Given how delicious Italy’s most famous exports can be, diners could be forgiven for refusing to venture beyond pizza and pasta. As any lover of comfort food will attest, there are times when a cheesy bowl or doughy pie are the only thing that can truly hit the spot. However, to think that these are the only things that this great culinary nation has to offer is just plain wrong.
For anyone thinking about venturing away from tried and tested staples, we’ve gathered together a few of Italy’s hidden gems. They may not be as popular, but they are no less tasty.
Third to pizza and pasta, risotto is perhaps the country’s most popular dish. While the classic rice recipe is undoubtedly delicious, one snack that often sneaks under the radar is its less glamorous cousin, arancini. A deep fried ball of risotto rice stuffed with cheese, this unsung hero of Italian cuisine is a handy way to use up tasty leftovers and enjoy a bite-sized treat.
With all the great savoury options on the Italian dinner table, it’s easy to neglect dessert. However, as this dish proves, that would be a grave mistake. Squares of honey, egg white and sugar are sprinkled with nutty chunks of pistachio to form a street food sweet that certainly proves Italians know how to handle pudding.
3. Osso Bucco
When it comes to meat, it’s tough to beat a slow cook. Few dishes demonstrate this technique better than Italy’s legendary veal shank stew, osso bucco. A cross-cut portion of meat is typically braised in a white wine and vegetable sauce for several hours, before being served in a deep, hot bowl.
For a country so full of phenomenal restaurants, Italy’s street food scene is almost unbelievably vibrant. Another example of great regional street cooking is panelle, Palermo’s answer to fritters. These deep fried squares of chickpea flour are believed to be of Arab origin and are regularly eaten plain or sandwiched between slices of fluffy local bread.
5. Cipollate con pancetta
After a while, every culinary culture discovers that all things get better with added bacon. One of the simplest, yet tastiest recipes is the Sicilian favourite cipollate con pancetta. Who scallions are wrapped in salty pancetta before being grilled and served.
6. Brioche con gelato
Finding out that Italy is the home of the ice cream sandwich is clearly exciting. What’s even more exciting is discovering that in Sicily they eat it for breakfast. Though fry ups are clearly awesome, it seems as though they face some stiff competition for the best way to wake up.
Made famous by the Godfather, these deep-fried, cream-filled tubes of crisp pastry are well deserving of their status as a pop culture icon. Coming in a variety of flavours, the cannoli was perfected in Sicily but has since gone on to spread across the whole of Italy.
Though dumplings are more typically associated with Eastern and Central Europe, the Italians are not without their own mean take on the stew staple. Canederli are typically made from bread, cheese and salty ham and are usually boiled in beef or chicken broth for a deep savoury flavour.
Few countries can boast such a wealth of quality produce and richness of culinary history as Italy. It’s because of this that certain foods have thrived on the global stage. However, as this list proves, to ignore whatever else the country has to offer would be foolish in the extreme.