Every region in Italy is unique, and Calabria is no different! A great region with delicious food, which I will talk about in this Calabria Foodie Guide.
If you love Italy, it's worth making the time and save the money to visit all the different regions. One of the regions that you need to visit is Calabria.
Calabrian traditional dishes are unique, and often very different from what you could find in the rest of Italy. And they sure do love a little bit of spice! We all know that Italian dishes are not really spicy nor particularly hot, but in Calabria, you will find some dishes that will change your mind, and really satisfy you if you love some spice in your food.
The region is known for Cucina Povera
Just like Apulia or Puglia, Calabria has a rich tradition of Cucina Povera. Literally, its translation is "poor kitchen", it's more about highlighting and making the best out of cheap and widely available ingredients and the ingenuity of the poor Italian cooks who made the dishes.
One famous Cucina Povera pasta dish from Calabria is "Lagane e Cicciari". The ingredients are a combination of chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, onions, white wine and parsley. Lagane are an ancient type of ribbon-shaped eggless durum wheat pasta.
Another interesting dish is "Sardella". This is a fish spread traditionally made with newly-born sardines, chillies and wild fennel. Fun fact, one of its names is "poor's caviar" - another proof of the resourcefulness of Cucina Povera.
Herbs, spices and definitely chillies
The chillies, or peperoncini, are especially important in Calabrian cuisine. A common scene in summer would be seeing chillies air-drying while attached from wires suspended from buildings. Calabrians eat them whole, fried until crisp, crushed, pickled, powdered or as a paste.
A typical peperoncino from Calabria rates 15,000 to 30,000 on the Scoville scale, which measures heat (to put it into perspective, the hottest chilly in the world, the Carolina Reaper, scores between 1,500,000–3,000,000+).
Notable Calabrian dishes which use chillies are:
- bomba Calabrese, a chilli spread;
- chili oil;
- 'nduja, a spreadable pork sausage.
Fish & Meat
Because Calabria is on the coastline, there a lot of traditional seafood dishes. There is the delicious "pesce spada alla ghiotta". It's swordfish accompanied by a very savoury and flavourful condiment of tomato sauce, capers and olives. Also popular are the above-mentioned sardines and dried cod.
However, meat is also a very important element of Calabrian cuisine. Especially pork, lamb and goat. Pigs are available in large quantities, and therefore the meat is quite affordable. Making true on the statement "of the pig nothing is thrown away", pretty much all of the pig's parts are used for cooking.
Italian Desserts in Calabria
Desserts in Calabria are simple and tasty.
- Cuzzupe - a traditional Easter bread, intricately braided around hard-boiled eggs and topped with rainbow sprinkles;
- Pitta ‘nchiusa o Pitta ‘mpigliata -a round Christmas cake enriched with raisins or candied peels, walnuts and Vermouth;
- Susamelle - oval biscuits covered in chocolate;
- Mostazzoli biscuits.
I hope you enjoyed this foodie guide to Calabria. A wonderful regon with beautiful beaches and interesting food. They love their spicy food, because of how easily chillies grow in this part of Italy. There, thanks to the coastline, they offer a variety of seafood dishes, and delicious meat dishes. Visit Calabria with this foodie guide in mind and let me know what you think!