Caution: this post will make you hungry.
I usually do my Travel Trivia posts with fun facts about each country, but since it is Italy, we are doing this one with food. Whether you are a picky eater or not, Italy has something for everyone and it is usually simple enough that you can try to cook those dishes at home as well, so I will also link to some recipes along the way. Let’s get started with 12 Italian foods to try:
- Pizza – everybody knows pizza so there is no real need to explain what it is, but pizza absolutely hits differently in Italy. No one knows where pizza was born first, whether it was Rome or Naples, but the most popular type of modern pizza is the pizza napoletana, the soft, kneaded doughy one we all know very well. Pizza romana is less popular, but still very nice. It is usually more oval in shape and the main difference is that the dough is thinner, made with oil and baked longer to become dry and crunchy. Whichever version you prefer, I’d recommend trying a classic Margherita or Marinara at least once, even if you normally go for fancier pizzas with more ingredients.
- Focaccia – focaccia is pizza’s simpler and underrated ancestor, essentially a soft, spongy bread with toppings and coated with lots of olive oil to form a delicious crust. It is very simple to make and experiment with as you can pretty much put anything on it. Here is a recipe for a traditional version, but personally I love it with olives, rosemary, Parmesan cheese, coarse salt and of course olive oil.
- Pasta – next up is another dish that needs no introduction, the pasta. There are supposed to be over 350 different shapes of pasta in Italy and if you want to learn more about each one and how to make them, I recommend watching Pasta grannies. It is an utterly wholesome, heart-warming culinary travel show where Vicky Bennison travel around Italy filming Italian grandmas who still make traditional pasta by hand and it is crazy. Are you even a real pasta lover if you haven’t seen 103 year old Irma make tagliatelle?
- Lasagne and parmigiana – right after pasta we have lasagne, the queen amongst Italian foods to try and the perfect comfort food for when you have a bit more time on your hands; as well as princess parmigiana, a sort of aubergine lasagne, which I actually prefer if I had to choose between the two.
- Mozzarella, burrata and other local goods – mozzarella is a traditional Italian fresh cheese made of buffalo milk that most of us already know, but it would be a shame if you missed its cousin burrata. Burrata is a cheese hybrid made of a hard mozzarella casing with stracciatella and cream inside and it is crazy good. The good news here is that you don’t need to spend a fortune in restaurants to try all these different Italian staples, as you can simply walk into a supermarket and buy some mozzarella, burrata, a selection of olives, mortadella and prosciutto (try both crudo – raw, dry and aged, and cotto – cooked), some ripe tomatoes and bread and you are all set for an amazing meal.
- Tiramisu, gelato and cannoli – there are of course many other desserts to try in Italy, but my personal favourite are these 3 and you absolutely need to try them if you haven’t already. Tiramisu is Italy’s delicious blend of mascarpone, coffee-soaked cookies and cacao, which is perfect for when you want a lighter dessert and something we often make for our guests at home. Then there’s gelato, Italy’s earlier ice cream, which is made with a slower mixing process and has a denser texture with more intense flavours than ice cream. It also contains less fat content and calories than ice cream… And of course the infamous Sicilian cannoli, made popular by the Godfather movies. Cannoli are fried pastry wraps filled with ricotta and other toppings such as chocolate chips or pistachios and you can get them allover Italy nowadays.
“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”M. Puzo – The Godfather
- Limoncello and Aperol spritz – last but not least, two of my favourite Italian drinks. Yes, I know everyone raves about Italian wine, but since I am not a wine lover, I give you limoncello, the lemon liqueur that is very easy to make at home (see here). I also love Aperol spritz, which is a very basic bitch summer cocktail mix of Aperol, Prosecco and soda with a slice of lemon.
And that’s it, I am hungry and need to go make lunch now. I hope you enjoyed this somewhat different edition of Travel Trivia with all the Italian foods to try and come let me know your favourite Italian food in the comments!