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Top 10 Regional Dishes to Try in Italy

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Savannah Sher
When you’re travelling to Italy, you know you’re in for some seriously good eats. Welcome to MojoTravels and today we're counting down our picks for the What You HAVE To Eat in Every Part of Italy. For this list, we’re looking the best local delicacies in some of Italy’s most popular regions.
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Top 10 Regional Dishes to Try in Italy

When you’re travelling to Italy, you know you’re in for some seriously good eats. Welcome to MojoTravels and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Regional Dishes to Try in Italy.

For this list, we’re looking the best local delicacies in some of Italy’s most popular regions.

#10: Orecchiette
Puglia

You know how on a map, Italy looks like it’s shaped like a boot? Well the heel of that boot is where you’ll find the Apulia, or Puglia, region. There are lots of delicious things to eat here, but the area us known for a particular shape of pasta called orecchiette, which translates to “little ear”. In the capital city of Bari, it’s common to find women selling fresh, homemade orecchiette on the streets outside their homes. The most traditional way to prepare this shape of pasta is in a dish called orecchiette alle cime di rapa which is made with delicious rapini greens.

#9: Tagliatelle al Tartufo
Umbria

Known as “the green heart of Italy”, Umbria is located right in the center of the country. The traditional food in this region is often very straightforward, rustic, and deeply satisfying. A particular item that may be luxurious elsewhere is relatively commonplace here: the truffle. When you’re in Umbria, you must enjoy the local truffles, which are usually black, and earthier than the famed white truffles of Northern Italy; and the most simple way to do so is in a dish with tagliatelle pasta, garlic, olive oil and perhaps some grated pecorino.

#8: Cozze allo Zafferano

Abruzzo

Abruzzo may be one of the least visited regions by international tourists, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t well worth a visit. Location in Southern or Central Italy (depending on who you ask), Abruzzo borders the Adriatic Sea, which of course makes for some incredible seafood. One of the ingredients that you find in many dishes from the area is saffron, that notoriously pricey spice, and here is it used to make a dish called cozze allo zafferano, or mussels with saffron. Molto bene! While you’re in the area, don’t miss trying a dish with lamb, another local delicacy.


#7: Strudel di Mele
Trentino-Alto Adige

Wait… you’re probably thinking: strudel in Italy? Everyone knows that strudel is famous in German and Austrian cuisines, but surely not Italian. Parts of Northern Italy however, offer up a very different type of food than the rest of the country. In fact, the region of Trentino-Alto Adige actually belonged to the empire of Austria-Hungary until 1919. That’s how the strudel di mele, or apple strudel, came to be part of the Italian tradition. Their version usually adds raisins, pine nuts and spices to the apples to create a unique treat.


#6: Lasagna Bolognese
Emilia-Romagna

Alright, it’s time to get down to the heavyweights. If you’re a foodie, you know that the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy is basically paradise. They’re known for a countless number of the Italian foods that we know and love, like Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and stuffed pastas like tortellini and ravioli. But the most iconic dish is Lasagna Bolognese, whose rich meat sauce gets its name from the city of Bologna. While you’re visiting you’ll surely want to try all the foods, but you’ll want to sample as many lasagnas as you can. Back off, Garfield!

#5: Arancini
Sicily

In many ways, Sicily is distinct from the rest of Italy, with its own culture, its own traditions and its own cuisine. One of the region’s most famous dishes, however, has become a mainstream Italian staple: arancini. In Sicily though, arancini is traditionally prepared in a specific way, being filled with peas, meat and, again, saffron (exported versions found around the world are often far more simple, often just featuring cheese). These fried rice balls make for the perfect appetizer, but in Sicily they’re filling enough that they could almost constitute an entire meal.

#4: Risotto alla Milanese
Lombardy

The Lombardy region, in Northern Italy, is home to the famed design metropolis of Milan, as well as many other small towns and gorgeous landscapes. The dish known as risotto has become synonymous with Italian cuisine, but in fact, many of the foods traditional to this area are very different from what you would normally find at an Italian restaurant near you. Risotto alla Milanese is a particular preparation that involves beef marrow and saffron (hello old friend!), although the marrow is often subbed out for something more easily accessible like stock. When you’re visiting though, you must find a place that prepares it in the original way!

#3: Pappardelle al Ragù di Cinghiale
Tuscany

When people think of Italy, they very likely imagine the rolling hills, red roofed buildings and cyprus trees of Tuscany. Because of its location in central Italy, it’s easy to find dishes from all over the country represented here, but Tuscans, of course, have local specialties that are totally distinct. One is Ragù di Cinghiale, or wild boar sauce, which is served with a long and flat thick noodle like pappardelle or tagliatelle. The ragu meat sauce is prepared in a similar way to traditional bolognese, but because of the fattier cut used, it’s even richer and more decadent. Ra-good as gold!

#2: Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Lazio

You may not have even heard of the Lazio region, but you’ve definitely heard of the capital city of Rome. The foods that are most traditional to Roman cuisine are primarily based in high-quality, simple, fresh ingredients. Decadent carbonara, which is actually a more modern culinary invention from the 20th century, is usually made with cream in Italian-American restaurants, but this is a big culinary no-no in Rome. Make sure to try some original carbonara when you’re in Rome, which is made with just a few inexpensive ingredients (like guanciale, or cured hog jowl) but is one of the most luxurious things you’ll ever eat.

#1: Pizza Napoletana
Campania

You’ve probably been wondering when we’d get to this quintessentially Italian dish. Of course, you have to eat pizza when you’re in Italy, but you may be surprised to discover that it actually varies greatly depending on what region you’re in. The Italian-style pizza that you know and love, though, is most likely based on pizza Napoletana, which hails from the city of Naples. Made in a wood-burning oven, this pizza has a thin crispy crust on the bottom and is topped simply with fresh mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes. It is divine; most other pizza, good as it often is, can only approach the delectable purity of its ancestor. Buon Appetito!

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