The variety of Italian cuisine is truly limitless. It is impossible, even for a local, to say which is the best Italian food. This huge choice of dishes is due both to the great difference between the traditional cuisines of the different regions and to the seasonal specialties. In this vast universe of wonderful gastronomic specialties, a traveler who loves good food and who wants to visit Italy finds it really difficult to choose which dishes to taste.
In this guide I wanted to select for you 15 of the best Italian dishes that you absolutely must try on your next trip to Italy. To enjoy Italian cuisine you can safely start with these authentic tips that I give you in this post. If by chance I forgot some of your favorite Italian dishes, or you have some questions about Italian cuisine, I invite you to write it in the comments.
It is said that Queen Margherita of Savoy, during one of her stays in the city at Villa Rosebery, wanted to try that popular, simple and delicious food that many of her fellow citizens loved. Brandi’s pizza chef in Chiaia made her try the pizza and called it by her name: Margherita.
You cannot take a tour of Italy without tasting a real Neapolitan pizza, perhaps tasted in Spaccanapoli and without the enrichment of too many useless ingredients. Of course nowadays there are good and also excellent pizzerias all over the country and often this humble dish becomes an excuse to be a base of excellent dough with ingredients put on it, but the basic consumer pizza, whether Italian or foreign, is basically a choice between soft Neapolitan style pizza or the crispest Roman style pizza.
Other regions offer similar recipes, the best known of which are the Palermo “Sfinciuni” or the recipes of the Italian Riviera where we find Sardenaira in Sanremo or Pisciarà in Bordighera or Pisciadella in Ventimiglia. But if you want to taste a great and true pizza, it is in Italy that you will have to do it: where we find pizza and similar preparations Italy, Naples, Rome, Palermo, and Italian Riviera.
2. Baked lasagna
Generations of “sfogline”, women involved in the preparation of fresh pasta, have spread millions of km of pasta cutting it into the most varied formats, one of these is the classic rectangular lasagna which, briefly boiled, drained and dried, alternated with layers of ragù and bechamel sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese. Repeating the operation several times leads us to the creation of the lasagna which will finish cooking in the oven.
The other most famous lasagna are those of the Marche region known as “vincisgrassi” or in Venice where the lasagna becomes “Pasticcio” or in Calabria and Sicily where ragù between the layers is added with hard-boiled eggs, meatballs, salami.
Or even in the more vegetarian Liguria where everyone loves a very light and tasty version of lasagna baked with pesto.
3. Spaghetti carbonara
The recipe has changed a little over the years and today includes guanciale (introduced in the sixties) instead of bacon, egg yolk, cheese. With the passage of fashion the cream disappeared in favor of the taste of the preparation In a gastronomic tour of a Rome capital of pasta, the carbonara is accompanied by the mythical “amatriciana”, originally from Amatrice on the border with Abruzzo (bacon, pecorino cheese and tomato) or its ancestor the “gricia” (same ingredients but without tomato) or the “cacio e pepe” fusion of pecorino cheese, black pepper and pasta cooking water.
Spaghetti are not always the protagonists of these delicious dishes: amatriciana is almost always proposed with “bucatini” and cacio e pepe with “tonnarelli”.
True pesto should not know about “heating” from blenders or other gadgets of our times. The good old mortar and pestle remain irreplaceable to get the best. Chefs from all over the world are using pesto in the most varied ways, but here pesto is the main condiment of pasta, whether fresh. In Genoa you can easily find fresh dough preparations: lasagne called “mandilli de sea”, “trofiette” or “gnocchi”.
The recipe with dry pasta are the “trenette” which are also often accompanied by chopped green beans and diced potatoes.
5. Ravioli, Tortellini and Agnolotti
- “I Tortellini” have long been disputed between Modena and Bologna. they have a pork filling with raw ham and mortadella and are strictly consumed in meat broth;
- “Agnolotti del Plin”, from the Piedmont tradition, are stuffed with mixed meats and vegetables and are served seasoned with roast sauce, with butter and sage or even on their own on a napkin to fully savor the taste.
- “The Ravioli” of the Ligurian tradition: the filling is made up of meat cooked in tomato sauce, chard and borage. A curiosity: Liguria is the only Italian region where already at the end of the nineteenth century they can be found in the traditional recipe books for ravioli with fish filling.
6. The Focaccia
The quality of the gluten-rich flour, the quality of the extra virgin olive oil and the manual skills of those who prepare it, are the basis of the success of this preparation.
Infinite are the classic variants in Italy, among the best known:
- The Genoese focaccia, the mother of all focaccias, the simple dough enriched with coarse salt and EVO oil on the surface;
- The focaccia di Recco, Invented by the mythical Manuelina: two layers of dough to enclose Ligurian cheese, today replaced by crescenza or stracchino, which melt during cooking and give rise to a masterpiece of taste;
- Focaccia with onions: on the surface slowly stewed onions is also a Ligurian specialty;
- The Florentine Schiacciata, thinner and brittle than the Ligurian one;
- Bari focaccia, sprinkled with fresh cherry tomatoes and black olives;
- The Messina focaccia, with escarole, chopped tomato, olives and fresh tuma.
The humble focaccia is ductile and this simplicity has determined its success which, unaltered, has always lasted, indeed it has grown.
But if we think of a risotto then the first reaction makes us immediately think of the “Milanese risotto”: yellow of its Saffron from L’Aquila, refined with the best butter, left to the wave after creaming.
But rice does not remain the prerogative of the Milanese alone:
- In Veneto we have the splendid rice with Risi and Bisi peas;
- In Venice, in the famous inn in Torcello, an invention by Arrigo Cipriani: the Risotto Primavera with the vegetables from the lagoon;
- The Roman Supplì: soft croquettes with minced meat, tomato and parmesan;
- The Baroque Neapolitan Sartù, royal timbale with a thousand ingredients;
- In Puglia the Tiella of rice, mussels and potatoes
- Panissa or Paniscia from high Piedmont enriched with many parts of the pig;
- And in southern Italy the mythical Sicilian Arancini originally the history.
Out of the chorus is the Risotto di Mare or “alla pescatora” which can be easily found in Liguria, interpreted in authentic masterpieces of taste.
But watch out for where you eat it!
A little patience in constantly stirring the mixture on the fire in its cauldron and after a short hour you can pour a splendid dense but still fluid, gold-colored preparation onto the plate.
A poor preparation and therefore flexible and ready to accept the pairing with meats or fish, with cheeses or vegetables, and in some cases also to become a dessert.
After a period of refusal and abandonment, let’s not forget that polenta was often the only food available to entire and vast levels of the population and therefore synonymous with need and poverty, today it lives a new youth.
In restaurants in Northern Italy it is easy to find especially in the winter, at home it has become synonymous with conviviality and leaves a thousand possibilities of use for cooks.
If you want to try polenta with traditional combinations, here are some suggestions:
- In Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta we find Polenta Concia, seasoned with soft cheeses that change according to the preparation area: fontina, tome and much more …
- Another recipe with cheese is the inevitable Polenta and Gorgonzola, a cheese that seems created on purpose to melt with the heat;
- Polenta and Baccalà are very classic in Veneto;
- In Trentino Polenta with salami sausage;
- Just for the record we report Polenta and “Osei”, birds whose hunting has been banned for many years now.
… and then the polenta that advances as a way to unleash the imagination of every cook.
9. The Minestrone
Today, however, he raises his head, and the variety of soups that our country can offer tickles the papillae of foreign visitors, especially those, increasingly numerous, coming from Eastern European countries and from the north who have rooted the habit to include soup in their meals.
The base is a mixture of vegetables and the word “minestrone” has become synonymous, of great mix, of enormous confusion and in fact our minestrone is basically a very anarchic recipe, certainly codified but with wide margins of personal interpretations and regional differentiations:
- In Lombardy instead of pasta we find rice;
- In Veneto beans are the main ingredient;
- In Liguria we always find beans and green beans, together with basil and often the final touch of pesto;
- In Rome we find artichokes;
- wild herbs and legumes characterize the Abruzzo and Molise soups;
- In Naples the addition of tomatoes is inevitable;
- In Puglia turnip greens appear and pecorino is not missing.
The “poverty” of the minestrone is sometimes ennobled by additions of a protein element that may be present in the sauté such as lard or pancetta, in many areas the crusts of the Parmesan were added before burned and cleaned, rarely a few pieces of meat or perhaps a bone with some meat …