Monte di Procida is the extreme point bordering the Gulf of Naples and stands on a promontory at the end of the Phlegrean peninsula overlooking the island of Procida, from which it separates a narrow stretch of sea. Known for being the terrace of the Phlegrean Fields, its vantage points offer a wide and impressive view. Monte di Procida had its recognition as an autonomous municipality in 1907 thanks to the work of Ludovico Quandel, a Bourbon army officer who decided to retire to private life here.
Monte di Procida has its own original gastronomic history in which two protagonists emerge: the casatiello montese and the cistecca montese.
The casatiello montese
The casatiello, a sweet Easter bread, originated in the homes of the people in Monte Procida.
It is a cake with a special texture with an aroma, flavour and smell that remain indelible on the palate. The preparation of casatiello is a real ritual that occupies the house and the whole family for at least two days and one night, a ritual in which each person has his or her own task, according to the skills and specialisations acquired from year to year.
Casatiello was originally only produced at Easter, but is now also popular at other times of the year, such as on the occasion of the return of Montese citizens living abroad.
The traditional production area is restricted to the Monte di Procida area. It is enough to go a little further into the neighbouring Phlegrean municipalities to find no trace of this tradition. On the contrary, elsewhere the casatiello takes on the appearance, flavour and consistency of the typical Neapolitan casatiello, i.e. a savoury manicaretto.
The basic elements defining casatiello are the exclusive use of criscito, orange juice and garden lemon peel for flavouring, animal lard or vegetable preparation, Strega liqueur, eggs preferably zero km, leavening time no less than 48 hours.
The municipal administration of Monte di Procida wanted to recognise the casatiello montese as a traditional Easter cake, protecting it and guaranteeing it with municipal regulation De.Co A cake with ancient origins directly related to those of Monte di Procida and to the identity values of its community.
The recipe of the casatiello montese
For every kilogram of flour you get a sweet casatiello with a diameter of 28 centimetres
– 250 g of mother yeast
– 1 kg of flour
– 500 g sugar
– 3 eggs + 5 yolks
– 200 g of lard
– 1 small cup of Strega liqueur
– 1 orange (juice and peel)
– 1 grated lemon
– 1 sachet of vanillin
– 1 pinch of salt
– 1 very small pinch of cinnamon
– 2 egg whites
– 50 g sugar
– Juice of half a lemon
Let’s tell this recipe that is a family ritual in which several people have their own task!
In a large bowl you prepare the sourdough starter and begin to refresh it, using warm water. It is beaten vigorously, simulating slapping, while other people in the family add a whole egg, 50 grams of sugar and 50 grams of flour to the dissolved yeast. One continues to knead the mixture until it is lump-free and quite liquid. At that point, they cover the bowl containing the mixture with a lid, wrap it in a wool blanket and, in the warmth, let it rise for 12 hours.
After 12 hours, the dough in the bowl has risen, at which point two whole eggs, 100 grams of sugar and 100 grams of flour are added. All gradually, while one beats the dough vigorously for at least 5 minutes, until all the ingredients are absorbed, the dough free of lumps and weakly consistent. Cover the bowl with the lid, wrap it in a wool blanket and, in the warmth, let it rise for another 12 hours.
After 12 hours, they repeat what they have already done during the second processing. They then cover the bowl with a lid, wrap it in a woolen blanket and, in the heat, let the mixture rise for another 12 hours.
After 12 hours, in the large bowl, the result of the previous processing, they add the remaining sugar, five egg yolks, a small cup of Strega, the grated peel of a lemon and an orange, the juice of the latter, vanillin, salt and a very small pinch of cinnamon (not too much otherwise the dough will take on a dark color), and the lard melted over the fire. Taking care to combine all the ingredients together, grease the bundt pan with a little lard. In the màdia, they arrange the remaining flour in a heap and are ready to mix them with the dough that is gradually poured in. With broad hand motions, you mix the ingredients and vigorously knead a fragrant dough that, as the lard congeals, becomes heavier and heavier to tame. Having obtained a loaf, hands greased with lard stretch the dough horizontally and twisting it on itself gently place it in the baking pan, where it remains to rise for at least another 24 hours, staying warm.
After 24 hours of rising, they bake it in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for about an hour and thirty. Meanwhile, they prepare the topping by putting two egg whites, the juice of half a lemon and 50 grams of sugar in a bowl. They whisk everything together, obtaining a white fragrant cloud that they generously sprinkle over the freshly baked casatiello, along with colorful sprinkles.
The Montese steak
What is the cistecca? The cistecca is a sandwich stuffed with roasted meat and scamorza cheese, with the addition of lettuce or vegetables, typical of Monte di Procida. Its name undoubtedly refers to the American cheese steak which – hard as it may seem to believe – is 100 per cent Italian. Let’s find out why.
The birth of the steak dates back to the early 1930s and is due to two Italian brothers, Pat and Harry Olivieri. Having emigrated to Philadelphia, the two brothers sold hot dogs on the street to make ends meet. One day, unable to find the typical sausages, they asked a butcher to give them something that could easily be cooked on the griddle to replace them: they got thin slices of beef. It was Pat who thought of adding a little cheese to the sandwich: thus was born the cheese-steak, which in a few years became a symbol product of Philadelphia and then of the entire East Coast of America, where it was found mainly in restaurants and pubs run by the first generations of Italian-Americans.
Cistecca montese and the consortium that promotes it, born from the experience of Montese entrepreneurs in the American restaurant business, are distinctive elements of the area.
In the recent history of the Monte di Procida community, many have sought and found success in the United States, particularly in the restaurant business. Returning to their homeland, they have wanted to bring back and characterise their experience abroad by inventing a street food dish that has become a food and wine excellence in recent decades. The Cistecca obtained De.Co. – Denominazione Comunale – recognition in 2020.
Around this product revolves a chain that involves other businesses, agricultural activities and artisans: from the production of the bread to the cultivation and processing of agricultural products, there are many local actors that contribute to its production and appreciated quality.
In 2014, a group of entrepreneurs decided to unite in a consortium to protect this oval-shaped, crispy, fragrant sandwich, where the taste of bread baked on the grill blends with the flavours of beef and the stringy scamorza cheese blends with the aromas of the most varied side dishes of the Montese culinary tradition. The drawing up of a production specification and the filing of a collective trademark identify its quality and uniqueness.
Further Info: Home | Cistecca Montese