Throughout my career, the one thing that has often surprised me about foreign foods is that they are terribly bastardized when they are imported and so many people want to domesticate these great foods in order to fit their own tastes. Food will always taste better when you are eating it in its home country but that is not to say that we shouldn’t at leas try to replicate it when cooking it back home. One such type of cuisine that this often happens to is Italian and pizza in particular. I traveled throughout Italy last year and discovered true Italian cooking, away from the pizza and here are some of the finest offerings that I sampled.
Spaghetti is a beautiful dish and has been one of my favorites for a while, this take on it comes from the Veneto region and is absolutely sumptuous. The spaghetti here is tubular and more of a thick pasta noodle than the traditional spaghetti, it is made with buckwheat flour and duck eggs. Traditionally served with some kind of reed wine sauce or some slowly cooked duck, this stodgy spaghetti tastes absolutely delicious.
The origins of ribollita comes from the poorest communities of Italy when food was a luxury and the women who cooked were forced to make do with what they could, the result was outstanding. This hearty dish is a soup based meal which consists of boiled vegetables with the addition of bread to thicken the soup. The thing that sets this vegetable soup apart from any other is that beautiful blend of Italian herbs, the best place to go if you want to try this tasty dish is the region of Tuscany.
This is also a meal which has its origins in the poorer areas of Italy and this dish in particular comes from the Trentino-Alto Adige region. The dish is made up from using leftover bread which is mixed with eggs and mil and formed into large dumplings. You will usually find that the bread is then mixed with speck or cured meats as well as herbs and cheese before the dumpling are boiled in beef broth. They say that this is a great hangover dish and whilst they may be right, this dish is great at any time of the day, filling and delicious.
Something that everyone can agree on is the ability of the Italians to create outstanding deserts and torrone is one of my all time favorites. This dish combines egg whites, sticky nougat, toasted nuts and some citrus which is all mixed together and formed into a big, tasty slate. A slice of this devilish desert is the perfect compliment to a true Italian meal or you can enjoy it in a local cafe with some strong coffee.
What is your favorite Italian dish, aside from pizza? Let us know in the comments section below this post.