I was recently speaking with friends about travelling through Italy and noticed that there is one subject everyone loves to talk about, Italian food.
Whilst the country has some incredible historical sites, exciting cities and beautiful landscapes a big draw for all those that visit is the chance to be able to try some of those authentic Italian dishes. I have met many people who visit the country just for the food alone. My cousin, for example, visited Naples for a weekend just because she wanted to go to a particular pizza restaurant! That’s some dedication and the pizza must be really good.
I myself have often found myself visiting Italy for some sightseeing before realising that my trip has slowly but surely turned into a gastronomical tour and nothing else!
I have spoken about my favourite foods before in My Top 5: Thai Dishes so thought it would be great to share my favourite Italian foods with you too. Obviously picking just 5 dishes is pretty difficult and as always I am sure you will think I am missing some other great foods, however for me these are my top 5 eating experiences in Italy.
How could pizza not be on the list?! It is one of the most famous Italian foods and is eaten all over the world. I am quite a traditionalist when it comes to pizza and love the simple flavours of the original Neapolitan Pizzas. With the Neapolitan Pizza having a protected designation or origin status you will need to travel to Naples to experience the original flavours and learn more about the history of pizza.
Neapolitan Pizza actually has a couple of variations:
Pizza Marinara – which is tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil
Pizza Margherita – which is tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil. This is my favourite.
Whilst pizza these days comes in many shapes with hundreds of different toppings I just don’t think the simple flavours of a Margherita can be beaten
#2 Traditional Balsamic Vinegar and Parmesan
Before I visited Modena, the home of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, I just though all balsamic was the same. How wrong could I be! Whilst there I was given the opportunity to visit a Traditional Balsamic Vinegar company. The process to make Traditional Balsamic Vinegar was astounding and it takes at least 25 years to make the best tasting stuff.
There were quite a few different flavours, which were dependant on the barrels that has been used to age the vinegar. I bought a bottle of the finest stuff and regularly sit down at home with a block of parmesan and this wonderful complex vinegar.
Again simple flavours and combinations are the best! You can read more about Traditional Balsamic Vinegar here
Okay so an aperitivo isn’t exactly a food but it is one of my absolute favourite food and drink experiences. When I am in Italy I normally make sure I head out for an aperitivo every night. What is an aperitivo you ask? Well when dusk settles restaurants and bars start serving drinks and snacks such as pizza slices, cheeses and cold meats. It’s a really social event and a great way to end the day before dinner.
Yes I did say before dinner so don’t go crazy on the snacks otherwise you will be too full for the main course.
The best aperitivo drink to have is a spritz. It is a simple drink and easy to make at home too. Mix 3 parts Prosecco with 2 parts Aperol and 1 part soda and finish off with a slice of orange.
All my choices so far have been savoury so I couldn’t leave out Italy’s most famous sweet. Gelato is a soft style of ice cream which contains a very small amount of air. It also must have a minimum amount of 3.5% of butterfat which gives it a unique consistency. In the early 1920’s the first Gelato carts started to appear on Italian streets and it has become a national institution over the past 90 years. These days you will find Gelataria’s making home-made Gelato all over Italy.
These days the popularity of Gelato has spread around the world. The best place I had Gelato was at Il Gelatauro in Bologna. If you are visiting then Bologna also has a Gelato university too. Here you can learn the art of making Gelato.
A Piadina is an Italian flatbread sandwich which is great for a snack or lunchtime meal. It is a traditional dish of the Emilia Romagna region. You can find small stalls or café’s all over Emilia Romagna that sell fresh Piadine. Usually they are filled with cold cuts of meat, such as parma ham and salami, and cheese. I have however seen some places selling them with sweet fillings like Nutella spread.
I love ham and cheese sandwiches here in the UK so it’s of no surprise that I also love to have a Piadina for lunch whilst I am in Italy. Once again, like most of my favourite dishes, it is the simple dishes I love the most. Italian food seems to have fantastic simple flavours that work wonderfully.
So there you have it, my favourite Italian foods. If this post has whet your appetite for some Italian food then why not check out some recipes online and give them ago. Make yourself a spritz and get cooking!
If you are inspired to travel to Italy and discover the food first hand then Inghams have some great food heaven hotels along with the usual tours and trips.
What are your favourite Italian Foods?