Rome festivals: the "ciumacata" and snails for San Giovanni Battista

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lumacaYou either love them or you hate them: for some snails are at the top of specialist delicacies, for others the very idea of them turns the stomach.

While famous around the world as a French dish, Rome has its typical recipe traditionally linked to the festa di San Giovanni or St. John the Baptist’s feast day. The feast day occurs June 24, around the period of the summer solstice. Traditionally, that evening the Romans would fend off spirits and evil demons with exorcisms and magic rituals. Piazza San Giovanni (St. John’s square) would be lit with torches and coloured lamps and the people would bring food. Eating snails with sauce, it was said, would ward off misfortune as the molluscs were considered to represent disharmony.

For your snail sauce ingredients for four people include: 600 grams of snails (without the shell so slugs can work as well), half a kilo of peeled tomatoes, four anchovy fillets, two garlic cloves, one chilli, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and some sprigs of mint.

To prepare the dish: purify the snails for a couple of days in cold water. Some people prefer to add vinegar and salt or flour. Boil the snails for 15 minutes, and then rinse in cold water. Fry the garlic, oil, anchovies and chilli together, add the chopped tomatoes, condense the sauce and add the snails, leaving them to cook for just under an hour. 10 minutes before the end of cooking add some mint leaves and a pinch of pepper.

Foto | Flickr

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