Food of Italy - 15 Best Italian Dishes and Where to Find Them

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There aren’t a lot of people who are immune to the deliciousness of pizzas and pastas and why would they be when these dishes are nothing short of scrumptious? A country known for its incredible architecture, art and history, Italy is a real treat for foodies who are always on the lookout for something new and delectable. And if you’re already a fan of Italian food, your trip to Italy would be the perfect chance to have authentic Italian food, especially some of the traditional dishes that you would never taste as good anywhere else in the world as it does here. So if you are trying to make a list of all the yummy food and drinks you want to try while in Italy, keep on reading.

15 Well-known Italian dishes and beverages:

1. Pizza

Margherita pizza
The pizza is perhaps the most popular dish from Italy and something you simply cannot miss when travelling to the country. Made in a wood-fired oven using dough flattened by hand, it is topped off with tomatoes from the countryside, creamy mozzarella cheese and basil leaves. 

2. Risotto

A plate of risotto

A dish that originated in Lombardy in the north of Italy, the risotto is undoubtedly a favourite amongst Italians. It is prepared using rice that is cooked in a broth, often with wine and onions, and then topped off with lots of grated parmesan. 

3. Polenta

Polenta served with some meat and lentils
Polenta is a very simple yet delicious dish made using cornmeal; it is basically a thick and creamy cornmeal mush that is cooked with butter and parmesan. You can have it as is, or you can let it cool down to become a loaf that you can then fry, bake or grill. It is usually had with meat, salads or zuppa. 

4. Negroni

A glass of Negroni
Served all around the world, Negroni is a well-known alcoholic beverage that can be traced to Count Camillo Negroni. You would come across different variations of the drink, but the original is made over ice and consists of one part of red Vermouth, one part of Campari, and one part of gin. 

5. Pasta

Pasta carbonara
You simply cannot travel to Italy and skip out on pasta! Served in a number of forms, Italian pasta is mostly made using durum wheat semolina and cooked al-dente, which means that it is cooked till it is soft but not tender. Some of the popular kinds of pasta to try out are ravioli, cacio e pepe, tortellini, pasta carbonara, spaghetti alle vongole etc. 

6. Ravioli

A well-known type of pasta, the ravioli is prepared by adding filling between two layers of thin pasta dough and then serving it in some kind of sauce or even broth. Ravioli is usually square-shaped but you might come across other shapes too like circular or semi-circular. Moreover, it can either be had as a main course or as an appetiser. 

7. Gelato

Gelato, a famous dessert, is an absolute must-have here. Available nearly everywhere in the country, it is almost like ice cream but has a much lower fat content since it contains more milk and less cream. You can choose from a variety of rich flavours such as pistachio, chocolate, mandorla/almond, pesca or peach and other fruity flavours.

8. Aperitivo

It is almost a ritual for Italians to have an Aperitivo before dinner since it is said to prepare the digestive system. It is a light bitter and carbonated low-alcohol beverage like the Aperol spritz. You can pair it with olives, cheese, crackers, meats or bread. 

9. Fiorentina Steak

Fiorentina Steak
The Fiorentina steak or Bistecca Fiorentina is an Italian delicacy that originated in Florence. It is made using a T-bone beef steak that is cooked on hot coal for approximately 5-7 minutes so that the inside is rare or medium-rare while the outside is nicely grilled. The steak is also seasoned with salt, olive oil, rosemary and garlic. It is often served with polenta, salad, crispy potato chips etc.  

10. Ossobuco

A plate of delicious Ossobuco
Originally from Milan, ossobuco is a renowned dish from the Lombard cuisine that features cross-cut veal shanks cooked with vegetables, broth, white wine and seasonings. Depending on where you have it, it might be served with polenta or risotto alla milanese. 

11. Zuppa Toscana

A bowl of Zuppa Toscana
The Zuppa Toscana is a soup from Tuscany that is prepared using chicken broth, heavy cream, mild Italian sausages, fresh spinach, potatoes, herbs and Italian bacon. It is a simple dish that can be enjoyed with some bread. 

12. Arancini

Arancini are a major part of Sicilian cuisine and are essentially arborio rice balls that are made using chicken stock, white wine, Parmesan or Mozzarella cheese, ham, peas and seasonings. These fried rice balls are often served with peas or aubergine. 

13. Caffè

A staple coffee order in Italy, the caffè is simply a shot of espresso that is served in a tiny cup and can be had throughout the day. And if you’re looking for a little kick in your coffee, you can also opt for a caffè corretto which consists of a shot of liquor like cognac, grappa, or sambuca. Traditionally, a caffè is had right next to the counter; most locals don’t even sit down to slowly sip on their drink. 

14. Lasagna

A popular pasta dish, the lasagna originated in Naples and is made by baking sheets of pasta layered with cheese, meaty ragu, meat, or vegetables. While Mozzarella cheese can be sprinkled on top, locals usually prefer to use Parmigiano Reggiano since it brings about a mild tangy flavor. 

15. Bellini

The Bellini is a drink that derives its name from the 15th-century artist Giovanni Bellini and is traditionally a concoction of Prosecco, which is a sparkling wine and white peach puree. There are a few variations of the drink, which include cherries or raspberries that give it a pinkish color. 

16. Gnocchi

You must try out some gnocchi when visiting Italy. It is perhaps the Italian equivalent of dumplings, although it is made using small round lumps of dough comprising potato, egg, wheat flour, salt, etc. Gnocchi comes in different kinds of sauces and can either be had as the first course or as a side dish.  

17. Ribollita

Ribollita is a simple yet delicious bread soup that dates back to the Middle Ages and originated in Tuscany. It was originally a rural soup that was prepared by poor people who couldn’t afford to use meat in their food. Some of the ingredients that go into ribollita include beans, potatoes, celery, carrots, onions, lacinato kale, chard etc.; bread is often added to the soup itself as well. The dish is then baked in a clay pot and can also resemble porridge, panade or potage.  

18. Amaro

Amaro, which literally translates to “bitter,” is a well-known Italian herbal liqueur that has a bitter-sweet flavour. Sometimes even a little syrupy, it is usually had as an after-dinner digestif and is made by macerating herbs, flowers, roots, citrus peel etc. in alcohol. There are a few varieties of Amaro including Amaro Lucano, Fernet, Vecchio Amaro del Capo, Grappa and more. You would typically have it neat, perhaps with a citrus wedge. 

19. Focaccia

Prepared almost like pizza, focaccia is an Italian flat-leavened bread baked in an oven that can be used to make sandwiches or simply as a side dish. What differentiates it from pizza is that it is left to rise after being flattened, while a pizza is immediately put in to be baked. It is generally rectangular, round, or square-shaped and is made using ingredients such as flour, yeast, salt, water, and garlic. You might also see focaccia with herbs like rosemary or olives, raisins, and even vegetables on top. Although focaccia originated in Liguria, there are different variations found in other parts of the country, like the focaccia veneta and focaccia al rosmarino.

20. Bagna Cauda

Bagna Cauda, which originated in Piedmont in Italy in the 16th century, literally translates to “hot bath” and is basically a dipping sauce made using anchovies, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. It is sometimes hard like fondue but mainly as a dipping sauce; you dip raw vegetables in it and have it as an appetizer. 

When it comes to food, Italy has, without a doubt, one of the best cuisines in the world. The food of Italy is not only mouth-watering but also healthy, made using fresh ingredients and simple. Suitable for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians, you would find that most dishes come in diverse forms, which means that there’s more for you to try out. And of course, there are a variety of beverages that you can pair with your yummy food. So, if you are planning a trip to Italy, make sure there’s plenty of room in your stomach so that you can taste as much of its delectable food as possible!

This post was published by Arushi Bhowmick

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