Throughout September, our menus will showcase Italian ingredients central to the Mediterranean Diet. Renowned for their health-giving properties, you’ll find these nourishing ingredients in many of our dishes.
We’re starting this culinary venture with ‘Sea Salt Week’. From the prosciutto in our Smoked Prosciutto & Scamorza Tortelloni to the salt cod in our “Baccalà” Sunflower Ravioli, each dish this week features sea salt in a distinct way.
Sea Salt in the Mediterranean Diet
Sea salt has been central to the Mediterranean Diet since ancient times, harvested from the saline waters of the Mediterranean Sea. For millennia, sea salt has been used to season, cure, smoke, and preserve a variety of foods.
Sea salt is recognised for its coarser grain, and is often less refined than other varieties of salt, due to harvesting methods. As a result, each grain may boast a unique shape, colour or flavour.
Certain types of sea salt are even geo-specific, for example Trapani Sea Salt, sourced from the salt pans of the eponymous port-town in Sicily.
When consumed in moderation, salt contributes to the health-giving properties of the Mediterranean diet. The essential minerals in salt serve as vital electrolytes in the body, aiding fluid balance and muscle function, while promoting healthy hydration levels.
Where can I find sea salt in the Mediterranean Diet?
The process of curing meat was one born out of necessity, as a means of preserving fresh produce prior to the invention of modern methods. This practise can be traced back to Ancient Rome, where antiquated methods saw meat preserved with either salt, or other products with a high salt content, including salted fats, or garum (a sauce made from fermented fish). In the ancient civilisation, salt-cured meats became increasingly commonplace in religious culture, used as an offering to Roman gods. To this day, this tradition has endured - no antipasti platter would be complete without a selection of aged, salt-cured meats. From prosciutto to bresaola, pancetta to coppa, cured meats are commonplace in the Mediterranean Diet, and are beloved by Italians nationwide.
Try it for yourself
Smoked Prosciutto & Scamorza Tortelloni with Sage Butter Sauce
Bucatini all'Amatriciana with Crispy Smoked Pancetta
Salt has been used to preserve foods for centuries and was highly valued among past civilizations. Ancient trading routes were often referred to as “salt roads” as salt was an essential ingredient transported along these routes. One in particular – named the Via Salaria – linked Rome to modern-day Porto d’Ascoli in Marche. This 242 km long road owes its name to “salis”, the Latin word for “salt”, as this was a primary product moved along this route, from salt marshes located on either coast of what is now Italy.
Salt was such a valued commodity in ancient times in part due to its ability to preserve foods. From salt-packed capers to salted, dried fish, salt has helped extend the life of many foods for centuries. Salt creates an environment in which bacteria, fungi and other organisms cannot survive. Baccalà, or salt cod, is one such example. Once salted and dried, baccalà can keep for months.
Try it for yourself
“Baccalà" Salt Cod Sunflower Ravioli With Sage Butter Sauce
Conchiglie "alla Puttanesca" With an Anchovy Pangrattato
Sea salt as seasoning
Of course, Sea Salt is indeed a great way to inject flavour into ingredients and dishes. In fact, salt is one of the few ingredients Italians regularly use to flavour dishes - simplicity resides at the core of Italian cuisine, so seasoning is often unpretentious.
A hero ingredient in the Mediterranean Diet that boasts simple yet bold, salty flavour is ricotta salata. Literally meaning 're-cooked' and 'salted', ricotta salata is derived from the whey of sheep milk, which is pressed and seasoned generously with salt.
Try it for yourself
Rigatoni "alla Norma" with Ricotta Salata Cheese
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