From Milan to Rome, Italy is packed with delicious and unique flavours that are sure to whet your appetite. As it can be hard to choose from so many amazing dishes, we’ve rounded up the very best cuisine from across the country to bring you a foodie travel guide. Warning, salivation is guaranteed.
Ragù alla Bolognese
Clue’s in the name: the family-friendly sauce is from Bologna! Although traditionally served with tagliatelle, the Italian delicacy is often paired with any pasta you can get your hands on. However, the UK favourite spaghetti bolognese is mostly unheard of in Italy itself, and the origins of this hybrid dish are largely unknown.
We couldn’t write an Italian foodie blog without chatting about pizza, right? Although the term pizza was first recorded way back in the 10th century, the modern version that we’ve all come to know and love was invented in Naples. The world’s longest pizza was made in Naples in 2016 and was baked using a series of wheeled ovens which moved along its length. The final product measured in at an deliciously impressive 1.15 miles!
This delicately flavoured main dish hails from Northern Italy; and using broth and wine to soften the rice is still the most popular way to cook the dish to this day. The dish is usually cooked with mushrooms, diced mixed vegetables or, for an indulgent take on a classic, fresh seafood.
Creamy, sweet and oh-so-moreish, the Italian version of ice cream is here to stay. Although by law it must contain at least 3.5% butterfat, the cooling treat is still often lower in fat than other styles of ice cream. Although the history of gelato is often contested, the popular speciality is enjoyed across Italy and beyond.
These little pastries originated from Sicily, and are still a year-round staple in Italy. An amazing amount of variations are available nowadays, yet each are bound by two consistent ingredients: fried pastry dough and a sweet cream filling (usually ricotta cheese). We quite fancy the ones with pistachios and melted chocolate = heaven!
This well-loved dish is often prepared as an antipasto (starter) within Italy, and always consists of crisp grilled bread rubbed with a combination of olive oil, salt and garlic. Although an array of toppings including tomatoes and cheese are popular, the region of Tuscany skips the fancy extras and simply eats fettunta, a variant which celebrates the first oil of the season in all its glory.
The history of the classic dessert remains a bit of a sticking point, but most agree that it was first seen in 1960s Veneto. Although numerous variations exist, the traditional recipe always showcases egg yolks, mascarpone, lady fingers, sugar, coffee and cocoa powder.
Is there anything nicer than a hearty bowl of minestrone on a cold winter’s day? We don’t think so! The soup was created by the ancient Romans, although there is no set recipe for the warming concoction, so you have all the creative license you need.
The festive sweet bread loaf is a popular Milanese pudding and usually weighs in at a whopping 1kg. Throughout history, the cake regularly makes cameo appearances in the arts – certainly a new game you can play while walking around a painting museum…
Created in the Lazio Region around Rome, this spicy sauce is often paired with smaller pasta variations such as penne and chicken. Arrabbiata is simple to make, as it only consists of garlic, tomatoes, dried red chilli peppers and olive oil. Word of warning – arrabbiata is a literal translation for ‘angry’ in Italian, and refers to the sheer heat of the sauce!
Ribollita (Tuscan Soup)
Bread, kale, cannellini beans, cabbage and other commonly leftover ingredients come together to create a superbly tasty Ribollita; a famous Tuscan soup with peasant origins. Legend has it that the recipe was borne from servants gathering food from feudal lords’ banquets and then reboiling the scraps for their own suppers!
Arancini – Sicily
The tasty flavours of risotto all bundled up in a fried breadcrumb casing? Yes, please. The sumptuous snack is said to have originated in 10th-century Sicily at a time when the island was under Arab rule. The most common filling nowadays consists of ragu, rice and mozzarella.
Sweet fried batter, powdered sugar and a custard filling = sweet dreams are made of this. The well-known confectionery are typical of Italian cuisine, and are especially prevalent in both Rome and Naples. As well as being a popular street food in modern times, zeppola is eaten to celebrate St Joseph’s Day (a Catholic feats day).
Head to the Piedmont region and tuck into a plate of this mouthwatering filled pasta. According to a legend, the origin of the name was from a cook called Angiolino, an Montferrat resident who is believed to be the inventor of the recipe. The dish must include roast meat to qualify as Agnolotti, whereas similar vegetarian versions of the pasta are known as, you guessed it, Ravioli!
Expect this dish as a starter rather than a side dish in Italy and you’re on to a winner. Although simple, this Italian-flag inspired dish is packed with fresh flavours that are bound to tantalise the tastebuds; including sweet basil, mozzarella, tomatoes, olive oil, and sometimes pesto.