Recently in the chestnut forest. So it’s a toasty 30°C/86°F in the shade and the last thing on your mind is cooking (and getting even toastier) in the kitchen so what do you do? Why you head off to a sagra or festa where someone else is in the kitchen for a change. Summer is typically the best time of year to catch a mind-boggling amount of italian food events but is also the worst for suffering the heat, humidity and mosquito population. Still, the lure of eating cheap and exploring lesser known areas is always better than being bored at home, which is why MotH and I found ourselves at the Sagra del Riso in Valle Lomellina.
From Lecco it’s a little over 80 miles and a 2 hour drive but once we were within the vicinity, the navigator insisted on taking shortcuts through acres and acres of rice fields along narrow lanes. Fortunately this was more good than bad, because for the amount of circling around that we did, I was able to appreciate the fields as more than just a green blur when zipping along on the autrostrada. Being surrounded by rice plants also put things into perspective considering that before modern machinery took over, it was all manual labor.
When we arrived for the lunchtime serving it must’ve been atleast 90°F which might explain why there weren’t that many people. The organizers had set things up as self-serve: you order and pay at the entrance; receive the individual tickets for each dish; then you go into a cafeteria-style line to pick up your dishes. It was fast and cheap but with the heat we figured on trying just the assortment of risotto and skipping the grilled meats.
Clockwise from left: risotto alla pilota (with sausage), panissa (with beans), pradé cumudà (a tomato-based sauce of chicken gizzards or sweetbreads, not sure which) with polenta, and risotto with bell pepper and gorgonzola. Everything was pretty good as far as sagra dishes go, and again, easy on the pocket at 4€ a plate.
And in September, Valle Lomellina has another sagra for snails!