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Italy is a country that has long been famed for its incredible food scene and should be the top of any foodie’s travel list. This is a country that takes the art of cooking and dining very seriously. So it’s little surprise that food plays a large role in most Italy holidays, with feasting on local delights a standard part of the daily agenda. Gastronomy is big business in Italy and you can expect to take your taste buds on a wonderful journey during your time in the country. To narrow things down a little, we’ve selected 10 must-try dishes that you cannot leave Italy without trying…
Italy is a country that isn’t afraid of carbs and it is estimated that the average Italian eats over 60 pounds of pasta per year (around six times more than a UK citizen). Italians are more than happy to eat pasta on a daily basis and holidaymakers will find that freshly made pasta is widely available. If all your sightseeing gives you an appetite then treat yourself to a comforting bowl of spaghetti or creamy carbonara. For the more adventurous, pasta con le sarde (pasta with fresh sardines) is a must-try during a Sardinia getaway or Pappardelle al Cinghiale (ribbon pasta with wild boar) is a delicious addition to a Florence break.
Developed in Naples in the late 18th century, pizza has long been a part of Western cuisine. However, Italians would agree that you haven’t had pizza until you’ve tried ‘authentic’ pizza in Italy itself. A must-try on any Naples holiday, Neapolitan pizza is cooked at a high temperature in a traditional wood-fired oven which makes for a mouth-wateringly charred crust contrasted with an elasticated dough. Soak up the flavours with a simple (but not to be discounted)Margherita pizza, or opt for a capriccioso, which is laden with mozzarella, Italian ham, artichoke and cremini mushrooms.
Gnocchi is a delicious variety of pasta shaped into small, mouth-watering dumplings that are available with different toppings. Often eaten as first course in Italy (primo piatto), handmade gnocchi is light and fluffy, and a must-try on any Italian adventure! You’ll find gnocchi on most menus throughout Italy and popular toppings include sage and butter, tomato and fresh basil or pesto sauce- often all finished with parmesan.
This Italian staple tastes of pure indulgence. A sumptuous mix of mascarpone, coffee, cocoa and liqueur, its invention is a hot-topic in Italy with many regions and cities claiming ownership. Known as a ‘pick-me-up’ this booze-laden dessert makes for an ideal end to a meal. You’ll find tiramisu on the menu throughout Italy; however, Venice, Rome, Florence and Naples are renowned for having very high standards in the tiramisu department. As well as in restaurants, you’ll also find gourmet cakes shops selling tiramisu in all major Italian cities.
Northern Italy is world-famous for its risotto, and risotto alla Milanese with its golden colour and the saffron-infused flavour is extra special. A speciality in Milan, Risotto Alla Milanese, is often made with beef stock, bone marrow, lard and cheese before being flavoured with saffron. Throughout Italy, risotto is often served as a first course, however risotto alla Milanesehas been awarded main course status and is a popular dish with tourists enjoying a break in Milan.
Panna cotta (Italian for cooked cream) is an indulgent dessert that originates from Piedmont in northwest Italy. This creamy white dessert is super light and fluffy, comes in various flavours, and is often topped with a drizzle of caramel. The best places to sample panna cotta are in said to be in the nearby city of Turin, although you’ll find delicious versions throughout the country.
Gelato (ice-cream) is a big deal throughout Italy and in Calabria, and this multi-layered ice-cream bombe lays claim to being one of the best desserts in the world. Originating from Pizzo, Tarfutousually consists of two or more flavours of ice-cream with pureed fruit or liquid chocolate in the centre.The ice-cream is typically covered in a hard shell of chocolate or cocoa and flavoured with cinnamon and nuts.
This famous Sicilian dish is a rich summer salad made from aubergine, tomatoes and other seasonal ingredients such as pine nuts and capers. The flavours are a wonderful blend of sweet and sour, with various different varieties available throughout Sicily. It can be served both hot and cold, as antipasto (first course), a side dish or as a meal itself, and if you’re on holiday in Sicily, it won’t be hard to find.
Also hailing from Sicily, arancini are stuffed rice balls that are coated in breadcrumbs and then fried until golden. Crispy on the outside and oozing with delicious fillings (usually involving cheese), these tasty bites are a must-try. Arancini are commonly eaten as a snack in Italy and can be found in many Sicilian cafes with various different fillings and sauces.
Lavaret is a fresh-water fish found in the lakes of Northern Italy, and a popular dish with tourists on holiday in Lake Garda or Lake Como. Lavaret is a whitefish with a tender taste and is usually served baked, grilled or fried and seasoned with plenty of fresh garlic. Like many of Italy’s wonderful dishes, it’s all about fresh food with maximum flavour and minimum ingredients.