Each area has its own specialties, primarily at regional level, but also at provincial level. The differences can come from a bordering country (such as France or Austria), whether a region is close to the sea or the mountains, and economics. Italian cuisine is also seasonal with priority placed on the use of fresh produce.
Index of Regional Cuisine
Chilies (peperoncini) are seen in Abruzzo where they are called diavoletti ("little devils") for their spicy heat. Centerbe ("Hundred Herbs") is a strong (72% alcohol), spicy herbal liqueur drunk by the locals. Pasta, meat and vegetables are central to the cuisine of Abruzzo and Molise. Lamb is used with pasta. The chitarra (literally "guitar") is a fine stringed tool that pasta dough is pressed through for cutting. A dish from Pescara is arrosticini, little pieces of castrated lamb on a wooden stick and cooked on coals. The popularity of saffron, grown in the province of L'Aquila, has waned in recent years.
Pork is an integral part of Basilicata's cuisine, often made into sausages or roasted on a spit. Mutton and lamb are also popular. Pasta sauces are generally based on meats or vegetables. Spicy peperoncini are much used. The bitter digestif Amaro Lucano is made here.
The cuisine of Calabria has been influenced by conquerors and visitors. The Arabs brought oranges, lemons, raisins, artichokes and egg plants. Cistercian monks introduced new agricultural practices to the region along with dairy products. French rule under the House of Anjou and Napoleon, along with Spanish influence, affected the language and culinary skills as seen in the naming of things such as cake, gatò, from the French gateau. Seafood includes swordfish, shrimp, lobster, sea urchin and squid. Melons such as watermelon, charleston gray, crimson sweet, cantelope, tendrale verde, piel de sapo and invernale giallo are served in a chilled Macedonia di frutta (fruit salad) or wrapped in Prosciutto.
Campania produces tomatoes, peppers, spring onions, potatoes, artichokes, fennel, lemons and oranges which all take on the flavor of volcanic soil. The Gulf of Naples offers fish and seafood. Durum wheat is used in pasta. Mozzarella from the milk of water buffalo is highly prized. Traditional pizzas of the region take advantage of the fresh vegetables and cheese. Desserts include pastiera, sfogliatelle and rum-dipped babà.
Much Italian-American cuisine is based on that found in Campania and Sicily, heavily Americanized to reflect ingredients and conditions found in the United States. Most pizza eaten around the world derives ultimately from the Neapolitan style.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia shares traditions with the former Yugoslavia. San Daniele del Friuli hams come from here. Carnia in the northern region is known for bacon and Montasio cheese. Collio, Grave del Friuli, and Colli Orientali are regional wines. The dishes are influenced by Austrian, Hungarian, Slovene and Croatian dishes. Beer halls feature Viennese sausage, goulash and Bohemian hare. Many desserts, such as strudels, are flour based. Polenta is a staple and finds its way into stirred dishes and baked dishes and can be served with sausage, cheese, fish or meat. Pork can be spicy and is often prepared over an open hearth called a fogolar.
Emilia-Romagna is known for egg pasta made with soft wheat flour. Bologna is famous for pasta dishes like tortellini, lasagne verdi, gramigna and tagliatelle which are found also in other towns of the region. Romagna has Cappelletti, Garganelli, Strozzapreti, Spoglia Lorda and Tortelli alla Lastra. In Emilia, from Parma to Piacenza, rice is eaten to a lesser extent. Polenta is the staple in the Appenine mountains in both Emilia and Romagna. Aceto balsamico tradizionale (balsamic vinegar) is made only in the Emilia towns of Modena and Reggio Emilia, following legally binding traditional procedures. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is produced in Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena and Bologna and is much used in cooking. A lot of fish is eaten on the Adriatic coast, but this is mainly a meat eating region, including Romagna Lamb, Mora Romagnola Pork and game. The region has many cured pork products: Bologna, Parma and Modena hams, including Parma culatello and Salame Felino and Piacenza pancetta and coppa. Cooked pork like Bologna's mortadella and salame rosa, Modena's zampone, capello di prete and cotechino and Ferrara's salama da sugo are popular.
Pasta dishes are often found in Lazio-Roma, with amatriciana sauce based on spicy red pepper and guanciale. They use lesser cuts of pork and beef, such as the entrail-based pajata and coda alla vaccinara. A Jewish influence can be seen, as Jews have lived in Rome since the 1st century BCE. Vegetables, especially globe artichokes, are common.
In Liguria, herbs and vegetables as well as seafood find their way into the cuisine. Savory pies and cakes are popular. Onions and olive oil are used. Because of a lack of land suitable for wheat, the Ligurians use chick-peas in farinata and polenta-like panissa. This is served plain or topped with onions, artichokes, sausage, cheese or young anchovies. Hilly districts use chestnuts as a source of carbohydrates. Ligurian pastas include corzetti from the Polcevera valley, pansoti, a triangular shaped ravioli filled with vegetables, piccagge, pasta ribbons made with a small amount of egg and served with artichoke sauce or pesto, trenette, made from whole wheat flour cut into long strips and served with pesto, boiled beans and potatoes, and trofie, a Ligurian gnocchi made from whole grain flour or white wheat flour, made into a spiral shape and cooked with beans and potatoes and often tossed in pesto. Many Ligurians emigrated to Argentina in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; thus, Argentinian style Asado a la cruz can be found during summer.
Rice is popular in Lombardy, often found in soups as well as risotto. Regional cheeses include robiola, crescenza, taleggio, gorgonzola and grana padano (the plains of central and southern Lombardy allow intensive cattle-raising). Butter and cream are used. Single pot dishes, which take less work to prepare, are popular. In Bergamo, Brescia, and Valtellina, polenta is common. In Mantua festivals feature tortelli di zucca (ravioli with pumpkin filling) accompanied by melted butter and followed by turkey stuffed with chicken or other stewed meats.
On the coast of Marche, fish and seafood are produced. Inland, wild and domestic pigs are used for sausages and hams. These hams are not thinly sliced, but cut into bite-sized chunks. Suckling pig, chicken and fish are often stuffed before being roasted or placed on the spit.
Piedmont is a region where gathering nuts, fungi, cardoons and hunting and fishing takes place. Truffles, garlic, seasonal vegetables, cheese and rice are all used. Wines from the Nebbiolo grape such as Barolo and Barbaresco are produced as well as wines from the Barbera grape, fine sparkling wines, and the sweet, lightly sparkling, Moscato d'Asti. Castelmagno is a prized cheese of the region. Filetto Baciato is a style of prosciutto made from pork fillet or other lean portion of pork marinated in white wine, coated with salami paste and stuffed into a casing to age for six months.
The northern part of Puglia uses much garlic and onion. The region is known for pasta made from durum wheat. Produce includes tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, bell peppers, potatoes, spinach, eggplants, cauliflower, fennel, endive, chickpeas, lentils and beans. Apulia is the largest producer of olive oil in Italy. The sea brings fish and seafood to the table, especially oysters, and mussels. Goat and lamb are seen occasionally.
Rock lobster, scampi, squid, tuna, sardines and other seafood figure prominently. Suckling pig and wild boar are roasted on the spit or boiled in stews of beans and vegetables, thickened with bread. Herbs such as mint and myrtle are used. Much Sardinian bread is made dry, which keeps longer than high-moisture breads. Those are baked as well, including civraxiu, coccoi pinatus, a highly decorative bread and pistoccu made with flour and water only, originally meant for herders, but often served at home with tomatoes, basil, oregano, garlic and a strong cheese.
The influence of Ancient Greece can be found here: Dionysus is said to have introduced wine to the Sicily region. The ancient Romans introduced lavish dishes based on goose. The Byzantines favored sweet and sour flavors and the Arabs brought apricots, sugar, citrus, sweet melons, rice, saffron, raisins, nutmeg, clove, black pepper, and cinnamon. The Normans and Hohenstaufens had a fondness for meat dishes. The Spanish introduced items from the New World including chocolate, maize, turkey and tomatoes. Tuna, sea bream, sea bass, cuttlefish, swordfish and other seafood are a part of Sicilian cuisine.
Before the Council of Trent in the middle of the 16th century, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol was known for the simplicity of its cuisine. When the prelates of the Catholic Church came, they brought the art of fine cooking with them. Fresh water fish is a specialty. Later, influences from Venice and the Habsburg Empire came in. In the Alto Adige Alpine, Slavic, Austrian, and Hungarian influences prevail. Goulash is a regular dish, along with potatoes, dumplings and homemade sauerkraut (called crauti). Lard is popular, along with pasta, tomatoes and olive oil.
Simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are used. Olive oil is made from Moraiolo, Leccino, Frantoio, and Pendolino olives. White truffles from San Miniato appear in October and November. Beef of the highest quality comes from the Chiana Valley, specifically a breed known as Maremma used for Florentine steak. Pork is also produced.
Many Umbrian dish are prepared by boiling or roasting with local olive oil and herbs. Vegetable dishes are popular in the spring and summer, while fall and winter sees meat from hunting and black truffles from Norcia. Sausage by Norcini (butchers from Norcia) is widely eaten. Lenticchie di Castelluccio are lentils from Castelluccio. Spoleto and Monteleone are known for spelt. Freshwater fish include lasca, trout, freshwater perch, grayling, eel, barbel, whitefish, and tench.
Bread thickened soups are customary as well as cheese fondues called fonduta. Polenta is a staple along with rye bread, smoked bacon and game from the mountains and forests. Butter and cream are important in stewed, roasted and braised dishes.
Venice and many surrounding parts of Veneto are known for risotto, a dish whose ingredients vary by location, with fish and seafood being added closer to the coast and pumpkin, asparagus, radicchio and frogs' legs appearing further away from the Adriatic. In other parts of Veneto, polenta is the primary starch. Beans, Peas and other legumes are seen in these areas with pasta e fagioli (beans and pasta} and risi e bisi (rice and peas). Veneto features heavy dishes using exotic spices and sauces. Ingredients such as stockfish or simple marinated anchovies are found here as well. Less fish and more meat is eaten away from the coast. Sausages such as sopressata and garlic salami are common. High quality vegetables are prized, such as red radicchio from Treviso and asparagus from Bassano del Grappa. The most notable dish of Veneto is fegato alla Veneziana, thinly-sliced liver sauteed with onions. Squid and cuttlefish are common ingredients, as is squid ink, called nero di seppia.