Ferragosto is a ‘sacred’ date, a day when all work stops and Italians take a break. But we know that not all foreign countries honour this day, which falls on the 15th of the month, as it is a holiday that was first imposed by the ancient Romans and then by the Catholic Church.
Emperor Augustus instituted this day of rest as a reward for the great efforts made during the agricultural work season. The origin of its name comes from the Latin ‘feriae Augusti‘ (Augustus’ rest).
On this ‘special’ day all over the Roman Empire, games and horse races were organised and all the people were allowed to relax and not work. Peasants offered their good wishes to landowners, who, in return, gave them a tip. Draught animals, free from work in the fields, were adorned with flowers.
The Roman feast day initially fell on the first of August, it was then the Catholic Church that moved it to the 15th to coincide with the religious feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary to Heaven.
Given the high summer temperatures at this time of year, the most popular destinations for Italians are the sea or the mountains. Places where it is possible to rest and regenerate in search of some fresh air.
Like every holiday, this one too is paired with its own ‘menu‘. As these are usually gatherings among friends away from home, the best solution is to make simple recipes to be eaten cold and using seasonal products.
Browsing through the recipes on the Cuciniamoitaly website, we have some interesting ideas for organising a perfect Italian-style Ferragosto, like panzanella, vegetable omelette and savoury pie.
Roman and Tuscan Panzanella
Panzanella is a traditional peasant dish typical of central Italian regions. This recipe was made by countrywomen to recycle leftover bread at home. In some respects, it is a ‘green’ recipe ideal for those who are against waste in the kitchen.
The name panzanella comes from the fact that this stale bread, which was then soaked to soften it, was usually eaten by peasants near the rainwater drainage ditches, called ‘zanelle’.
The basic ingredients of this recipe are very simple: stale bread, ripe tomatoes, onion, vinegar, and basil. There are many versions of this dish, which may include the addition of cucumber, white wine, and celery.
Frittata with vegetables
An ever-present dish on this day is the ‘frittata‘, which is not to be confused with the French omelette. The frittata recipe, basically made with beaten or whisked and cooked eggs, can be enriched by adding lots of other ingredients. On Cuciniamoitaly we have the one with vegetables by chef Danilo Angè.
Of course, innumerable vegetables can be added, and we certainly recommend favouring those in season. Once the frittata is ready, cut it into wedges and offer it. Sometimes cutlery is not necessary if the consistency allows it, hence this is one of the favourite recipes for packed lunches.
Savoury pie with asparagus and cherry tomatoes
Savoury pies are also typical Ferragosto favourites. These recipes are also simple and quick to prepare. After buying a packet of puff pastry (the base for the savoury pie), you can fill it with a wide choice of seasonal vegetables or cheese, thus obtaining different variations.
For our Ferragosto, we thought of a recipe by chef Danilo Angè and his Savoury pie with asparagus and vegetables. The number of recipes for 15 August is endless. We suggest browsing the Cuciniamoitaly website to find more info.
And if your Ferragosto does not include a day trip and you would like to invite friends over and/or organise a picnic “in style” instead, follow our tips in the Bohemian Picnic article.
Enjoy Ferragosto everybody!