‘It went like this: in the old days, thirteen big men went to venerate the remains of the patron saint of the Upper Novara area. On their way back, when they reached what is now Borgomanero, they suddenly felt an unprecedented appetite that we might call hunger. It had been stimulated by the fresh, thin air that flows from Monte Rosa and that has made the so-called food industry flourish there since the early days.
But ‘our’ characters had been caught up in the sacred fervour of the pious pilgrimage and had forgotten to replenish their provisions. The saddlebags were desolately empty on the back of the little donkey that had followed them on the long journey. And since, at that moment, the hungry donkey was gnawing on a cardoon with obvious satisfaction, someone suggested that they could gnaw on the donkey with equal satisfaction. And so, without further ado, they made chops out of the donkey. It seems, however, that the chops were very hard, so they reduced them to tiny pieces and kept the pot on the fire for a long time.
The result was a meal that the ‘thirteen’ thought was excellent. Struck by optimism, they decided not to continue their journey and to settle in a place that seemed to have been revealed to them by Saint Julius himself. A village was founded, that became a city over the centuries. Its inhabitants have long forgotten the customs of the ancient founders, but not the food that is perhaps at the origin of their fortune. And, the donkey meat of the story was replaced with tender, finely minced beef, thrown on a mixture of oil and butter flavoured with rosemary, bay leaf and garlic, then simmered. And when all the sauce is absorbed, they keep it moist and soft by sprinkling it with good red wine. After an hour or so everything is ready, and it can be served, preferably with well-cooked polenta, and accompanied by the good wine of the hills stretching from Maggiora to Gattinara and Ghemme.