 2 pinches of cinnamon and ground cloves and grated lemon zest (only the yellow zest; the white part is bitter). Add the hot honey and the flour. Continue to mix until you obtain an elastic dough. Roll out the dough to 2 cm. Cut out different shapes of cookies and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C (350°F), 15 minutes approximately.
In a few regions, these cookies are baked over a bed of lemon tree leaves on a cookie sheet. This tradition should be kept, if possible, because of the aroma of the leaves.