Italian food is famous across the world. Pizza, pasta, gelato, yummmmmm! It’s all so rich and all so delicious.
However, the country also has many delightful regional delicacies too! Here are some of our favourites from across the map.
Cacio e Pepe – Rome
Literally meaning cheese and pepper, cacio e pepe is a trusty and super simple Roman pasta. Hot cooked spaghetti, grated pecorino romano cheese and pepper are tossed together to create a creamy meal. The dish was invented by shepherds who did not have permanent dwellings and needed to make a meal out of ingredients that keep well. Hot starchy cooking water melts the cheese and binds the sauce to the pasta. A simple and easy traditional meal anyone can make at home!
Pizza Napoletana – Naples
Pizza Napoletana is famous world-wide. This delicious pizza is heavily regulated and is so important to Italian heritage it is on the UNESC list of intangible cultural heritage. Authentic Pizza Napoletana needs to be approved by the Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN). To qualify as a true Napoletana, they need to meet some pretty strict requirements. At its core, however, the pizza is a wood-fire cooked dough base topped with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Be sure to look for pizzerias with lines, they’re usually the ones with full AVPN accredited pizzas!
Tortellini – Bologna
This small ring-shaped pasta is found in the Bologna region. These delicious little parcels are traditionally stuffed with a mix of meat, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, egg and nutmeg. They are boiled to cook and then served in a capon, or rooster, broth. There are several legends explaining this pasta shapes origin. One involves an innkeeper spying on Venus through a keyhole in her door. However, the hole was small so he could only see her naval and was inspired to make a pasta in this shape. This also explains tortellinis nickname, “belly button” (ombelico).
Ossobucco – Lombard
If you’re in need of a hearty and warming stew, then ossocbucco is for you. Large veal shanks simmer for hours in a stew of tomato, carrot, celery and onion. The bone marrow inside the shanks gives the dish its signature rich flavour. The stew is served with polenta or mash potato for a hearty meal that will keep you full for hours.
Arancini – Sicily
One of the best, and often overlooked, Italian delicacies is arancini. Literally meaning, little orange, these fried rice balls are heaven in a food! Rice is rolled into balls, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Each ball has a stuffing of peas, mozzarella or ragu. They’re the perfect travelling snack, plus you only need two to fill yourself up! Be sure to crack them open slightly before taking a big bite though as they are notorious for being incredibly hot. We’d hate for you to burn your mouth on one!
Pasta con Polpa di Ricci – Sardinia
Sea urchins are in abundance along the Italian coastline, and nowhere quite knows how to treat them like Sardinia. Though their outsides are spikey and hard, their row is unlike anything else you’ve ever eaten. Buttery smooth, salty, briny, sweet. Sea urchin is where it sat. Pair it with a crisp white wine and eat it over spaghetti. Order Pasta con Polpa di Ricci to get a taste of the delicacy.
Risotto – Milan
Risotto is a northern classic, but one of the best is found in Milan. Short, starchy rice is toasted with butter and onion before warm stock slowly cooks it into a deliciously creamy dish. There are many variants on it, including with sausage, seafood and mushroom. The absolute best though is Risotto alla Milanese in Milan. Meat stock, bone marrow, cheese and saffron are added to create its signature yellow hue. Delicious!
Pesto Genovese – Genoa
Rustic and easy, two key defining words for this delicious sauce. Fresh basil and high-quality olive oil are mashed together with pine nuts, garlic, sale and cheese to create the sauce. Patience is the key ingredient however as the sauce is entirely ground by hand in a mortar and pestle. Served with pasta, you’ll be longing for it once again when you go home. Grab a contained from the local market and toss over hot pasta for an easy meal. Or, drizzle it cool over grilled crostini for a simple home snack.
Bufala Mozzarella – Capri
Hand made from buffalo milk, Bufala Mozzarella adorns almost every table in the region. Makers take buffalo milk curds then heat them, stretch them and roll delightful mozzarella balls. Eat slices of it with fresh tomato and basil for the classic Insalata Caprese. In a similar way to Pizza Napoletana, Bufala Mozzarella must adhere to strict production rules. There are only approximately 200 producers of authentic and true Bufala Mozzarella.
Spritz – Venice
Okay, so not technically a food, but spritz is far too famous to ignore! This refreshing apertivo is made from sparkling wine and a dash of liqueur such as Campari or Aperol. Served over ice and with a slice of orange, the spritz is a pre-meal crowd favourite.
Ribollita – Tuscany
Robollita is a famous Tuscan bread soup. It is made by combining leftover bread, beans, cabbage and cheap vegetables such as carrots, onion and potato. The dish has peasant origins, originally made by reheating yesterday’s minestrone soup with bread to stretch it out another day. The soup is relatively easy to make once the ingredients are chopped as all you need to do is wait for it to stew for a while.
There are so many delicious regional dishes across Italy that there is no way we could get to all of them. Now that you’re nice and hungry it’s time to book your trip!
Related article: Take a Food Tour of Italy