Italy is famed for its delicious regional cuisine and exploring the country from top to bottom allows you to experience a wealth of tantalising dishes.
The cuisine in the northern regions of Italy is influenced by Europe, thanks to the influence from neighbouring countries such as Switzerland and France. Ingredients such as polenta and rice are used in a variety of different dishes, often in preference to pasta. This is particularly the case in the region of Veneto, home to the romantic cities of Venice and Verona. In the region of Piemonte you can sample a variety of different cheeses and fonduta, a melted cheese dip made with milk, eggs and white truffles, a prized ingredient. Local game such as rabbit also features heavily on menus, as do porcini mushrooms. Visit Lombardy and you can expect to experience main courses of Risotto alla Milanese and Osso Buco, a rich dish of braised veal knuckle.
The regions of Liguria and Emilia-Romagna begin the transition from northern to central Italy, bringing with them a wealth of new ingredients and dishes. Liguria is famed for its pesto and the fish from the lakes is particularly delicious. Check out chef Gennaro Contaldo’s marinated lake fish recipe to try an authentic regional dish for yourself. Cured meats such as Parma ham and mortadella, plus cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano are regulars on menus across Emilia-Romagna.
Travel to the central regions of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio and you’ll find rustic dishes that celebrate meats such as beef, pork and rabbit. Gennaro’s porchetta recipe is perfect Sunday lunch fodder and will be sure to impress your friends and family. If you decide to take your summer holiday in Tuscany be sure to sample Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak) and ribollita, two of the regions signature dishes. Just next door to Tuscany is Umbria, the green heart of Italy and the only landlocked region of the country. Because of this, the cuisine hasn’t strayed far from its humble roots, with fresh vegetables and grilled meats featuring on menus here.
Southern Italian cuisine has its roots in cucina povera (peasant food), using few, local ingredients to create hearty, satisfying dishes. Experience the delicious olive oil from Puglia, Sicily’s caponata and of course, pizza from the Neapolitan Riviera on your journey around the south of the country. You’ll notice that dishes from the southern regions also have Greek and Arabic influences. This is most obvious on the island of Sicily with ingredients such as aubergine and even couscous on menus here.
Take our food quiz
Planning your next holiday to Italy? Excited to sample the regional cuisine? Start your Italian experience at home by cooking up a storm in your own kitchen. Not sure what dish to cook? Take our authentic Italian food quiz to get a recipe at your fingertips.