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The fish of Lake Trasimeno

Sapori d'Umbria
01 Aprile 2015

The fish of Lake Trasimeno

The most appreciated varieties and the most traditional dishes

Whoever said that you can't eat fish in a central region without an outlet to the sea, such as this? The region of Umbria is full of water, mountain springs, impetuous streams, lakes ... and all of this fresh water hosts excellent varieties of fish.

Lake Trasimeno, for example, preserves the undeniable importance of life in the lake area and its "treasures". The trades of the people, their habits, the festivities in the square, the recipes...almost everything, if not completely connected, is strongly inspired by the lake. At S. Feliciano, a small, charming hamlet of Magione on the shores of Lake Trasimeno, there is a museum, one of a kind, that tells us how much fishing has influenced the language, the history and the life of these communities.
It is even unique in its opening hours, because, just like with fishing, the museum also has its season: it is closed in the winter, while it is open all day during Easter week and during the ten-day summer "ice" fete held in the square, which takes its name from a special, ancient fishing net, dating back to the Etruscan and Roman era, and still in use in the area.

Eel, bleak, rudd, big-scale sand smelt, tench, pike, carp, pond perch, European perch or largemouth bass are all typical varieties of this lake, used in many exquisite recipes.

The Trasimeno eel, for example, offers excellent, fine meat, slightly fatty but tasty. Traditionally fishing is done at twilight or at night with different techniques, but also with spinning rods. The best seasons for eel are summer and autumn, but it can be found in local fishmongers who are equipped with workshops to process and freeze the fish immediately after fishing.

At the table it can be enjoyed as excellent kebabs. This is how they are made: slide pieces of eel onto the skewer, alternating with bay leaf, then cover with breadcrumbs mixed with a pinch of salt and ground pepper. Place them in the oven on a baking sheet drizzled with oil and rosemary for approximately three-quarters of an hour and serve them hot, drizzled with raw Extra virgin olive oil, with a side of fresh salad. This is a real treat for foodies.

Another traditional recipe of this area is an exquisite lake fish soup called Tegamaccio. It has all of the qualities, scents and smells of its simple and genuine ingredients: excellent Umbrian Extra virgin olive oil, fish from the Trasimeno lake and scented with local wine. It is prepared in a crockpot, the 'tegamaccio', where you cook a wonderfully scented mixture of onion, parsley, garlic and chilli pepper in oil, followed by pike and eel dowsed with good white wine, then layer on bass and tench, without mixing. Lastly, after another sprinkling of wine, add tomatoes. Serve with simple slices of home-made bread and you will have an authentic, wonderful dish.

Another treat is the Trasimeno perch. It offers fine, tasty meat, yet delicate, supple and lean. When spring arrives, and the beginning of the fishing season, you can't say no to a nice meal in one of the lovely local restaurants where they serve oven-baked filets dressed with a drizzle of oil and a pinch of thyme and dill, or simply marinated in an emulsion of Umbrian extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, lemon and parsley.

The spring, but also the autumn, are the ideal seasons to enjoy tender and tasty Tench, possibly cooked whole, in the manner of the ancient Etruscans, over an open flame, on a fire of lake reed: the dish is called “brustico”. When it is well charred, you clean it and take out the filets with their slightly smoked flavour, drizzle on some Umbrian d.o.p. Extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt, pepper and lemon.

But also during the other seasons when fishing is prohibited, it is possible to enjoy delicious recipes such as tagliolini with smoked tench, very easy to prepare: cook the shallots in oil, then the tench (with the bones removed) in small pieces, simmer with plenty of white wine until reduced and the sauce is ready.
Or appetising crostini with smoked tench paté, where the delicious flavour of the fish is garnished with fragrant Umbrian Extra virgin olive oil and enhanced with the unusual combination of capers and walnuts.

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