By Anna Volpicelli, photo by Salvatore Guadagno
Minori is probably the place on the Amalfi Coast that still preserves the gastronomic and artisan traditions of the area. Therefore, it is not by chance that it was elected the City of Taste. An appellative is also present on the letterhead of the municipality. Minori for years has been part of the Gusto Italia in Tour, the event dedicated to the promotion and valorization of typical products and the Italian wine and gastronomic excellences with a focus on the south. For centuries the city has distinguished itself to make its products an authentic culinary heritage.
The importance of the Regginolo river
The city boasts a long history of processing, producing, and selling pulp, dating back to the Middle Ages. All this is partly due to the presence of the Regginolo river, which besides contributing to the economic growth of the paper industry, represented an opportunity for the population to develop an accurate system for the preparation of pasta. It was just the presence of streams to facilitate the development of pasta making, to such an extent that workers, both men, and women, were called maccaronari. “Even Amalfi and Atrani in the past were reference points in the production of pasta, but Minori was the most profitable one – Mario De Iuliis, from Minori and National Advisor of UNPLI, tells us – Minori boasted about six mills, a series of mortars and 54′ ngegni (machinery, editor’s note)”. All this contributed to the birth of many pasta factories, which served as real factories and retail stores.
The ‘ndunderi, the most ancient pasta
In a short time, the city became a real industry wherein the square and near the banks of the river was placed the pasta to be dried under the sun. It is not easy to identify the first forms of pasta produced, but surely among the most ancient ones of the area, there was that of the ‘ndunderi, a kind of gnocchi with a bigger shape. A tradition which is still kept alive today by Marco Della Pietra, owner of Il Pastaio, the only pasta factory of the Amalfi Coast, specialized in fresh pasta. “Between about 1700 and 1800 – says Marco Della Pietra- Minori exported pasta outside the Kingdom. Then there was the union with Gragnano, in which some Minorians moved to this location to start a whole industry.”
The Fusion with Gragnano
History tells that in about 1700, many pasta makers from Minori crossed Monti Lattari to settle in Gragnano. Here little by little, they created real production factories. Thanks to the work of Minori’s population, a productive activity that led Gragnano, over the years, to become the Italian capital of pasta.
Research and Passion
Della Pietra is the only one who, to this day, works pasta by hand in his pasta factory, which is taken by storm by residents and tourists alike, especially for its ‘ndunderi. “Before I started this full-time job, I was a painter. I inherited this business about ten years ago from my uncle. Since I was a kid, I would come in and help out in my free time, especially during the summer season, and at Christmas, I would help my family in the pasta factory.” In his small store, above the counter, a menu describes all types of pasta “The most popular is the ravioli with lemon and ndunderi, as per the good tradition of Minori.” Marco, along with his uncle, has conducted a lot of research over the years to trace the ancient tradition of making ndunderi, a recipe that seems to be a reinterpretation of the palline latine, a typical Roman dish. “There are not many documents that testify to this recipe, but it seems that the first one dates back to 1600 when they were made with goat cheese, buckwheat, egg, fig sap, and some herbs. We took it and revisited it. To make ndunderi, I use cow’s milk ricotta, flour, egg, grated cow’s cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Although now I’m trying to use sheep’s milk ricotta, to get closer and closer to the origin of this tradition.”
From festive food to daily dish
Suitable all year round, they are usually eaten on July 13, the day of Saint Trofimena, patron saint of the city of Minori. “In ancient times – says Della Pietra – on the evening of the procession, the participants presented themselves in the streets with their shirts soiled with sauce as a sign of respect for tradition. This meant that before taking part in the event, they had eaten the ndunderi”. Now those times are far away, but the memory is still alive in the memory of the village elders. And the ndunderi are consumed every day of the year in different ways. “Even if – says Marco – the best way to taste them is with sauce, as tradition wants.”