Traditional Food in Italy

Traditional Food in Italy

No one does food quite like the Italians. Despite being replicated all over the world, it is only down the quaint cobblestone alleyways off Milan’s bustling arterial streets or up hilly Sicilian villages overlooking the glistening Mediterranean that’ll you find truly authentic Italian fare. For Italians, food is very much seen as a way of life. Family recipes are passed down from generation to generation and each region boasts its own unique delicacies that the locals take immense pride in. From familiar favourites such as pasta, pizza and risotto to the more obscure seadas – which the Sicilians probably kept to themselves for good reason – traditional food in Italy is a smorgasbord of hearty flavours (often topped with a sprinkling of nutty pecorino) that never disappoints.


Pasta in Bologna

It would be criminal to write a blog on traditional food in Italy and not begin it with pasta, especially spaghetti, or ‘Ragu alla Bolognese’ – if you want to get technical about it. While we can’t do the national dish justice in just one paragraph, its popularity around the world really speaks for itself. Prepared through a process of sweating, sautéing and braising minced meat, onions, carrots and pancetta, it is traditionally served with tagliatelle (Bologna traditionalists abhor the use of spaghetti) yet, contrary to popular belief, is actually believed to have originated in Imola – just 31.5 miles southeast of Bologna. Nevertheless, despite its contested roots, the impenetrable traditions and mouth-watering flavours that come with a ragu have secured it as one of Italy’s most beloved and celebrated dishes.


Pizza in Naples

‘When a moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, That's amore.’ Here’s to hoping that you don’t get hit in the eye by a pizza, but Dean Martin was right when he said pizza is amore. It may have been on the scene since the Roman Empire, but it was the Italians who put it firmly on the map, in Naples to be precise. After centuries of experimenting, and following a royal visit from the Queen Margherita herself, they settled on the trusty Neapolitan and Margherita pizzas we know today. While New York and Chicago have put their own twist on these doughy delights in subsequent years, it is Naples that remains pizza’s first true love. Complete with a tomato base topped with fresh mozzarella, basil and a drizzle of olive oil, there is nothing that even comes close to an authentic Neapolitan pizza.


Cannoli in Sicily

Holy cannoli. The ultimate guilty pleasure, this Sicilian staple has transcended generations and cultures. Believed to have been passed down from Muslim women to the Christian nuns of Caltanisetta (during the fall of Arab ruling over the country in the tenth century), they were reportedly the first to introduce sugar to Sicilian people. And they haven’t looked back since. Dubbed the ‘Sweet Tooth Kingdom’ of Italy, the region has now become synonymous with the crunchy, tube-shaped pastry shell that comes packed full of creamy ricotta, candied fruit and chocolate. Plus, we can’t think of a better way to start a Sicilian holiday than by sipping on a caffè, cannoli in hand, on a quaint terrace overlooking the Mediterranean.


Seadas in Sardinia

What seems to be a common theme with traditional food in Italy is its simplicity. Seadas are no exception. Hailing from the humble pastoral areas of Sardinia, they comprise of only five ingredients – semolina flour, lard, Pecorino cheese, lemon and honey – yet, once cooked, become a deep-fried dumpling of deliciousness. Traditionally served with a light drizzle of honey, which complements their oozing lemon-scented cheese centre perfectly, they are surprisingly difficult to replicate outside Sardinia. That’s why we have put them right at the top of our Sardinian to-do list, right next to salubrious soaks in the turquoise waters of the Costa Smeralda – of course.


Risotto Alla Milanese in Lombardy

Rice may have been another gift from the Arabs, but it was in Milan where this mighty seed met its risotto destiny. Continuing the slow-cooking principles popular in the 19th century, rice went from being simply boiled to being sautéed with knobs of butter and light flavourful broths. Throw in a little beef marrow, a dash of saffron and nutmeg and you have yourself the ‘Risotto Alla Milanese’ Felice Luraschi created in his Milan kitchen in 1829. Easily recognisable by its distinct yellow colouring, tracking it down in Milan is no arduous task. Head to The Trattoria di Milano, just off the Piazzale Ferdinando Martini, for the award-winning risotto and a few scoops of mascarpone cream if you’ve got the room. One thing is for sure though, when it comes to traditional food in Italy, you can always count on the Italians to make it a stylish and piquant affair.