Pasta con le Lumache (Pasta with Snails) Recipe

Last Sunday, I was at Poggio Murella, a few kilometres from Saturnia, for their annual Sagra del Lunghino. It was a wonderful evening. The outdoor tables were full of people enjoying delicious homemade pasta and grilled meats. There was music and dancing, and even a jumping castle for the kids. Poggio Murella's 'sagre' or festivals are always extremely popular events though because the town has a reputation for serving divine homemade dishes, often made with an utter delicacy - snails. It's sound slightly unappetizing, I know, but trust me, it's a much-loved tradition in Poggio Murella, especially when the snails are used to make a pasta dish known as 'Lunghino con le Lumache' or Pasta with Snails.
Me enjoying lunghino con le lumache at last Sunday's festival!

Me enjoying lunghino con le lumache at last Sunday's festival!

Lunghino is a type of pasta local to Poggio Murella. I guess you could describe it as a sort of spaghetti, except it's a bit thicker and about half the length. Of course, it would take decades to learn how to make it just like the nonne of Poggio Murella do, but you can use shop bought fresh pasta and I think it would still taste as delicious.

According to local legend, lunghino con le lumache was first made by a local farmer's wife who had a bit of problem with snails in her garden. Not knowing what to do with them, she collected them up, washed them and served them to her husband with some homemade pasta. Worried about what he might think, the clever wife cut the snails up so finely and mixed them into the tomato sauce that he had no idea what he was eating. To her utter surprise, her husband loved the pasta dish and asked her to make it again and again. Soon the secret about this delicious pasta dish was out and every housewife was making it.

The beautiful Poggio Murella

If you ask around Poggio Murella these days, they'll tell you that this story was the beginning of their extremely famous Sagra della Lumaca, which has been held in early June every year here for more than 30 years. Today, Poggio Murella is still known for this dish. It's quite an anomaly that such a normally sleepy town should be overrun with hungry customers every time they hold a festival, but that's exactly what happens. The Sagra della Lumaca is celebrated on the first weekend of June each year!  And this weekend was no different. I have never seen so many people at a sagre before. Poggio Murella is so small, and yet it has such a reputation, and it's all because of this pasta dish. So in the spirit of the Poggioli, I thought I'd share this world famous pasta recipe with you. I've used shop bought pasta, but if you want the recipe for fresh pasta let me know!

Pasta con le lumache (Pasta with snails)

Ingredients 300g of shop bought fresh spaghetti 1kg of snails* 200 ml white vinegar 400 ml dry white wine 4 cloves 2 cloves of garlic 1 onion 1 carrot 1 rib of celery a handful of herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary or whatever you have on hand) olive oil 1 red pepper, finely diced 300g of canned peeled tomatoes 1/4 cup of chicken stock salt and pepper a handful of parsley, finely chopped Method Carefully wash the snails and put them in a bowl with the salt and the vinegar, cover the pan, and leave to soak for 2 hours. Rinse the snails and put them in a heavy based pot, cover with water, and bring to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then drain and rinse again. Place the snails back into the pot and add the wine and enough water to cover them. Add the onion, cloves, carrot, celery, herbs and salt and pepper. Cover the pan and leave to simmer for 2 hours. By washing, boiling and rising the snails over and over, you're removing all the dirt and small stones that might be inside them. It's a little tedious, but absolutely necessary. Take the snails off the heat and leave to cool, before removing them from their shells with a toothpick. Heat the olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add the snails and the chopped garlic and cook until the garlic is browned. Add the canned tomatoes, red pepper and the chicken stock. Season with salt and cook gently for an hour. Boil the spaghetti according to the directions on the packet. Drain and add to the saucepan. Toss with tongs and make sure the pasta is evenly coated before spooning onto serving plates. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve immediately. Serves 4 * You don't have to go into your back garden to find the snails for this recipe. Most good supermarkets and butchers now stock them. If they don't have them on hand, ask your local butcher if they can order them in for you.

Elisa Scarton Detti

Elisa is an Australian journalist who came to Tuscany for a year, fell in love (how cliché?) and decided to stick around. Not one to keep amazing holiday destinations to herself, she now writes a blog and travel guide about the infinitely beautiful Tuscany.

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