The Cheesiest Polenta and Prettiest Lasagna Comes from This Tiny Italian Region
For the past 17 years, Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson have been in love with Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a tiny region in northeast Italy. Stuckey, a Master Sommelier, and Mackinnon-Patterson, a 2005 F&W Best New Chef, were first drawn there by the area’s wines—Friulano, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio, plus many indigenous varieties—but found the region’s products and neighborhood restaurants (frasche, the plural of frasca) to be just as compelling.
Friuli shares a border with Slovenia to the east, Austria to the north, and the Adriatic Sea along its southern coast. But the key to FVG’s diversity, Stuckey says, is what’s below the geopolitical borders: the soil. “There is not any one particular terroir or style in the region because the soils range from heavy and powerful from the sea floor to light, white, gravelly soil from the mountains,” he says. FVG’s wines and its cuisine reflect the delicious possibilities of a region where mountains meet sea.
The restaurateurs return to Friuli-Venezia Giulia often and channel the region’s sensibility at Frasca. “The pre-Alpine feeling really resonates [in Boulder],” says Stuckey. Frasca’s early and continued success has also enabled Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson to maintain a close connection to Friulian producers and vintners as their restaurant group grows.
One of the best excuses for trips in the past few years has been to blend the wine for their label, Scarpetta, and to gather material for their first book, Friuli Food and Wine, out this month. As this issue goes to press, the Italian people and their businesses are under quarantine due to concerns about COVID-19. “When the opportunity arises to plan a vacation and do something special, I urge you to visit the people of Italy, who always make guests feel so welcome. The Italians live hospitality through great times and hard times, so go visit the undiscovered Italy that we at Frasca love so much. I hope to see you in Friuli and have the chance to pour you a glass of Friulano,” offers Stuckey. In the meantime, cook the recipes and try the wines on the following pages, and find more in their new book, a taste of the generous meals and the genuine hospitality of Friuli. Or, as they like to call it, hospItalian.
Woven Lasagna with Prosciutto and Fresh Spinach Sauce
“This pasta dish combines flavor, finesse, and a very creative presentation,” says Mackinnon-Patterson of this eye-catching lasagna in a fresh spinach sauce. Inspired by a visit to La Primula restaurant in San Quirino, he adds, “In true Friuli style, it includes prosciutto di San Daniele!”
Get the Recipe: Woven Lasagna with Prosciutto and Fresh Spinach Sauce
Creamy Polenta with Three-Cheese Fonduta
The Italian name for this dish, toc’ in braide, translates as “farm gravy”—this soft polenta is cooked in a Parmigiano-Reggiano broth and topped with a luxurious cheese fonduta, a saucy blend of ricotta, Gorgonzola, and more Parmigiano-Reggiano. “Pair with a Friulano, which is a native white grape with medium acid, great texture, and freshness,” Stuckey recommends.
Get the Recipe: Creamy Polenta with Three-Cheese Fonduta
Buckwheat Blecs with Chicken and Rosemary
Fine wheat and buckwheat flours are made into a simple pasta dough that’s cut into rough triangles, which act as al dente dumplings in this wine-braised chicken stew. “Serve in shallow bowls with Livio Felluga’s Terre Alte, a white blend with power and richness,” says Stuckey.
Get the Recipe: Buckwheat Blecs with Chicken and Rosemary
“This sweet, tender cake is a version of one served to us by the Snaidero family in San Daniele, who restore Berkel prosciutto slicers, the finest (and most expensive) ones in the world,” says Mackinnon-Patterson. Stuckey suggests serving the cake in the afternoon or at the end of a meal, with espresso. “A lot of people don’t realize this, but Friuli is the reason all of Italy has coffee,” Stuckey adds. “It came through the port of Trieste.”
Get the Recipe: Strawberry-Raspberry Cake