Our farmhouse here in Umbria is just down the street from a small town called Piedicolle. The town is so small, just over 100 inhabitants, that although it has a church, it doesn’t even have a full-time priest so church services are performed by a visiting priest on a rotating basis.
Apart from the church, the only other facility within the town is a small sporting club with a calcetto field. Every summer in July, the town holds a calcetto tournament, pitting teams from local towns against each other. The field is smaller than a regular soccer field, and there are only six players from each team on the field at one time making it a very fast moving game.
The tournament runs for a few weeks until finally one team is named the winner, and folks come from all over to join in the festivities. Of course since we are in Italy, there has to be food involved, and the women of Piedicolle offer a full menu of tasty Umbrian options that changes nightly. These women are very well known in our area as being amazing cooks, so the tournament probably draws as many people for its food as it does the soccer.
Since we live just down the road, we have attended this tournament every year for the past seven years that we have lived here, and during the period that the tournament runs, we probably enjoy a meal there once a week.
One of the first things I tasted in Piedicolle were grilled spiedini (mixed pork kabobs) that were served with a scoop of an amazing tasting sauce. After a year or two when we began to know a few of the women in town, we asked if they would tell us exactly what was in the sauce.
We were told at that time, that the recipe was a closely held secret and only shared with the women in town who cooked. Although I wasn’t given the recipe, they did give me a jar of sauce to take home with me to try and replicate it.
This sauce is obviously made from a base of green olives, and after experimenting with the sauce a few times, I think I have come pretty close. The women of Piedicolle serve this sauce on top of grilled steak, chops, and spiedini (pork kabobs), but I also tried it on grilled chicken and it was delicious.
I am sharing my version of this “secret sauce” (don’t tell the Piedicolle ladies!), and although it may not be exactly the same as the original, it is very tasty. Watch out though, you may find yourself spooning it on just about everything!
Since olives are the base for this sauce, it is most important to choose good quality ones. For my sauce, I chose the Castelvetrano variety from Sicily that are bright green with a natural sweet flavor, but any flavorful green olive will work. You may want to play around with the ingredients to suit your taste.
You could add an extra garlic clove or extra capers, or even add a small hot chili pepper if you are so inclined. This sauce will keep in the refrigerator for five days, and I have also had good luck freezing it in small containers.
I made a batch of this sauce last week that I served on Arrosticini (also called spidducci) which are a traditional lamb dish from Abruzzi consisting of small, thin skewers prepared for the grill. The sauce was delicious served with the lamb, and in fact it was so tasty that we were mopping our plates with bread to get every last bit!
Soccer Festival at Piedicolle
- 1 Pound Castelvetrano Olives, Pitted & Coarsely Chopped (See Notes Above)
- 2 Small Anchovies (Oil Packed, Not Salted)
- 2 Teaspoons Salted Capers, Rinsed Well
- 1 Garlic Clove, Peeled
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (About 1/2 Cup)
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- Place the olives, anchovies, capers, and garlic in the bowl of a small food processor and pulse until well chopped.
- Drizzle in the olive oil, and pulse until the sauce is well mixed but still has texture.
- Season with salt and pepper and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 3 Tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 50Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 344mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 1g