Ask anyone to name a few Italian dishes, and pizza, pasta and risotto are likely to trip off their tongue. But Italy’s cuisine is much more than that – its regions each have their own specialities, which they’re fiercely protective over. On a recent trip to Umbria, I made it my mission to try as many of the area’s traditional dishes as possible – all in the name of research, of course. Here are five that really stood out:
Hard-to-find tartufi (truffles) grow all over Umbria, so you’ll find them on menus and in delis everywhere. I loved them grated over pasta and omelettes, but the truffle-infused olive oil I tried (plenty of shops sell it) was pretty special too.
Crostini were my go-to option for lunches and snacks. They’re similar to bruschetta, but instead of being topped with tomato and garlic, here you’ll often find them piled with mushrooms, truffles or chicken liver pâté.
Lentil and sausage stew
This hearty dish was perfect for warming up on a chilly evening up in the hills. It’s made with lentils and sausages from the walled town of Norcia, in the east of Umbria, and flavoured with lots of garlic. Crusty focaccia was perfect for mopping up every last drop.
Torta al testo
Another great lunch option was torta al testo, an Umbrian flatbread traditionally baked on a stone disk (although nowadays it’s more often cooked on a cast-iron pan on top of the stove). It can be stuffed with all sorts of tasty fillings – prosciutto, mozzarella, spinach, roast pork…
These crunchy little biscuits were the dessert of choice on my trip. We know them as biscotti, but as that just means ‘biscuit’ in Italian, they’re referred to here as tozzetti (or cantucci, as they call them in Tuscany). They’re served up alongside a glass of sweet vin santo, which you dunk the tozzetti into. Delicious!