You really can’t think about Italy without thinking about its food and thank god I’m writing this after I ate, cause if that wasn’t the case it would’ve taken me ages to finish this piece. There is nothing that beats the flavors of Italian recipes, the simplicity of them, and the way Italian food isn’t only good to eat, but in most cases, healthy.
If you want to go more in-depth for each region I’m starting to do some posts on the main cities in them. Check out my Florentine Specialities post, and many more to come.
Let’s start by saying that we’re going to talk about one specialty per region, so there aren’t going to be a lot of famous Italian dishes because there really are so many that it makes sense that we can’t talk about all of them. So, if you think that there are some plates that you tried, and we should’ve talked about, let us know (there you go that’s me being social-friendly).
Italy is like a great big banquet that has an insane amount of cuisines within a pretty small country. The country was divided politically for centuries, and the diverse geographical landscape brought to each region its own Italian cuisine history (discover more about what to eat in Italy).
What is the difference between Italian Food?
One of the ways you can see this the most is how the Northern regions tend to cook mostly with butter, while in the Southern regions we can notice an oil-based cuisine. That’s the biggest Northern Italy vs. Southern Italy cuisine difference, plus the variety that we’ll be talking about soon (see some of the best Italian restaurants in Florence).
While I’m not going to really talk about traditional eating habits in Italy or Italian Christmas desserts, I’m sure you’ll find some amazing dishes that you’re going to want to try at home, or if you’re planning on studying/visiting Italy in the near future, try for yourself. Maybe go on a mad food trip around Italy and try them all. I’m just saying, there are enough different kinds of Italian food to discover.
Let the Italian food feast begin!
Now let’s go on this mad Italian cuisine and traditional recipes hunt, so you’ll know what are the typical Italian dishes you have to try when you get here ( want to learn to cook in Italy? Discover best italian cooking schools).
Valle D’Aosta – Fontina
We’re starting from the northern region of Valle D’Aosta and going all the way down, to then hit the Islands. Valle D’Aosta’s typical Italian food we’re taking into account is Fontina, it’s pretty much the standard cheese that you’re gonna get in Italy, everyone loves fontina in this country, any ham and cheese sandwich will have it, so you probably already had it while here.
Lombardia – Risotto
Lombardia is the region of Milan, and what is the best food in Milan? That’ll be risotto, it’s the main pasta dish you can order while there, and what better condiment than zafferano (saffron). Typically a red plant once it is cooked it turns yellow, and it’s delicate flavour is something you’ll never forget. You know you’re having authentic Italian food when you’re eating a good risotto.
Trentino Alto-Adige – Speck
When in Italy you know there is an insane amount of cold cuts you can pick from, and Speck is one of my personal favorites. A smoked version of bacon if we need to compare it to something that we all know. Within the
Piemonte – Espresso
Not really northern Italian cuisine as coffee is a drink, but if we’re to talk about Piemonte – that’s where you’ll find Turin – we can’t talk about one of the staples of the Italian meal the espresso. Part of all Italian traditional meals, you won’t get away from the espresso wherever you are in the country. It’s so much part of the culture that you’ll start having espresso breaks when you go back home, even though it’ll never be like an Italian made espresso.
Friuli Venezia Giulia – Prosciutto San Daniele
Italian meat dishes are an integral part of the way Italians enjoy a light meal, or an aperitivo before dinner. San Daniele Ham is one of the most consumed in all of the country, and it’s one of the best known around the world. So if you want the real deal you’re going to go up north to Friuli Venezia Giulia. Ah just for you to know, you won’t find Venice in Friuli Venezia Giulia, that’s in the next region.
Veneto – Carpaccio
Veneto isn’t only great for its drinks, but also for the amazing Italian recipes, I mean recipes are for drinks and food really. Now what are we going to talk about when it comes to the region that hosts Verona and Venice? Carpaccio. One of the best raw meat plates you can have in the country, the Italian version of the Tartare. So, when you’re thinking What is typical Venetian food? Now you know, it’s Carpaccio!
Liguria – Pesto
You know pesto, every knows pesto, so we couldn’t leave it off of our list. We needed to talk about this traditional Italian food cause we love it, you love it, and if you don’t well there nothing I can do about it. The birthplace of this amazing sauce is Liguria, land of the 5 Terre and the beautiful city of Genova. An extremely simple selection of ingredients – Garlic, Basil, Olive Oil, and Pine nuts.
Emilia Romagna – Tagliatelle al Ragù
What is number one on the Italian pasta dishes that comes to mind, I mean there are many different ones actually, but this one is no doubt up there. What some call the Bolognese, here is called a Ragù, even though the Bolognese sauce is a thing here as well, but with slight variations that I don’t remember – jokes on you.
Toscana – Bistecca alla Fiorentina
When I talked about the simplicity of traditional Italian recipes this is one of the best examples there is. The Bistecca all Fiorentina is a really high steak that is simply cooked with salt pepper and olive oil, and extremely raw on the inside. If you’re in Tuscany and you don’t have any dietary preferences, you have to order this at least once, preferably with a nice red wine and a group of friends. It’s a typical Italian dinner experience.
Marche – Olive Ascolane
The Marche has an amazing cuisine culture that is mostly not taken into consideration and their olives are among the best in the country, so I’m going to talk about the most “sfizioso” of the foods they have. When it comes to Italian food in Italy, you’re going to find this plate in most of the apertitivos you find yourself munching at.
Umbria – Strozzapreti
The Strozzapreti are a pasta shape that is famous for its shape, a different type of Fusilli, made mostly in the central region of Umbria. You can’t laugh at its name as it means “priest choker” some say it’s because of its shape, while others say it has to do with the fact that this Italian food is so good that priests can’t have enough of them.
Lazio – Carbonara
What is the best food in Rome? No one can answer that, but I can tell you that my favorite is Carbonara. The egg and bacon sauce is something to die for. I mean this is one of those Italian cuisine recipes that has been revisited the most in all of the world, and is also the recipe that pisses Italians the most when they see people adding cream to it.
Abruzzo – Arrosticini
Another super simple plate to add to the Italian cuisine list. You can’t have a nice Italian “Grigliata” – BBQ – without some Arrosticini. It’s just simple meat on a stick, it’s very similar to the light Yakitori you can find in Japan. Now that the seasons are nice and warm you’re gonna find yourself some Italian friends to go on a nice outdoor grigliata and enjoy this Abruzzo delicacy.
Molise – Porcino
Not exactly a dish, more of an ingredient that we have to homage. The Porcino mushroom is originally from Molise. There is a recurring joke in Italy that Molise doesn’t exist for some reason, it’s the oldest meme in the country from what I understand, but if Molise doesn’t exist, than how do we eat all of these amazing Porcini? It’s in all of the Italian main courses.
Campania – Pizza
It really doesn’t need any introductions, we’re talking about the region that hosts one of the best food cities in Italy: Naples. Home of the Pizza and every imaginable Italian dish you heard of, most probably comes from here. I’m a bit biased I’ve got family there. When you think about southern Italian cuisine you can’t leave Pizza out of the picture.
Puglia – Burrata
The heel of Italy, Puglia, is home to some of the best food in the country, but when it comes to cheese you can open a whole debate on Northern Italy vs Southern Italy food. Burrata is a type of mozzarella that melts in your plate, literally, as you cut it open it’s amazing mozzarella juices go everywhere. Mmmmmm burrataaaaaaaaaa
Basilicata – Pane di Matera
This year Matera was the cultural capital of Europe, with the whole year of 2019 riddled with events. So I wanted to talk about the amazing bread you find in this amazing city. The peculiarity of this sourdough bread is not only its unique taste but the fact that it’s one of the only bread that can stay fresh for weeks. You’ve got to try it in the Cialledda Materana, an onion, tomato, oregano, and olive oil “salad” that shakes the Matera bread.
Calabria – Nduja
Everyone’s heard some Jersey guy in some tv series going “that’s one spicy sausage”. Well he’s probably talking about Nduja a sausage so spicy that it can’t sleep itself together, it’s more of a paste than a sausage, but boyyyyy is it good. I mean I’m not mad about spicy food, but I’ll have a taste if someone puts it on the table.
Sicilia – Pasta alla Norma
One of the best Italian vegetarian pasta dishes comes from beautiful Sicily. Even though the region is probably most famous for its Italian cuisine dishes you have to try this eggplant, tomato, and salted ricotta sauce. You’re going to fall in love at first taste. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Beautiful beaches and great food, what else do you want? (now you can’t say I’m not pushing Sicily – you know who you are)
Sardegna – Pecorino Sardo
Somehow we’re at the end, and if you’ve got this far mad props to you. The Island of Sardegna even though not in the south is going to be the last on our list, just because I put the islands at the end really. Sardegna has a cuisine that is pretty much it’s own thing, but I can’t write about every one, so I’m going to tell you to eat some amazing Pecorino Sardo, the best Pecorino you can find in Italy.