If you were to pick the food that Italy is most famous for, what would it be? I bet the large majority of you chose pasta. Of course! Pasta can be found in every home and on every menu throughout Italy and beyond. It comes in different shapes and sizes, fresh or boxed, served with many different sauces and ingredients. The possibilities are essentially endless! Every town, city and region of Italy has at least one pasta dish that is unique to them and one of the best things to do when you visit Italy is to try tasting as many of these traditional recipes as your stomach can handle! Just to get you started, here are a few well-known pasta dishes and the areas they hail from:
1) Pasta all’amatriciana – this is typical of the Lazio region (it comes from the town of Amatrice). It is typically a bucatini pasta served with a sauce made with tomatoes and guanciale (cured pork cheek, similar to pancetta), topped with fresh pecorino cheese.
2) Pici Senesi – this is pasta that looks like a thick spaghetti and is very typical of Tuscany, specifically the area around Siena. It is traditionally served all’aglione, which is with tomatoes and garlic.
3) Tagliatelle Bolognese – this well-known traditional tomato sauce with ground beef hails from the city of Bologna, in the Emilia-Romagna region. It is traditionally served with tagliatelle pasta.
4) Gnocchi alla sorrentina – gnocchi are soft dough dumplings. In this traditional recipe from Sorrento they are prepared with tomato sauce, mozzarella and pecorino cheese and baked in the oven.
5) Pesto alla Genovese – a sauce originating in Genova, pesto consists of basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmigiano. It is traditionally served with potatoes and string beans over trofie pasta.
6) I would like to round off this very short list with my all-time favorite pasta recipe, typical of my home region Basilicata. Lagane e ceci is made with lagane - a wider version of tagliatelle – and chickpeas. It is rustic, it is simple and, to me, it is home. My mother's cousin Maria Teresa is an expert lagane maker. I was lucky enough to be treated to her lagane e ceci this summer because she knows how much I love them! That’s family for you!
This is by no means an exhaustive list. It is meant to inspire you to try as many local dishes as you can while traveling through Italy. Which pasta dishes will make your top-ten list?