Matera bread: a Lucanian delight – Italian Cuisine

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Among the most iconic regional breads in Italy, it could only be baked from the 15 public ovens dug into the rock that remained in use in Matera until 1950. Since 2008 it has obtained Igp certification and only authorized ovens can produce it with the initials MT




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It is rough, full of bumps and holes: Matera bread remembers the city that generated it, European Capital of Culture 2019. Mixed with durum wheat, it is divided into loaves of several kilos (even 10 shapes!) and cooked in stone ovens with oak wood or Mediterranean scrub fire. Like many breads in southern Italy it has a strong flavor, inclined to occupy the scene. His rind at least 3 mm thick it is so dark that the people of the north, accustomed to very white breads, could define it burnt, but once split it reveals an interior surprisingly soft, honeycomb, fragrant and golden. The scent is intoxicating and even today one would want to hear it come out of 15 public ovens carved into the rock which remained in use in Matera until 1950. It was precisely the use of these ovens that gave rise to the need for special stamps to mark the bread and recognize it among many others. These were statuettes on which the initials of the head of the family were carved but their meaning rarely ended in this simple task: the stamps, of various shapes, gave the bread the power to transmit fertility, health, strength and luck. These small works of art are now preserved in the Domenico Ridola Archaeological Museum.

A goodness without expiration
Since 2008 the bread of Matera has obtained the Igp certification, revised last year with the rewriting of the specification. Only ovens that comply with it can mark products with the MT abbreviation reintroduced in memory of the ancient family stamps. To guarantee the properties of the product, the use of fine grains such as Cappelli and Duro Lucano, grown in the province of Matera, but even more peculiar is the recipe of the mother yeast which must be mixed with 1 kg of re-milled semolina and 250 grams of pulp of fresh macerated fruit in 3 liters of water. Once the volume has doubled, it is re-kneaded "by adding re-milled semolina in an amount equal to the weight obtained plus 50% of water", says the formula. Rules and care ensure that the freshness of Matera bread has an exceptional duration: it ranges from one week for 1 kg pieces up to 15 days for the larger ones, but even once this time has passed, its life in the kitchen is far from over.

How to taste Matera bread
When heated, even later in the day, it becomes a fragrant one bruschetta, to be seasoned with Lucanian cruschi peppers, burrata and a drizzle of oil or it is transformed into Materana-style bread balls, to be fried and sautéed in the tomato sauce. At the very end all the leftovers, even the smallest ones are ennobled by the cialledda, an unusual two-season dish: if hot, it can be enjoyed on winter evenings with eggs, potatoes and turnip greens, if cold it became the "reaper's breakfast" because it gave energy to those who faced the working day under the sun of Basilicata. On this page we suggest a particularly tasty and refreshing version.

January 2021
Daniela Falsitta

Posted on 18/01/2022

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