THE SNAILS OF SAN GIOVANNI: A LITTLE HISTORY
Legend has it that on the night between 23 and 24 June in the square of San Giovanni, in Rome, the witches and demons called together by Herodias and Salome, responsible for the death of Saint John the Baptist , were agitated, condemned to wander on a broom . That night the people left from all the districts of the city, by the light of torches and lanterns, and concentrated in San Giovanni in Laterano to pray to the saint, ask for intercessions, but also to dance, sing, buy herbs from street vendors and above all, eat a lot of snails.
But why snails? Simple: because they were easy to find after the spring storms and it was therefore traditional to buy them to eat in the square or cook them at home and take them to share with friends. Another tradition was to collect common herbs, the so-called St. John's herbs, including onions and garlic, which had the power to chase away witches: herbs and snails therefore became the typical dish of this festival, and today we want give you some information on how to prepare them.
THE RECIPE FOR SNAILS OF SAN GIOVANNI (OR “ALLA ROMANA”)
After having seen the important phases of purging, cleaning and the initial cooking phase, all that remains is to see how snails can be cooked: let's start with the Roman ones, typical of St. John's Day.
You can choose whether to serve them with or without the shell.
Ingredients for 4 people
- 40 snails already purged and boiled
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 4 anchovies
- 300 g of peeled tomatoes
- 1 chili pepper
- a bunch of mint
- salt to taste
- to taste of oil
- pepper to taste
- After purging, washing and boiling, as we indicated previously, extract the snails from the shell using a small knife. Remove the black part and keep them aside without throwing away the shells.
- In a pan, brown the garlic with a drizzle of oil. Add the anchovies and brown them, then add the peeled tomatoes, the chopped chilli pepper, the mint leaves and leave to cook for about half an hour. Season with salt.
- Place the molluscs back in the shells and place them in the sauce. Cover with water and cook over a low heat for about two hours , adding water from time to time to prevent them from drying out. At the end of cooking, season with salt and serve hot.