Probably you are right when thinking this list should be titled ‘Best Food of Emilia-Romagna’, however, I added two delicious foods popular outside the region and I thought the title ‘Best Italian Dishes’ is justified this way. Fair enough. I spent years in Italy eating the best food in the world. Months after months I have been discovering nuances, particularities and exceptions of the Italian taste. It seams to be obvious but let me say it loud: not EVERY Italian food is of high quality. Being a tourist in this lovely country makes you vulnerable for cleaver tricks of dishonest people. So, to try the best food in the world you need to be ‘vulpine’. Here is a list of 6 best Italian foods and if you’re ever in Italy you can’t leave without trying them!
Tigelle or gnocchi fritti con affettati misti
Let’s start with a starter or as we call it in Italy antipasto. In Emilia-Romagna, but also outside the region, one of the most delicious starters contains a variety of local ham, sausages and beacon. If you’re a vegetarian you can always try the local cheeses instead. All of these goodies are eaten with traditional bread which also varies across regions but you should try it with warm tigelle or gnocchi fritti. Quite often along these two you can also try the local marmelades or honeys. It is simply delicious. Beware: it’s so good you need to control yourself not to be full before the first course come!
Naming pizza one of the best Italian foods is not trivial, I assure you. This is simply one of the things that are impossible to eat with delight outside Italy. Even if you find an Italian cook somewhere in the world he/she will tell you that flour, leaven, tomatos or even water (!) is so different than in Italy. The best pizza I have ever eaten is served in one of the local restaurants in the countryside of Emilia-Romagna. As I am a huge fan of very thin bottom I truly enjoy pizza at La Corte del Duca. This pizzeria is so good that at the weekends people are ready to wait for a table for about an hour. The service is excellent and you can also drink a local beer. I think that the secret lies in good sfoglia but also exceptional compositions of the ingredients at the top of it. One of my favorite ones is called Pinuccio and it has smoked cheese (scamorza affumicata) and sort of mountain bacon (speck) on it. If you add a bit of spicy oil on it you’ll get the best pizza ever.
Cappellacci di zucca
I have the impression that on my blog I’m talking about this dish over and over again. Whatever the truth is I still think this is one of these things that you should try while visiting Emilia-Romagna. Mainly because of its particularity of combination sweet and sour, which is often associated with Chinese food rather than with typical Italian dish. After years of eating cappellacci especially during the season which starts in september I realized that the best filling comes from the sweetest pumpkins. When the summer is sunny and considerably dry the pumpkins are incredibly sweet so you don’t need to add any sugar. The combination of mashed pumpkin, nutmeg and parmigiano ‘swaddled’ with soft sfoglia is unforgettable. So do not hesitate to plan your Italian experience including this dish. Ah, right, there is stil an ongoing discussion between two cities: Ferrara and Mantova, how the real cappellacci should be eaten. While in Ferrara and Bologna you eat it with meat sauce (ragu) in Mantova you’ll eat it with butter and salvia. Just recently I got one explanation why is that. It says that in Mantova you add amaretti (sweet grated cookies) to the filling and it would be distasteful to combine it with meat. In any case, you should absolutely try it.
Tortellini alla panna
This is one of my favorite dishes of all kitchens in the world. Tortellini are very small dumplings staffed with meat and served with cream. There are two particular things about this plate: the dimension and the filling. The perfect dumplings are really small, so you could place at least three of them on one spoon. It takes a lot of time to prepare a hundred, and it takes even more time to prepare thousands so each customer receives a substantial plate. In Italy beside the possibility to eat it in a restaurant you can prepare it by yourself at home. You simply buy 300g of filling and using 3 eggs you prepare sfoglia. Then you spend the whole morning in the kitchen and you can enjoy your evening meal. However, the filling is not available outside Italy, so to try these you need to visit Emilia-Romagna. My favorite way of serving is, as I said, with cream but in a cold winter day I equally appreciate it when served in brodo.
As you’ve noticed this list contains starter, first course and now it gets to the desserts. This is what I normally do in Italian restaurants: I skip the second course. It’s not that I don’t like meat but for me the best part of the Italian kitchen is hidden in pasta however eaten (dumplings, lasagne, cappellacci or simply pasta asciutta).
Let’s get back to the point and discuss tiramisu- the famous Italian dessert. The main problem related to this dessert is its frequent presence in foreign menus. Everybody tried tiramisu whether they did it in France, the US or on the moon! Most of them, however, has nothing to do with the real Italian dessert, prepared of high quality mascarpone cheese. This dessert is not difficult to prepare but if you have a lousy cheese you will never get an exquisite tiramisu. The one eaten recently was really delicious! Ah, and the cafe used to make the biscuits soft should be the real cafe rather than american coffee (so called cafe lungo with exceeded amount of water in it). Mascarpone is also eaten as a dessert and in some places this is enjoyable enough to skip tiramisu.
The last speciality is gelato. I’m intentionally avoiding usage of English translation- ice cream as this is not the same (quite similarly to parmesan and parmigiano). Gelati are available across whole Italy and generally the best ones are labeled as artigianato or produzione propria which literally means ‘self production’. Contrary to other dishes on this list good gelati are easy to find. Simply follow the crowd of the Italians and you will find your way. Avoid the international chains, like Grom, and choose the taste carefully: Italian gelati are famous of the similarity of the final taste to the components used. If you’re not a big fan of coco don’t eat the coco ice creams as they really taste as coco. The same for pistacchio, cioccolato fondente and mascarpone. So, choose wisely and ENJOY!
Have you ever thought about visiting Italy? Here is an alternative way on how to visit Italy and get really close to the Italian way of life. I created a project ‘I love Ferrara‘ so you could join me and experience how beautiful and tasty Ferrara is. If you wish to immerse in Italy book your holiday now!