Top 15 Italian Bites
Is your Twitter feed swamped with news of the World Cup ‘bite’? Yep – ours, too. If all this football talk leaves you hankering for something a little more savoury (ahem), here’s our round-up of Italian bites you won’t find on the front page of the papers…
The Veneto region of Italy is dotted with ‘bacaros’ – the Italian equivalent of Spanish tapas bars. Instead of tapas, though, they serve ‘chichetti’. Picture a square of mortadella ham here, a rice-stuffed tomato there, and plenty of red wine to wash it all down with.
2. Insalata Caprese
Along with streets paved with Gucci, the islandof Capri is famous for this salad. Thick slabs of mozzarella share plate space with equally thick slices of tomato, and they’re all garnished with torn basil and oregano. It’s normally dressed with extra virgin olive oil and ground black pepper.
This is the Tuscan coast’s take on ravioli. The pasta dough is made with flour, salt, water and eggs, and it’s filled with a pre-cooked mixture of veal, pork, beef, cheese, egg and cloves. It’s usually served with a ragu sauce and is quite simply divine.
Decades ago, a seada was a staple ingredient of a Sardinian shepherd’s packed lunch. These days, though, restaurants in Sardinia feature these fritters on the dessert menus. Shaped like a Cornish pasty, they’re filled with pecorino cheese and served with drizzled honey. Delicious.
5. Pizza Margherita
It may be the plain Jane of the pizza world, but it’s arguably the best. The Margherita was invented in Campania 1889 by Rafaele Esposito. He cooked up a patriotic-looking pizza for Queen Margherita, with tomato, mozzarella and basil standing in for the colours of the Italian flag.
6. Baba Napolitana
This limoncello-soaked brioche is the mother of all liqueur cakes. While the roots of the baba are hotly debated – it would seem the French came up with it first – most agree the Neapolitan version eclipsed earlier incarnations and has never been beaten since.
7. Risi e Bisi
There are loads of variations of this Venetian take on risotto, but it’s traditionally made with fresh spring peas. Diced prosciutto, copious amounts of parmesan cheese and a good glug of white wine add the finishing touches to this simple yet satisfying comfort food classic.
8. Fegato alla Veneziana
Locals savour this hearty northern favourite – thinly-sliced calf’s liver perched on a bed of caramelized onions. The sweetness of the onions and the earthy flavour of the meat make for a delicious combination. A splash of vinegar or white wine adds a bit of a kick.
There’s huge debate over whether this creamy dessert originated in Venice or Tuscany. Either way, enjoying the dish with an espresso is practically a rite of passage in Italy. It’s a masterpiece of coffee-soaked ladyfingers, whipped egg yolks and mascarpone, all coated with liquor and cocoa.
10. Pappardelle alla Lepre
Family recipes for the sauce in this pasta dish are as closely guarded as the crown jewels. Generally, it’s made from hare, red wine, parsley, porcini mushrooms and tomatoes. The ribbons of home-made pappardelle are stirred into the sauce once it’s cooked.
11. Sarde a Beccafico
This dish features baked sardines stuffed with breadcrumbs, pine nuts, sugar and lemon juice. It’s a classic in Sicily, so expect a few variations of ingredients depending on where you are. Commonly, it’s served as antipasti.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you won’t be able to resist this Sicilian speciality. This melt-in-the-mouth pudding comes in the form of pastry-come-biscuit tubes, which are oozing with ricotta, chocolate shavings and candied fruit. Try it after dinner with an espresso or a cappuccino.
Roast suckling pig is Sardinia’s signature dish. The pork is slowly roasted over flames for several hours before being served with the likes of rosemary potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Porcheddu is usually served at big family feasts and parties, and it’s on the menu at the best traditional restaurants.
Made from grey mullet roe, buttariga is Sardinia’s answer to caviar. It tends to be served as an appetiser, but sometimes it’s added to pasta or salad to give dishes that added je ne sais quoi – or should that be io non so che?
Okay, so it’s not a nibble but no Italian meal worth its salt would be complete without a swig of this. Made from the Amalfi Coast’s home-grown lemons, limoncello is a sweet liqueur. Bottles of this bright yellow liquid come out after dinner and it’s served as an ice-cold digestif. You can also mix it with vodka, cranberry and lime juice to make a blush cocktail.