Before I traveled to Italy, I was told: Understand how the food works. In Southern Italy, you’ll eat red sauce and olive oil. In the north? Butter. Parmesan cheese. Maybe some truffles. Despite the fact that the country is no bigger than half of Texas, there is no one way to cook Italian. Everything’s completely regional. And if you want to eat through Italy right, you have to know what to get where.
This can be tricky, considering Italy has 20 regions. Rome’s Lazio, Milan’s Lombardia, and Toscana (or Tuscany, as we know it) are some of the most familiar. So, let’s start small – with one of the country’s lesser-known, but no less picturesque, regions: Abruzzo.
Tucked east of touristy Lazio, quieter Abruzzo seems to have it all. Rugged mountains. Forested national parks. The Adriatic Sea. And with its diverse landscape comes a huge range of cuisine.
Here are a few of the items Abruzzo does best:
Maccheroni alla Chitarra
Said to have been prepared for King Robert of Naples when he visited the area back in the 14th century, this square-shaped pasta is made as one giant loopy noodle, sometimes 30 feet or longer. (How very Strega Nona.) It’s served with a simple ragù and a few grates of cheese.
You’ve probably eaten mozzarella. But have you had it fresh-made from the cows that graze the Abruzzese mountains? I think not.
Translation: whole-roasted suckling pig. Look out for porchetta trucks that travel through the area, slicing meat to order for paninos and more.
Arrosticini – grilled lamb, or, traditionally, castrated sheep skewers – and anything with the region’s prevalent saffron also top the list. Ready to taste your way through the region? A seven-day culinary tour of Abruzzo awaits in our For Food Lovers: Culinary Tours of Italy & Spain Boutique, opening Thursday, April 24, at 11AM ET.
By Joanna Berliner, Editor
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