Regional food of Italy

See what the local food has to offer in each region of Italy.

by: Jacoba Budden | 05 May 2010

Pizza, cold meats and cheeses and vegetable dishes are plentiful at the local restaurants.

At home:
- Abbacchio al forne (roasted lamb, often with potatoes);
- Saltimbocca alla Romana (veal schnitzels stuffed with ham;
- Sage and cooked in butter or wine);
- Masses of antipasti;
- Carciofi alla romana (roman style artichokes stuffed with mint, breadcrumbs and garlic)
- Spaghetti alla carbonara (spaghetti made with eggs, bacon, parmesan and no cream);
- Spaghetti cacio e pepe (spaghetti with local pecorino and pepper);
- Pizza ebraica d’erbe (a Jewish vegetable pizza with artichokes, peas and spinach that’s famous throughout Rome)
- Tiramisu and some of the best wines in the country are a tip of the culinary iceberg.


- A lot less seafood is eaten in this region, with meat and sausages being delicious substitutes.
- Carpaccio (finely sliced raw fillet of beef);
- Tramezzini (white bread sandwiches filled to bursting with mayonnaise & any filling)
- Pandoro (Venetian christmas cake);
- Bigoli (thick spaghetti type pasta made in a bigolaro)
- Zucca al latte (pumpkin in milk);
- Wild duck and wine are specialties from this region.


- Austrian type goulash, beer and even strudel is as common as a bowl of polenta.

In true Italian fashion, the food is uncomplicated and excellent - in winter a spicy, slow roasted pork dish cooked over the fogolar (an open fireplace found in some old kitchens) accompanied by a plate of gnocchi and glass of wine is common fare.

Along the coast:
- Risotto alla Maranese (seafood risotto);
- Scampi fritti (fried scampi)
- Anguila fritta (fried eel)
- Grappa is even more well known than wine – the earliest record of this dates back to 1451 when a local, Enrico, mentioned it in his will.
And of course, this region is also known for San Daniele prosciutto.

How is this delicately delicious prosciutto prepared?
Hung in well-ventilated rooms for 24 to 36 hours after which the fat and hide is trimmed and the curing begins.
The meat is massaged as the salt is applied to it, repeating the procedure once a week for a month.
The hams are then washed and dried either inside or in the sun.
Once the prosciutti are dried, they’re checked and then coated with a mixture of flour, lard, water and pepper so that the maturing can begin – this takes about 12 months. 
Prosciutti lose up to 30% of their original weight.
Montasio cheese - has been made here since about 1200 when the Benedictine monks made (and exported) cow’s milk cheese in these Alpine valleys.

It may only be produced here, in Friuli and in Venetia, Giulia, Venice, some parts of Padua and the provinces of Belluno and Treviso.
The most important dish in the region is gnocchi, and Trentino is the home of gnocchi with gnocchi con la ricotta being a classic.

Dumplings (using left over bread) is popular and barley products equally so – barley soup in winter is a regional favourite.

Asiago is the local cheese made from cow’s milk and wine is also an important part of life here.

Milanese dishes:
- Casoeula (a one pot dish of meat and vegetables);
- Pizzoccheri (buckwheat noodles bake);
- Risotto with Ossobucho (risotto with braised veal knuckles)
- Tortelli di zucca (pasta pockets filled with pumpkin)
- Risotto alla Milanese

Cheeses like fresh Grana padano, or Robiola go well with the excellent local wines and for those of you with a penchant for the bitter, sip on a local drink, Fernet Branca or a Campari.

The food is typical of a mountainous valley. It’s simple and substantial and dishes like fonduta (the local fondue), rye bread, smoked bacon, sausages and game are typical.  Butter, not olive oil is favoured in cooking.

The rich food provides ample calories to counteract the freezing temperatures.

Bread, soup, rye bread, a huge variety of Alpine cheeses (like Fontina), Tortino di riso (a local rice cake), lepre in civet (rabbitcasserole) and panna cotta (baked cream) are typical.

This woodland region is famous for autumnal truffle hunting, nut collecting and hunting for game.

The wines produced here are superlative and Barola and Barbaresco have almost achieved cult status. They go well with gorgonzola or castelmagno (both local cheeses).

Truffles are liberally used in many dishes like Carne cruda all’albese (steak tartare and truffles) and many egg and truffle dishes.

This is a rice-growing region, and the risotto alla zucca (pumpkin risotto) is legendary as is bollito misto (mixed stewed meats), bagnet verd (green sauce) and zabaglione (dessert made with eggs, sugar and sweet wine).

Pecorino Sardo (a firm, uncooked, sheep milk cheese) is only made from the milk of Sardinian sheep and tastes quite different to its Roman sister, Pecorino Romano. It’s richer and milder as opposed to the sharper and saltier Roman cheese.

Spit roasted lamb, carta di musica (thin, almost transparent rounds of bread that are turned into a host of dishes), squid, rock lobster, scampi, malloreddus (semolina pasta with saffron), culingionis (Sardinian ravioli) and wine are traditional foods.

Today, the history of Sicily is still reflected in her food – Monasteries had huge, incredibly well staffed kitchens and the monks of the day feasted on banquets more lush than anything we see today.
- Bottarga (pressed and salted tuna roe);
- Tuna
- Pasta con le sarde (spaghetti with pine nuts, raisins, sardines, anchovies and saffron);
- Arancini alla siciliana (meat stuffed rice balls);
- Farsumagu (stuffed veal roulade);
- Stuffed cannelloni;
- Caponata (aubergines with tomatoes and olives) are typical;
- Oranges, lemons and prickly pears grow everywhere. -

The wine and marsala  is excellent, the olive oil superlative and the salt is mined locally.

Here the famous truffles of Norcia are collected, while their pork is famous throughout Italy – so famous in fact, that a butchery is called a Norceria, throughout Italy.

Examples of meat products:
- Barbozzo (cured pig’s cheek);
- Mazzafegati (a salami type sausage made from pork liver;
- Orange peel, raisins and even a touch of sugar)
- Coppa (made from the meat of a pig’s head and completely different to the coppa found elsewhere in Italy)
- Budellaci (smoked strips of intestine that can be eaten raw or cooked)

Frittata ai tartuffi
(truffle omelette), spit-roasted pigeons and stuffed guinea fowl are traditional comfort foods and for the sweet-toothed there are plenty of options such as zuccotto (sponge cake filled with ice-cream) or a huge collection of chocolates from Perugia.

Ligurians are fiercely independent and their food is of extremely high quality.

Ligurian olive oil, is rarely found outside Liguria – and if a bottle, somehow, strays into a shop, it’s snapped up almost before it hits the shelves.
- Cappon Magro (a traditional seafood dish made with flying fish, crayfish and scampi);
- Burrida (fish soup);
- Stuffed anchovies;
- Salsa di noci (walnut sauce);
- Pesto alla Genovese (Genovese pesto);
- Farinata (a chickpea cake) and wine and olive oil are plentiful in the region.

When one thinks of Emiglia Romagnia, pasta, mortadella (a type of ham) and balsamic vinegar come to mind immediately.

One of the most delicious hams in the world, culatello, is made here in Parma (not only the Parma ham).

Bologna is famous for the mortadella, Piacenza is home to tortellini (pasta) and the typical Italian new year’s eve dish, zampone (fresh sausage) is made in Modena.

Traditional foods include:
- Tortellini romagnoli (tortellini stuffed with turkey);
- Parmigiano reggiano (the original parmesan cheese);
- Lasagne;
- Ragú alla bolgonese (spaghetti bolognaise to us);
- Aceto balsamico (balsamic vinegar);
- Pancetta

The wine list will always include Lambrusco and zuppa inglese (sponge cake dipped in liqeur, layered with custard) will end any meal rather gloriously.

The people of Tuscany eat honest, simple food.

In Florence, the bistecca alla fiorentina (the steak made in the style of Florence) is made from the Chianina breed of cattle, the steak is always a 700g-900g t-bone and is extraordinarily tender and tasty. It is prepared simply with only a little olive oil, salt and rosemary.
- Panzanella (bread salad);
- Bruschetta (dry toasted bread with tomato topping);
- Papa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup);
- Ribollita (vegetable soup made with dried beans, a ham bone, herbs and bread that is chilled overnight and re-heated);
- Porcini (mushrooms);
- Tonno del Chianti (Tuscan ‘tuna’ made from suckling pigs);
- Panforte (the sweet pepper cakes from Siena made with nuts, cocoa, spices, peel and honey);
- Wine, olive oil and a host of sausages – many made from wild boar, are amongst the many traditional foods eaten in the region.

Like most Italians, Le Marche people believe that food begins and ends with them.
- Calamari ripieni in teglia (stuffed squid);
- Vincisgrassi (lasagne but the meat sauce contains raw prosciutto or bacon as well as veal sweetbreads)
- Cannelloni alla pesarese (cannelloni but with filled with black truffles, fresh chicken livers, veal, cooked ham and fresh cream);
- Filetto alla Rossini (Fillet of beef, Rossini style which is made with marsala;
- Butter;
- Gruyere;
- Raw ham and white truffles

On top of which, this is home to casciotta (a porous ewe’s milk cheese) and excellent wines.

Goats and lamb feature on the menu more often than elsewhere, while the traditional pasta chitarra (flat, similar to fettucine) or ceppa (long thin tubes) are served as first courses.

The most typical dishes are:
- Sugo di castrato (mutton pasta sauce);
- Ragù d’agnello (a lamb pasta sauce);
- A host of saffron dishes like saffron potato cakes;
- Cheeses like pecorino di Castel Del Monte (a traditional sheep’s milk cheese);
- Burrino (a curious cheese with a knob of butter hidden inside).

Traditional sausages and local wines are plentiful.

Melanzane alla parmigiana (aubergines sprinkled with parmesan and then baked) originated here. The aubergine itself is very popular in the region and often cooked with mint (alla menta), tomatoes or simply baked in the oven.

Like elsewhere in Italy, this region is well known for its culinary festivals, and here in July, the swordfish festival is celebrated with swordfish that is turned into fishcakes, barbecued over grills and cooked in a myriad of ways.

At the same time the guests celebrate with copious amounts of citrus liqueurs and for dessert, stuffed dried figs or watermelon.

Here we find Naples - a busy, noisy and cheerful city.

Pasta, though not invented here as many locals may claim is plentiful and pizza originated here.

- Tomatoes;
- Spaghetti con le vongole (spaghetti with clams);
- Pasta al pomodoro crudo (pasta with raw tomatoes);
- Calzone (stuffed pizza);
- Fritto misto di mare (fried mixed seafood);
- Mozzarella made from the local buffalo milk;
- Torta caprese (the so-called Capri cake made with almonds and chocolate);
- Pastiera napoletana (a ricotta cake usually made around Easter)
- The olive oil is outstanding and strangely, the wine production is limited. -

Puglia is Italy’s pasta and bread basket as it provides almost all of the durum wheat that makes dried pasta and typical Italian bread.

Garlic and onions are often used in cooking, and tomatoes, zucchini, local broccoli, aubergines, potatoes, pepperoni, fennel, chickpeas, lentils and spinach are favourite vegetables.

The focaccia is baked in a tiella (a pottery dish with a lid), and a lot of the meat dishes are prepared in wood ovens.

The pizza di patate (potato pizza) is excellent as is a tiella di verdure (a vegetable bake) and breads like the muersi (a bread made with broccoli and peas), the broad bean puree, their olive oils, the oysters and their fish are all wonderful.

One food to represent this region? It would have to be the peperoncino (chilli).

Spit roasting is popular and the famous Lucanica sausages (pork sausages made with pork fillet) are well known and loved in Italy.

Throwing an Italian-style World Cup bash? Check out Food24's Italian party menu.


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