Abruzzo’s oldest traditional shepherd’s recipe forever entwined with the route of the transumanza
There are many mutton stews around the world, Il Coatta is also known as La Pecora alla ‘Callara’ celebrates the region’s great circular migration when shepherds would historically set off in September to see out winter with their flocks in Puglia, not returning to their sweet high pastures in Abruzzo’s mountain ranges till the snow had begun to melt.
It reflects the early Autumn bounty and what they’d pick up along the way as they wove their way south and relies on superb meat and long, slow cooking allowing the flavours to infuse to create a succulent, rich, spicy dish that would see off the chill on any nippy night. If you want to be truly authentic you’d hunt around for ‘castrato’ mutton, locals believe testosterone toughens the meat!
Its name ‘coatto comes from the latin that means a shrunken, thickened cooked meat and but is also the term given to the forced sale of animals at auction that had been accidentally killed. If you want to try the dish, head up to restaurants in the mountains or head to the famous sagra that celebrate the dish up in Teramo, Arsita which simultaneously hosts the best folk music festival within Central Italy and the panoramic Casale San Nicola that nestles under the Corno Grande 859 metres above sea level.
Shepherd's Bounty - Il Coatto / Pecora alla Callara
- 1.2 kg Leg of Mutton cubed
- 40 ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3/4 Bottle Passata (Botted Tomatoes)
- 1 Onion chopped into pieces
- 3 Cloves Garlic crushed
- 1 Bunch Herbs (Thyme, Rosemary, Sage, Marjoram and Basil)
- 1 Glass Trebbiano d'Abruzzo or White Wine
- Peperoncino (Chili) according to taste
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Cut your mutton into pieces and placed in a pan with hot water and boil for 15 minutes to blanch/degrease it . Remove from the heat, rinse with cold water and let it drain.
- Add the meat into a pan with ALL the ingredients, except the wine, bring it up to the boil and and simmer on a moderate heat for 3-4 hours, always covered! Don' forget to give it a nudge from time to time so it doesn't stick to the bottom.
- Halfway through cooking add the wine, adding more hot water if necessary; serve immediately when the meat, is tender and the sauce has thickened.