The Italian cuisine is known and loved all over the world. It is comfort food that is delicious, fresh and seasonal. Even the pickiest of eaters won’t turn down fresh pasta or perfectly cooked pizza. It is our absolute favorite, and after this recent trip we fell more deeply in love with the cibo of Italy.
The exciting thing about Italian food is how regional it is. In Emilia Romagna you must try “this”. In Veneto “this”. In Lombardy you cannot forget to sample “that”. Each place we went there was food and wine that came from down the street and recipes that didn’t leave the province.
The following are some of our favorite food and drinks that we truly enjoyed for the first time on our trip. For the items that cannot be replicated at home or found in a great restaurant, we recommend finding a way to make it to Italy. It’s worth it.
Tigelle and Gnocco Frito
I don’t feel I can really do tigelle and gnoccho frito justice. The are bread. Tigelle is round and flat. Gnoccho frito is rectangular, fried and puffy. One takes these breads and fills them with creamy cheeses, hard cheese, lardo (yes I wrote lardo), prosciutto, salami there is no wrong combination we could find. Although everyone has personal favorites. You drink lambrusco with them (see below). They are simply delicious.
Imagine very thin flat bread sandwiches filled with all of your favorite fresh and local ingredients. A bread that is so thin it lets the products between its two pieces shine bright, and yet you still find yourself loving the bread in all of its tortilla thinness. What do you want on it? Roast beef, arugula, grana padano, tomato...here you go. Prosciutto, arugula, cherry tomatoes, and squacquerone cheese...great. A sandwich, but so much more.
Warm weather begs for a refreshing drink. In the past I would have said the margarita (or a ver cold beer) is the answer to this need. This is no longer the case. The spritz is lovely, thirst quenching and makes me want to eat a bunch of salty treats. It is made of wine, bitters (Campari or Aperol) and carbonated water. We have made it the official drink of summer in the Mazzarello home, and I am pretty sure we will find a way to enjoy it this winter as well.
Tortellini in Brodo
This is the dish that changed my life. I know that is a dramatic thing to say. Who says that about little pieces of pasta filled with meat and floating around in a thin broth? I do. I say it proudly. This was my Ratatoulle moment. The moment where childhood slammed into the present and I could imagine myself as a small Italian girl coming home to a steaming bowl of Tortellini in Brodo. This is Mario Batali’s recipe that I am hoping to try, please invite me over if you make it at home.
The idea of drinking a sparkling red wine seemed silly to me at first. Sparkling wines should be light in color. I should be able to see the bubbles. Now I am trying to convince Bryan that we have to have a party and only serve Lambrusco so that everyone else can see how tasty it is. We had it at almost every meal while in Emilia Romagna, and it went with every single bite.
The good stuff. I mean the really good stuff. The kind of vinegar that will change your view of all vinegar, and make you feel like someone has been keeping a secret from you for your entire life. I am sure that there are other great brands out there, but we have to recommend trying Leonardi balsamic if you can find it. After perfecting it for four generations, they have mastered their craft! Our cousin works there, we saw the process of how they make it, and now we can’t use anything else.