Italy is a foodie’s paradise. At this point, the country is practically synonymous with the word food. It’s almost impossible to talk about Italy without bringing up its cuisine because it’s so deeply embedded in the lifestyle and culture of the country. If you have the pleasure of visiting an Italian household, expect long conversations about food while eating lots of it. Italians have an appetite, and we aren’t mad about it! Here are six foods you must try in Italy — that aren’t pasta!
You’ll find these everywhere in Italy, but they are a Sicilian and southern Italy staple. From local cafes and street vendors to fine dining restaurants, these rice balls are stuffed, breaded, and deep-fried for maximum goodness. Popular arancini are stuffed with ragù or mozzarella, but there are so many other versions of this dish that are stuffed with vegetables, various cheeses, and meats.
Most commonly, arancini are served as a starter or as a snack when bought from cafes and vendors. Order them to share before your main dish, and you will not be disappointed! They are easily one of the best foods to try in Italy!
Italy loves its starches, and rice is no exception. The country is actually the biggest rice producer in Europe! While southern Italy is often referred to as the bread basket, Northern Italy, especially Lombardy and Piedmont, is its rice bowl. In these regions, you can expect top-notch risotto! Creamy mushroom risotto is an Italian favorite. Top it with the luxurious flavor of truffles during the fall season for the freshest mushrooms in Italy!
You will have no trouble finding risotto on restaurant menus in Italy. Be sure to ask your waiter for the best wine pairing to complete the experience. Mushroom risotto, for example, is especially delicious with earthier reds like Pinot Noir, or fuller-bodied whites like Chardonnay.
A lesser-known fact about Italy, mushrooms are a big deal here. Sagre dei Funghi, or Fungi Festivals, happen around the country during early fall to celebrate the harvest and consumption of this divine food! Head to a small town like Albareto, Alba, or Moncalvo to take part in all the fun! Enjoy wine tastings, cooking classes, and uncover secrets about some of Italy’s best mushrooms.
One of the absolute best foods to try in Italy is truffles. These mushrooms grow below ground or just at the surface, and are known as one of the most exceptional mushrooms for their rarity and divine flavor. The most expensive of the truffle family are the white mushrooms, and they are a much sought-after food thanks to their exclusivity and aromatic flavors.
Abruzzo and Langhe are two of the most prominent areas for truffles in Italy. In these areas, these mushrooms are popularly foraged in forests with the help of canines to help sniff out the truffles since most grow underground.
As for pairings, try truffles in pasta dishes or with a wine pairing. You can also enjoy truffle oil drizzled over a variety of dishes for its added fragrant and wonderful flavors.
When it comes to dessert in Italy, tiramisù takes the cake. Sweet and creamy, this confection of coffee, cocoa, and mascarpone is one of Italy’s best desserts. Request it after dinner for a perfect combination of coffee and sweetness.
As you may know, many Italians take an espresso after dinner to facilitate digestion. Grab a coffee (or limoncello) if you like, but we must recommend a tiramisù as well. It may quickly creep up as one of your all-time favorite desserts.
Sort of like pizza, and sort of just bread. Either way, we know Italians love their carbs, so we have to mention one of the country’s favorite types of bread!
The region of Liguria is the home of the renowned flatbread known as focaccia (but you won’t just find it here). Think of a thick pizza dough, a classic focaccia is salty, drizzled with olive oil, and basically irresistible either by itself, but is often topped with olives, tomatoes, cheeses, or meats.
Like pizza, they are served open-faced and look absolutely delightful. However, you’ll quickly find that the bread is quite different from that of pizza and they are usually made without tomato sauce. Delicious and satisfying, you don’t want to miss out on this food to try in Italy!
Sweet and strong, limoncello is like drinking an alcoholic lemon candy with a high concentration of both alcohol and lemon. This beverage is typically served chilled after dinner or with dessert. Though it’s served in a shooter glass, it is meant to be sipped slowly. Enjoy it with tiramisù, a pear tarte, fruit, or chocolates after dinner.
Culturally, Italians aren’t big drinkers, so it may seem odd that they would have a liqueur after probably also drinking wine at dinner. However, limoncello is considered a digestivo, meant to aid digestion after a large meal.
Though you can find limoncello throughout Italy, it originated on the island of Capri in the late 19th century. An innkeeper named Vincenza Canale treated her guests to her homemade liqueur as a complimentary after-dinner digestivo. From there, word got out and the limoncello began to blossom.
Limoncello also makes a great souvenir to bring home the taste of Italy! Bringing back truffles and pizza might cause a stir at customs, but limoncello, wine, and dry pastas will go through just fine.
While we could list at least a dozen more foods to try in Italy, we want to give you a sampling of the deliciousness you’re after on a trip to this incredible country. From salty to sweet, Italy’s food is sure to wow your taste buds. If you’re considering a getaway to Italy, contact us today and we’ll help turn your idea into a reality!