Keeping in theme with our HoliDiet campaign this week, we asked foodie blogger Amber Paulen from Eating Italy Food Tours, for her must-try Italian food recommendations. Read on to discover why there’s more to Italian cuisine than just pizza and pasta…
Pasta or Pizza? Or Not.
What comes to mind when you think of Italian food? Pasta and pizza, right? And it’s true, in Italy there is a lot of pasta and pizza. Pasta with tomato sauce, pizza with tomato sauce, pasta with sausage and broccoli, pizza with sausage and broccoli. You get the idea. Because food in Italy is extremely regional, spend some time travelling up and down the peninsula and you’ll see that there’s more to Italian food than just those two dishes.
Polenta is most often eaten in the north of Italy, in the regions of Lombardy and Veneto. It is made from a fine cornmeal that is stirred with water for forty minutes. It can be served hard, fried or baked, or soft then topped with a sauce such as one made with tomatoes and meat or porcini mushrooms. Polenta is a comfort food that will keep you warm on cold days.
Again, Lomardy and Veneto are two of the best regions to eat a tasty, creamy plate of risotto. But unlike polenta, risotto can be found more frequently throughout the rest of Italy. To make risotto you start with a thick rice, like cannoli or arborio, then stir it with butter and a seasonal vegetable or seafood, gradually adding broth. Risotto con crema di scampi (with cream and shrimps) is a common and delicious choice. If you’re feeling adventurous try risotto con ortiche, which means nettles.
Tuscany wins the award for serving the most hearty and healthy soups. A few classics are ribollita, a thick mix of veggies, beans and pieces of bread, and pappa al pomodoro, made from saltless Tuscan bread and tomatoes. But a good minestra (or soup) can be eaten throughout the country in winter. Typically it’s made from a seasonal mix of veggies, beans, and grains.
Meat and Fish
North to south you’ll find regional ways of preparing meat or fish. Pork is most popularly eaten cured, like prosciutto. While the most famous place for beef is Florence, where you’ll get served a heaping fiorentina, or T-bone steak. Rome specializes in offal. And if you head to the countryside of Umbria or Abruzzo you’ll find dishes made from rabbit and other game. Fish is best on the coasts and the islands. In Sicily or Sardinia you’re guaranteed some of the best fish meals you’ll ever eat, which will only be topped by the stunning view of the Mediterranean.
The Italians are passionate about their veggies, and regional variations can be delicious surprises. Though vegetables are often served as a side dish to meat, sometimes you can find a stand-alone plate, like parmigiana di melanzane (or eggplant parmigian) that is a rich and savoury mix of eggplant, tomato sauce, and cheese. And if you’re in Rome during artichoke season (late winter to early spring) you’ve got to try a carciofi alla giudia, which is a whole artichoke fried.
If Amber’s Italian food recommendations have inspired you to discover more, check out our destination foodie guides for Barcelona, Paris and Rome, available to download now!
Have you got any holiday foodie experiences you want to share? Leave us a comment in the box below!