Tomato & Chorizo Salad and Abbazia di Novacella (Novacella Abbey)

Jamie Oliver dubbed this as the "Best Chorizo and Tomato Salad in the World".  I totally agree with him.  If he didn't dub this as such, I would have stamped this as the world's best anyway.  I like tomato salads, but I wouldn't say I am crazy about them.   In my lifetime, I could only say that I loved a tomato salad once.  That was when I had the cuori di bue (beefsteak) tomatoes simply prepared with extra virgin olive oil and salt in a friend's house in Calabria.  It's not the preparation that made it very good because as you can see, the ingredients were minimal and basic.  It was the quality of the tomatoes that jolted me to appreciate tomato salads more.  I never thought tomatoes can actually be sweet.

The quality of the tomatoes that I buy are always hit and miss.  Some taste like water or too sour.  And some are good.  The cultivars known to be good are not reliable anymore.  They too, are insipid at times.  I learned, even if it burns a hole in my pocket, that the good ones are always the more expensive ones.  When there's a line-up of tomatoes that I have to choose from, I cringe at my choice.  It's always the one that costs double than the rest.  But for a good reason. 

Lunchtime, I didn't know what to prepare.  As I checked the vegetable bin, I saw some beautiful tomatoes waiting to be sliced for a bowl of salad.  I thought of Jamie Oliver's chorizo and tomato salad that I had been meaning to do for the last six months but never got around to tackle. 

Chorizo, check.
Spring onions, check.
White pizza, leftover from morning snack, check.
Cheese, check.
Prosciutto, check.
Wine, check.
Parsley plant, blooming with leaves.  Check.

My lunch is complete. 

I love chorizo and to say that this is the best tomato salad I have ever tried in my life is not biased.  It's the intense flavors intertwined together in one salad that gives it a perfect ten.  The only drawback was, the house smelled of vinegar for a good hour.  I left all the windows open to send out the evidence of vinegar cooking. 

While looking at the bottle of Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) of Abbazia di Novacella (Neustift) that I was drinking, my thoughts went back to our trip there last summer.  It was one of the day trips we took from our vacation at the Dolomites.  A day we gave our hiking boots and tired legs a rest from the trekking. 

It was one of the places I earmarked as a must to see in the area.  I had grown fascinated with its history and the pictures I have seen at the internet and guidebook.   And of course, the wines are known to be exceptional.   

The first thing I saw after we parked the car was Castel Sant'Angelo, which, by its own right, made me stare at it in awe.  Little did I know that as as soon as you pass it, there's a big square where, at a 360 degree turn, exudes beauty, order and a long history to tell.  The abbey did go through a lot of hardships and rich times during its 870 years of existence.

The walled complex is composed by several buildings from different periods and various styles like Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Rococo that were harmoniously mixed in a well-defined space.

At its beginning, it could be reached by a covered bridge which is still intact today that when my son tried his running skills in it, I started to worry that its very long history was going to end there.   We managed to cross it without any damages because it was much stronger than I thought.

One of the buildings in the square is the tavern where they serve wine, ham, cheese and some cakes.  The tables are strategically positioned outside so while you are sipping your DOC appellated wine, you have a good view of the abbey's square and admire the view.  Inspite of this wonderful position, we herded the kids and ourselves reluctantly inside the ancient tavern.  There was a cold wind that day and it's not good for the kids.  Sigh. 

Going more inwards, the Pozzo delle Meraviglie (Well of the Wonders of the World) from the 1500s greeted us with its beautiful frescoes depicting the seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the eighth being the view of the abbey.  It provided the water supply of the abbey.  

The basilica was closed with a gate from the last pew but just the same, you can admire it from behind the bars.  The most important part of the abbey is its magnificent library with its 65,000 books, all handwritten by the Augustinian monks starting from 1100. 

Since the Augustinian monks are a more "working" order as compared to the other orders that are more contemplative, they sustained themselves economically by the sales of agricultural products such as culinary herbs, fruits and the world famous wines that they produce.   Also, in the late years, they maintained a boys' boarding school who are studying viticulture and winemaking, among other subjects, and an institute of boys' choir.

Let me tell you something about this abbey.  It was founded in 1142 by the Blessed Heinrich Hartmann, Bishop of Bressanone (Brixen in German) of the Augustinian order of monks.  Being close to the border of Austria, Sudtirol (South Tyrol) uses two languages, German and Italian. 

Since its inception, it worked as a hospice for the pilgrims traveling between Rome and the Holy Land.  The complex is complete with facilities functioning independently, during the hundreds of years of its existence.

They have 3 major winelands.  One is just outside the abbey where they grow the whites like Sylvaner, Muller Thurgau, Valtiner, Kerner and Gewurztraminer, the second one is at the Lake of Caldaro where grow some of the reds like Pinot Noir and Schiava and the third one is in Bolzano where they grow the red Lagreins.

I think I have written long enough to take out that first yawn from you.  If you want to learn more about this abbey, click on this link to go to their site which is available in English, Italian and German.

I do hope you enjoyed this piece.  When you encounter one of the wine bottles of Abbazzia di Novacella, think about its long history and the monks who are behind the production of that bottle you are holding. 

Chorizo and Tomato Salad

Serves 4

  • chorizo sausage (approximately 225 g.), roughly sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 3 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, quartered and smaller ones, halved
  • 3 spring onions or 1 shallot, finely sliced
  • salt & pepper
  • sherry vinegar
  • bunch of parsley (you can also use mint or basil), leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced (I left mine crushed.)
  • a rustic loaf of bread, (I used the classic white pizza.) to serve
  • optional:  goat's cheese (I used a Tuscan pecorino di pera, Tuscan pecorino flavored with pears)
  • optional: ham (I used prosciutto crudo di San Danielle ham.)

  1. Fry the sliced chorizo in a pan over medium heat with some extra virgin olive oil.  Stir occasionally.  
  2. Slice the tomatoes and onions.  Put them in a bowl with a pinch of salt & pepper, a lug of extra virgin olive oil and a dash of sherry vinegar.
  3. Sprinkle the chopped parsley and set aside.
  4. When the chorizo is getting crispy and the fat is cooking out of it, add the garlic to the pan and keep it moving around to avoid burning.  
  5. Take the pan out of the fire and pour some sherry vinegar to stop cooking it further.  Stir with the chorizo.
  6. Pour chorizo and vinaigrette on the tomato salad.  Toss the salad.
  7. Serve with bread.  Cheese and ham are optional.