Take this tour through the continental countryside -- but don't
be surprised if you're starving by the time you reach Tuscany!
Italian culture is synonymous with food, glorious food! From
crusty loaves of bread covered with sweet tomatoes and silken basil
to firm noodles bathed in tangy pesto and roughly grated cheese,
the culinary pleasures of this land are innumerable. Authentic
Italian recipes are handed down through generations and are
reminiscent of a simpler time, when a meal was not merely a means
to a nutritional end, but rather a chance to connect with family
and friends. Standard pasta and pizza aside, Italian cuisine is
surprisingly complex and dozens of regions have claimed legendary
flavours and techniques for their own.
Are you craving some inspiration for a truly provincial meal?
Take this tour through the continental countryside -- but don't be
surprised if you're starving by the time you reach Tuscany!
Lombardy: Spanning Milan, the Alps and Lakes Garda, Como
and Maggiore, this breathtaking territory boasts cuisine as rich as
its scenery. Risotto and polenta are popular in this region, and a
heavy hand is used when dousing the dishes with butter and cream.
Lombardians also love to serve robust meat dishes and will
masterfully roast a duck, goose or turkey until the skin crackles
and the odour is sublime. Veal is also a menu staple. A traditional
Lombardian meal is comprised of golden hued risotto alla Milanese
(prepared with saffron) and braised veal shank, or osso bucco. Firm
Grana Padano cheese and soft, ripe Gorgonzola round out many local
Sicily: Sicily is one of Italy's largest producers of
organic food. Fresh herbs, vegetables and fruit are in rich
abundance here, and Sicilian salads are to die for. Eggplant is
locally adored, whether baked, fried, grilled, stuffed or stewed in
peperonata. The region is also famous for its pastas, particularly
an exotic dish called pasta con le sarde, made with sardines and
wild fennel. Legend has it the Sicilians invented the inveterate
meatball, which is suffused with tomato sauce and served as a main
dish. Sicily is also home to Italy's greatest expanse of vineyards
and produces a premium quality Marsala -- plus plenty of dry table
wine with which to wash the regional delicacies down! Finally,
Sicily is known for its plentiful blood oranges and supreme hauls
of fresh fish.
Sardinia: Seafood is the name of the game on the Italian
island of Sardinia, where a rugged coastline provides an endless
supply of rock lobster, crab, anchovies, squid, clams and sardines.
Spicy fish soups, called burrida and cassola, marry the flavours of
the ocean with land-loving herbs and spices. Further inland,
roasted meat takes over at the dinner table. A Sardinian tradition
is to line a fire pit with branches of olive, rosemary and juniper,
which produces tender cuts of herb redolent lamb, pork or beef.
Like Sicily, Sardinia yields a great deal of organic produce, so
sauces and soups of garden fresh tomatoes, artichokes, peas,
eggplant and zucchini are always on simmer. Bread baking is an art
on this island, and each Sardinian village has its own ancient
recipe. The locality is also famed for its goat's milk cheese and
Liguria: This district extends along the Italian Riviera,
from the central port of Genoa and west along the magical coastal
villages of the Cinque Terre. Seafood dishes are prevalent here due
to easy sea access, but Ligurian chefs also have a way with meat
and a passion for pesto. The pesto characteristic of the region is
made by combining equal parts grated pecorino and reggiano cheese
with fresh basil, garlic and pine nuts or walnuts. It is
traditionally served with slim trenette noodles or trofie spirals.
When seasoning pastas and soups, Ligurian cooks favour a mix of
wild herbs called preboggion: a satchel of borage, chervil, chicory
and other seasonal greens. And Liguria even has its very own pizza
pie: the pizza dell'Andrea is named after the heroic Admiral Andrea
Doria and is topped with onions, garlic, tomatoes, black olives and
anchovies or sardines.
Tuscany: Tuscany is famed for its simple yet elegant
cuisine, which is a perfect match for this region's fabled backdrop
of terraced vineyards, luscious olive groves and pastoral villas.
Tuscans are devoted to seasonal ingredients: artichokes and
asparagus in spring, tomatoes and zucchini in the summer months,
greens and mushrooms in the fall and cabbage and chard in the
winter. The locals also love bread, and bake up gigantic loaves of
pillowy sourdough rubbed down with garlic and olive oil. The chefs
of this district are known for concocting exceptional soups
brimming with beans and flavoured with rosemary and sage, while
homemade wide-ribbon papparadelle, rustic spaghetti, rice and
polenta are heartier Tuscan diet essentials. Roasted game also
plays a starring role on indigenous menus, as do grilled pork ribs
(rostinciana), roast loin (arista) and spit-roasted livers wrapped
in bay leaves (fegatelli).
Try it today:
Tuscan Grilled Veal Chops
Italian Bacon and Tomato Risotto
Spaghetti Al Limone
Carpaccio with Pomegranate
Grilled Fish with Rosemary and