The more I learn about southern Italian cuisine the bigger the differences I see between that and northern cuisine. And, to be honest, nothing surprises me. I was recently taught this recipe by a good friend of mine from Naples and it’s already become one of my go-to favourites. As the name suggests―maccheroni in Italian is used to refer to pasta in general rather than a specific kind―this can me made with any type of pasta. In fact, it’s often used as a way of using up leftovers. I already knew that you could make delicious arancini with leftover risotto to avoid re-heating (and therefore overcooking and ruining) the rice. But this recipe is the same with pasta. Alternatively, as with this recipe, you can cook the pasta specially and just enjoy eating the dish for its own sake.
A recent ad on Italian TV said, ‘If Italy was a house, Emilia-Romagna would be the kitchen.’ Many Italians from other regions might throw up their hands in horror and rightly say, ‘but we have an amazing cuisine too!’ However, this demonstrates the reputation that Emilia-Romagna—the capital of which is Bologna—has as the foodie region of Italy.
I might correct the ad to ‘If Italy was a house, Emilia-Romagna would be the larder …’ because with one or two exceptions the fame of Emilia-Romagna is not for dishes but for several ingredients and products now considered essential to Italian cuisine in general. This list would include: Aceto Balsamico di Modena (balsamic vinegar), Prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham), Mortadella, and the indispensable Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese).
I recently spent a weekend in Bologna and decided to put together this guide to the city, focusing on its food but also history and art. If you’ve never been and are looking for an Italian city-break destination, I would highly recommend it.
‘Nduja (pronouned ‘in-doo-ya’) is an incredibly spicy salame from the Calabrian village of Spìlinga. It’s made from pork mixed together with a high proportion of Calabrian chile (peperoncino), which gives it a bright red colour and fiery taste. It’s very soft which makes it easily spreadable on bread, which is one of the most popular ways to eat it, a bit like spicy pâté.
Salami is one of the most famous of all Italian ingredients and forms part of antipasto platters and pizza toppings up and down the peninsula. Travelling around Italy however, once again, you notice that every region has its own variations and varieties. Perhaps the most famous Tuscan salami, and certainly my favourite, is finocchiona, a pork and red wine salami flavoured with fennel, a combination that has to be tasted to be believed.