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Italy's Top 13 Most Delicious Dishes

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September 8, 2017 / Italian / By
ETG - Food For Thought

When foodies visit Italy they face one big problem – they want to try all the Italian dishes but that’s impossible since there are so many amazing Italian dishes everywhere you go so trying as many as possible is definitely something you have to settle for especially since each Italian province has its traditional dishes and seasonal specialties. There are different cooking styles in Italy so if you don’t know where to start your Italian foodie adventure, start with trying dishes that differ in the style of cooking.

The rich cuisine of Italy has numerous savory and sweet treats for those who visit the beautiful country and we decided to make a list of the most delicious Italian dishes that are a must for every foodie traveler who visits Italy. Before we start our list, we have to mention that we didn’t include gelato here and that’s not because we do not love gelato but because we think everybody knows gelato is a must in Italy. Eat one for us if you visit Rome or any other Italian city or province, please!

  1. Pizza

Let’s start with a classic, shall we? The most loved Italian cuisine staple is definitely pizza. We eat pizza all over the world, however, pizza tastes best in its home country, Italy.

Pizza has a long history in Italy. The whole thing started with the flat bread served with olive oil and spices and then evolved into what we know today as Pizza Margherita. The classic flat bread with tomato sauce, basil, and mozzarella was named Margherita after Queen Margherita of Italy asked to try the dish during her visit to Naples.

Nowadays, there are endless options for pizza toppings and pizza crust to choose from but Italian pizza stayed as classy as simple as always. In Italy, you can basically choose from two styles of Italian pizza – Neapolitan-style pizza and Roman-style pizza. Some places in Italy love to combine these two styles and to create a third style of pizza that is basically a mix of the two main styles.

Neapolitan pizza is smaller than the Roman style pizza and it has a thicker crust that is also fluffy. Roman style pizza is larger and it has a very thin crust. Roman pizza is lighter and therefore considered healthier than the Neapolitan pizza.

Recipe to try at home: Pizza Margherita from Delallo.com or any of these 20 Italian Style Pizza Recipes

  1. Osso Buco

Osso Buco is a Milanese dish traditionally made with veal, veggies, broth and white wine. Often served with gremolata (garlic, parsley and lemon juice) and rice or polenta, Osso Bucco is an internationally renowned meat dish. The process of making Osso Bucco is slow and it allows the meat to cook slowly in the delicious broth.

If you visit Italy, you should definitely try the Osso Buco a la Milanese but the rustic version of the dish you will find in Lombardy should also be on your list.

Recipe to try at home: Ossobuco alla Milanese from June Darville

  1. Ribollita

Ribollita is a hearty vegetable soup thickened with bread and considered a perfect autumn dish. The dish originated in Tuscany and, back in the day, was popular among peasants from the countryside because it was a very cheap way to enjoy a hearty and satisfying meal. Nowadays, ribollita is the go-to dish in Italy during autumn months when the seasonal vegetables give this soup its amazing taste. The soup can be a great alternative to pasta dishes as a first course.

Recipe to try at home: A Classic Ribollita: Tuscan Bean Soup Recipe from 31Daily

  1. Pasta Carbonara

Another simple and amazing dish from Italy is pasta carbonara. There are numerous delicious and amazing pasta dishes in Italy but carbonara is definitely a must-try pasta dish if you visit Italy. Made with eggs, Pecorino Romano or another type of hard cheese, guanciale (pork jowl or cheeks), spaghetti and black pepper, pasta carbonara is a simple dish with amazing flavors. Other types of pasta can be used while making the dish and some chefs use bacon instead of guanciale, however, if you really want to taste the real Roman dish don’t substitute guanciale for bacon because the taste will be very different. Try pancetta (Italian bacon) if you cannot find guanciale.

If you want to make your own pasta, try this Homemade Pasta Recipe – Florence Style. For more classic Italian pasta recipes, check out Martha Stewart’s list of 12 Classic Italian Pasta Recipes Everyone Should Know How to Make.

Recipe to try at home: Gennaro's Classic Spaghetti Carbonara from Jamie Oliver

  1. Saltimbocca

Another veal dish, Saltimbocca is popular all over Italy but also in other European countries such as Greece, Spain, and Switzerland. In the traditional recipe, the veal is wrapped with prosciutto and sage and marinated in wine, salt water or oil. After the meat is marinated it is sautéed in a pan until the meat is ready. Saltimbocca can also be made with chicken or mutton and it is a very popular dish amongst tourists who visit Italy.

Recipe to try at home: Saltimbocca alla Romana from The Italian Chef

  1. Lasagna

It is believed that lasagna originated in the city of Naples centuries ago and it is one of the most popular dishes of the Italian cuisine. Made with sheets of pasta layered with ground meat, cheese, vegetables, ragu and a little bit of tomato sauce, lasagna is a popular dish worldwide but if you want to try the classic Italian dish, you have to try it in Emilia Romagna region of Italy or try a classic recipe at home. The American version of lasagna is made with a lot of tomato sauce, while the classic dish has just a little bit of sauce. Initially, lasagna was made only with ragu, béchamel sauce, and cheese. The tomato sauce was added after the 16th century when tomatoes were brought in Europe from the New World. 

Recipe to try at home: Classic Lasagna from Great Grub. Delicious Treats

  1. Florentine Steak

While in Italy, meat lovers should one of Italy’s best dishes: Florentine steak. Traditionally made from Chianina, a cow raised in Tuscany, Florentine steak, also known as bisteca Fiorentina in Italy, is a T-bone steak cooked for about 6 minutes on each side. The cooking time can differ based on the thickness of the steak (usually a minimum of 5 centimeters) but the result is always the same – the outside of the steak is cooked while the inside is rare.

The best place to enjoy this steak is in Tuscany – Florence or the beautiful countryside of Tuscany. You can also enjoy this delicious steak at home if you follow the recipe we included here. You can prepare this steak by using another breed of cow meat, of course.

Recipe to try at home: Florentine Steak (Bistecca alla Fiorentina) from Philos Kitchen

  1. Polenta

Polenta was the way Italy decided to celebrate the corn that was brought to Europe in the 16th century. Originally polenta was made with buckwheat, acorns or any other type of starches but when corn has become available it became the favorite ingredient for it. Polenta is great for various meat dishes including stews and steaks and it can be served as a mush but also fried, as fritters. Polenta is especially popular during winter months because it is a great comfort dish that keeps you warm.

Recipe to try at home: Creamy Parmesan Polenta from Daydream Kitchen

  1. Risotto

Risotto is a creamy rice dish that originated in Northern Italy. Italy is one of Europe’s largest producers of rice but Italians are not very keen on rice. They prefer pasta or polenta, especially those who live in the south, however, the northern regions of Italy really love their risotto. Traditionally made with a meat, fish or vegetable broth, risotto, onions, wine and butter, risotto has a perfect creamy consistency and is a versatile dish. One of the most popular risotto versions is risotto a la Milanese, a type of risotto that contains saffron. Pancetta and peas risotto is another favorite type in Italy and so is risotto al nero di sepia (risotto with cuttlefish and ink).

Recipe to try at home: Risotto Milanese from Food Network

  1. Arancini

Besides risotto, Italians love to make another amazing rice dish that is very loved by tourists and locals – arancini. Arancini are basically rice balls coated in breadcrumbs, filled with various ingredients such as ragu, peas, tomato sauce and mozzarella and fried until they are golden brown and they have a crispy texture. Besides the fillings we listed, there are numerous other regional types of arancini in Italy.

Recipe to try at home: Cheesy Italian Arancini Rice Balls from RecipeTin Eats

  1. Caprese Salad

If you are looking for a fresh and delicious way to start your meal and you are tired of the same classic appetizers, try Caprese Salad! This amazing antipasto dish is made with fresh and juicy tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil or pesto. This salad is basically the uncooked version of pizza Margherita and it tastes amazing when it is made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Beefsteak tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and high-quality olive oil are all the ingredients you need for a classic Caprese.

Recipe to try at home: Insalata Caprese Recipe - Tomato & Buffalo Mozzarella Salad, a recipe provided to Eat the Globe by Danks Street Cheese Affineurs

  1. Tiramisu

We cannot talk about Italy’s dishes without including the creamy, light and amazing dessert Italians love to enjoy after dinner– tiramisu. The classic tiramisu recipe requires ladyfingers, espresso, eggs, sugar, cocoa and mascarpone cheese. Numerous chefs tried to put their spin on the traditional dessert and, as a result, there are numerous types of tiramisu you can find today including chocolate tiramisu and fruit tiramisu.

The classic recipe is very simple and the dessert is very easy to put together since it doesn’t require any type of cooking and baking, however, if you really want to make an amazing tiramisu, you need to use high-quality mascarpone and high-quality coffee.

Light and creamy, the tiramisu is a well-known dessert sought-after by locals and travelers alike. Ingredients such as ladyfingers, coffee, eggs, sugar, cocoa and mascarpone cheese required in the preparation of this sweet treat.

Recipe to try at home: Tiramisu from our foodie, Nicola

  1. Torrone

The creamy and sticky desserts made with egg whites, honey and nuts can be found in candy stores and cafes all over Italy. Variations of this dessert are found in other Europeans countries such as France (where torrone is known as nougat) and Spain but also in some countries in the Middle East. The origin of the dessert is not well known but it is believed it was initially made sometimes in the 15th century.

Creamy and sticky, the Torrone is made with ingredients such as honey, egg whites, toasted nuts and citrus zest. Thick slabs of this candy are commonly found in cafes and candy stores throughout Italy.

The original Italian torrone is incredible and we really hope you will get the chance to test it in Italy but you can also try to recreate it at home, of course.

Recipe to try at home: Homemade Torrone Recipe from The Vintage Mixer

If you are a fan of Italian cuisine and you want to try more Italian recipes at home, take a look at our 10 Italian Desserts We Love list and our list of 10 Delicious Italian Baccala (Salted Cod) Recipes.


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