Do you know bigolì in Cassopipa?

In the last few days, Venice was hit by a very cold spell, you may have seen images of the city and Lagoon covered by snow 😦  The good news is that this white blanket has gone. The rain we are now getting certainly helps, but then, it also brought on acqua alta – high tides which caused flooding in the lower lying parts of town.

For the vegetable and kitchen gardens, such a bad weather spell in March represents an emergency. In Venice we are currently eating the last of the local winter vegetables like radicchio and cabbages and importing citrus fruit  from southern Italy,  this is a season when we are waiting for the spring produce to arrive. Only, the bad weather spell will delay it by 2-3 weeks … In the meantime, we need to get help from a few little friends, the spices !

Snow in March is nothing unusual in the history of Venice. In fact, the climate in the Middle Ages was much cooler than it is today, as I’m describing in this post on La Venessiana, our Venice Travel Blog. Perhaps that’s one reason why we have inherited ancient recipes taking us through this “dead” season when we are all longing for spring greens but rain and storms are still sweeping the Lagoon.

Often, the ancient culinary traditions of the Lagoon and the “inventions” brought back by the merchants of Venice from their voyages mix, and the dish you will get to know in a minute is such an example. Here, the ancient recipe of the southern Lagoon city Chioggia, pasta in cassopipa, is enriched with spices we need right now.

Venetians have their own type of spaghetti, thick spaghetti made from rye flour called bigolì. They look slightly olive, just as you can see in the picture above.

The original ingredients of this simple fishermen dish, cooked slowly in a casso (coccio, earthenware pot), used to be seafood (clams, mussels), white wine and an onion to add flavor. In Venice, around the Rialto Market, this popular dish was enriched with spices from the Levant.


Thinking of the weather we are going through right now, with Venice recovering from a very bad spell of snow, perhaps this warming dish was invented for times like these.

Very carefully, Venetian osti (hosts, or at the Rialto, owners of bacari – wine bars) added spices freshly delivered by the barges moored along the Rialto banks. It may sound very strange, but there are two spices that actually enhance the taste of seafood if you know how to use them ! These two are cardamom and cinnamon, combined with cayenne pepper and lemon juice. That’s a general mixture for sea food made in the ancient Venetian manner.

Contrary to the seafood dishes you find in other parts of Italy, the original Venetian recipe does not use tomatoes. So many recipes here date back to the Middle Ages when tomatoes were neither known in Europe nor in the Middle East, the source markets of the Venetians.

Thus, the original Venetian fish soup doesn’t use tomatoes but is a zuppa in bianco, that is, without tomatoes. Instead, spices are used bring out the full flavor of the mussels, clams or whatever seafood was available. Please note that the spices above cannot be used with white or blue fish (pesce azzurro)!

If you are in Venice and want to taste this recipe, Cantina Do Spade, located next to the Rialto Market, offers a delicious treat !

Bigolì in Cassopipa

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Warming, soothing, restoring on a cold day.

This recipe is an example of fusion cuisine, mixing two culinary cultures, ingredients from the Lagoon of Venice and spices from the Levant, Far East and Indian Ocean. 
Copyright La Spezeria - La Venessiana: View our recipes


  • clams, mussels as you like (be careful to wash them!) and the pasta you like (usually, we use spaghetti for this dish)
  • one medium-sized onion, black pepper corns.
  • sea salt, ground black pepper, white pepper, yellow curry, cayenne pepper, a tiny hint of cinnamon.


Prepare the clams and mussels by washing them well and arrange them in a pot with water which you need to bring to the boil slowly. Only use the open clams and mussels for your sugo. Alternatively, you could also use frozen clams.
In a pan, bring sunflower oil to the boil with the onion cut into tiny cubes and a teaspoon black pepper corns. After a few minutes, take the pepper corns out, add the other spices and the salt, the clams and a few teaspoons tap water. Bring to the boil again and leave to stand for ten minutes.
Add the cooked pasta, stir carefully and flavor the dish with white pepper (ground) and the first chives from the kitchen garden, if available. To finish, add a few drops of olive oil.

We will soon publish our first e-book, Roses and Spices ! Click on the picture  below and download a preview and a very special Venetian recipe 🙂 You will also get access to our Venice Library !

Published by Iris Loredana

Iris Loredana: Author of La Venessiana - Venice Travel, Food and Lifestyle Guide for Responsible Visitors.

2 thoughts on “Do you know bigolì in Cassopipa?

  1. Dommage quand on affiche la recette et la fonction traduction, la recette s’affiche en anglais, c’est très agaçant de voir l’anglais tout dominer surtout sr un site Facebook en France …! Il semble que nous Français soyons tout de même plus proche de vous latins que des anglo-saxons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bonjour Elisabeth, il est très difficile pour moi choisir la langue qui va bien a tous. La majoritè des lecteurs de mes sites parle anglais … c’est la meme chose pour mon blog sur Venise,
      La recette est ecrite en utilisant un code, donce c’est ca la raison pour laquelle la traduction ne fonctionne pas. Pour solution, je vais preparer un chapitre pour les recettes sans utiliser le code. Excusez-moi si mon francais n’est pas parfait. Je vais vous contacter ici, a bientôt. Iris


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