Guess who’s coming to dinner? Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour

Every city in Italy has at least one street, avenue or square named after Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour. It is not surprising that “Cavour” is among the top 10 most commonly used names for Italian roads. They are named in honour of the first Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Italy, a man who was born in 1810 in Turin (capital of Piedmont) and made history.

Vercelli Camillo Benso Conte Cavour Piedmont Delights Blog
The statue dedicated to Camillo Benso in Piazza Cavour in Vercelli

The story of a foodie lover

A politician, an entrepreneur, a patriot and… also a gourmet. Maybe it was just good food the secret of the Count to be able to balance all his commitments and responsibilities. He used to declare that it was the table rather than the mind that captured most friends, and throughout his life good politics always went together with good food. Today his name is associated with various delicacies among food and drink. Did you know, for example, that Cavour were dedicated to some liquorice candies flavored with violet? They are called sénateurs.

From his youth Camillo was interested in agriculture until he became Minister of Agriculture and Trade. In fact he owned a landed estate in Leri (today called Leri Cavour), in the province of Vercelli, where he dedicated himself to promote innovative agricultural techniques, improving both fertilizers and agricultural machinery. His production of rice, maize and wheat can be said to have been very efficient and innovative as it tripled in just seven years.

Lerici Cavour Conte Camillo Benso Piedmont Delights Blog
Leri Cavour

A passion for wine

Underneath this, however, his greatest passion was for the enological field. Wine had shot its love arrow in the chest of the count who loved to accompany lunches and dinners with renowned and excellent wines.
Let’s say it clearly: it is to Cavour that we owe the success and prestige of Barolo!

The wine from Langhe was already known in the middle of the eighteenth century and it was even appreciated by one of the future presidents of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. However, it was not exactly like the wine we know today, in fact it was a sweet and sparkling wine, because it was not yet known how to transform into alcohol all the sugars contained in the must.
And it was Cavour himself who gave it its modern aspect, as in 1840 he asked for the advice of a great French enologist, Count Louis Oudart, who improved the fermentation technique, creating a more dry and long aging wine.
Legend has it that the Count exploited the “charm” of Barolo by sending several cases to Napoleon III… perhaps it was thanks to this wine that the Emperor decided to support the cause of Italian independence.

I would then toast Camillo’s discoveries with Barolo DOCG “Bricco San Biagio” which fully represents all the values of the Piedmontese tradition: it comes from the historical Nebbiolo vineyard within the commune of La Morra. The color is intense garnet red with a tendency to more mature tones with age. Hints of small fruits and roses, citron, jam, and cooked plum stand out. In the mouth it is known for its gustative complexity, for the spicy and balsamic notes, for the sweetness of tannins always well in evidence. Pleasant sensations of licorice, tobacco and tar on the finish.

The recipe for Pasticcio di Riso

Recipe Pasticcio Riso Cavour Piedmont Delights Blog
Courtesy of Monica Martino

Besides a favorite wine, Camillo Benso, also had a favorite dish, which later entered in the history of the culinary traditions of Piedmont and called the “Pasticcio di riso alla Cavour” (and by chance the accompaniment with Barolo is excellent!).
You can easily cook it yourself with Piedmontese ingredients exactly as Camillo enjoyed.

So welcome to his kitchen! To recreate the “Pasticcio alla Cavour” (doses for 4 people) you will need 300 g of Riso Buono Carnaroli Gran Riserva, a rice that is aged one year from raw, so that, aged and well preserved, it greatly increases its original volume and this creates less dispersion of starch and minerals during cooking, 3 tomatoes, 2 eggs, butter, grated Parmesan cheese, oil, salt and pepper.
How to proceed?

  • Boil the rice and dress it with butter and Parmesan cheese, after draining it well. 
  • Cut the tomatoes into small pieces and sauté them in a pan with a little oil, then mix them with the rice. 
  • Fry the eggs in a pan, add salt and pepper. 
  • Put the rice with the tomatoes in an oven dish, add the eggs and put everything in the oven until a crispy crust has formed.

Buon appetito.

– Until next time, With love!
Elena