CARNIVAL IN BASILICATA: TRADITIONAL MASKS AND FLAVOURS

The most colourful time of the year has just ended, and in Basilicata, amidst the masks, bonfires and cowbells, Carnival means above all rediscovering traditional dishes, to season this fat festival with flavours and memories of the past. 

REDISCOVERING ANCIENT RURAL RITES

In these parts, the ancient rites of Carnival are still alive and well, especially in small towns like Castelsaraceno. And if once they were awaited as one of the few occasions for recreation – but also as an excuse to eat more and better – today they are an opportunity to rediscover rites and traditions that tell the story of this land. 

The hypnotic sounds of the cowbells of San Mauro Forte open the Carnival during the feast of Sant’Antonio Abate, just as in the ancient rites of transhumance, while in Satriano “La Foresta che cammina” (the walking forest) is renewed, one of the few tree rites to have survived modernity. In Tricarico, a herd of citizens with cow and bull masks parade, in Accettura bonfires are lit to illuminate the night and there are colourful parades of traditional masks and allegorical floats everywhere, recalling ancient rituals inspired by the rebirth of nature, the passing of the seasons and rural life. 

CARNIVAL FUNERAL

But as the last great carnival ritual, the funeral of Carnevalone, which takes place late on Shrove Tuesday, suggests, in Basilicata these are mainly days of abundant eating: and in fact it is precisely because of the great Carnival feast that the cloth puppet dies full and happy. And who can blame the poor Carnival man? It is practically impossible to give up the many good things that abound on the tables of Lucanian homes during these days. Ranging from savoury to sweet, let’s discover together which are the tastiest dishes of Carnival in Basilicata.

AT CARNIVAL... EVERY PASTA COUNTS!

Many of the typical recipes in this period have pork as their base: calzones filled with sugar and ricotta cheese, accompanied by the better known orecchiette, are dressed with pork sauce, but it is not uncommon to serve a plate of macaroni of all kinds dressed with pork sausage sauce, from strascinate to ferricelli, not forgetting cavatelli, to underline the madness that fills these festive days.

HORSERADISH: THE REAL STAR OF THE FESTIVAL

The main ingredient of Lucanian Carnival is horseradish, a root with an intense, slightly spicy flavour and aromatic, pungent notes, which is widespread throughout the region, also known as horseradish or barbaforte and nicknamed the “poor man’s truffle” because of its popularity in traditional country cooking. The Lucanians use and appreciate it above all in the winter period when it can be picked fresh, but it is at Carnival that it triumphs on the tables set in all parts of the region. It is enough to think of Rafanata, the most popular traditional peasant winter dish which, as is often the case with recipes that cross ages and locations, is not the same dish everywhere. The Rafanata of Castelsaraceno is different from the Rafanata of Matera, which is a sort of omelette made with eggs, potatoes, pecorino cheese and a sprinkling of freshly grated horseradish. This short video shows all the stages of preparation of our typical Rafanata: from the kneading of the ferricelli to the sacred moment of baking with the indispensable grating of fresh horseradish, which makes the whole thing decidedly… interesting!

NOT ONLY CHIACCHIERE, HERE ARE THE MOST FAMOUS LUCANIAN CARNIVAL SWEETS

At the end of the great Carnival feast, there is no shortage of desserts. One of the most popular is sanguinaccio: a mousse originally made from pig’s blood with chocolate, roasted and ground almonds, cinnamon, milk and lemon rind. Today, the sale and use of pig’s blood is banned and so, while retaining its original name, the black pudding has lost its main ingredient.

The typical Taralli al naspro (Naspro biscuits) are also quite common, with their classic round shape, flavoured with aniseed and covered with a cooked sugar glaze, which hardens when cooled, becoming white and firm. Last but not least, the famous Chiacchiere, irregular cutouts of dough made with flour, eggs and oil, flavoured with liqueur and then fried and covered with icing sugar.

CARNIVAL IN BASILICATA: TRADITIONAL MASKS AND FLAVOURS

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