By Alessandra Bianco, Marist Italy MA, 2013-14.
Calabria, easily identified as being the toe on the boot, does share one border with Basilicata, but it is surrounded on the other sides by both the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas, though only 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) separate it from Sicily at the narrowest point of the Strait of Messina. An extremely mountainous region, the cuisine reflects that with simple yet hearty and tasty dishes.
Methods used to cure pork date back to the 17th century. Calabrian hogs provide the meat, which is aged for thirty to one hundred days. Local plants provide the extra spices and extracts. Cumin, black pepper, red pepper, and chili peppers are common additions. You must try these:
Salsiccia di Calabria DOP
Soppressata di Calabria DOP
Capocollo di Calabria DOP
Pancetta di Calabria DOP
Find more Calabrese cured meats at http://garrubbo.com/salumi-italian-cured-meats/.
‘Nduja: One of Calabria’s most famous and beloved foods! The unique soft, spreadable spicy sausage really brings the heat, thanks to its blend of local chili peppers found in the dish. We love it on crispy bread and fresh pasta.
Cipolla rossa di Tropea: Many of Calabria’s vibrant dishes get their flavor from this famous onion (grown in Tropea), recognized by its bold purple red exterior and sweet flavor! You’ll see this onion in salads, pastas, meats… and even on pizza!
Caciocavallo: Literally meaning “cheese on horseback,” this tasty cheese is known for its salty and sharp yet smooth flavor. Caciocavallo is easy to recognize because of the teardrop shape it forms when hung to dry. The versatile cheese in delicious in pasta dishes like baked lasagna, or on its own with cured meats.
Lagane e cicciari: Calabria’s tradition of cucina povera (peasant cuisine) boasts some of the most simple, yet flavorful, comfort food dishes! A favorite is the pasta dish made with wide noodles, chickpeas, garlic and oil.
Pasta ccu ri sarde: Fresh sardines are a staple in Calabrian cuisine and are especially delicious in this sweet and salty, Arab-inspired pasta dish with breadcrumbs, raisins and pine nuts.
Ciambotta: Eggplant is everywhere in Calabria, mainly as a condiment on pastas and meats, or as a contorno (side dish). Don’t miss this spicy eggplant stew with chili, tomatoes, onion and herbs for a healthy kick! The dish is usually vegetarian and the recipe varies from city to city.
Olive oil: Did you know that almost a quarter of Italy’s olive oil is produced in Calabria? Because Calabria isn’t as well-known of a producer as, say, Tuscany, often the Calabrian oil is used as a base and mixed with other regions’ oil, then labeled as a product of that region! Calabria’s oil is known for its medium robustness and fruity undertones.
Licorice Plant and Candy
Licorice: Calabria’s licorice—considered some of the best in the world—is known as rigulizza in local dialect, and is beloved for its digestive properties (not to mention the distinctive taste of the gourmet candy!).
Pignolata: More popularly known as struffoli, these delectable fried honey balls originally come from a Sicilian recipe and are very popular in the region, especially in the city of Reggio Calabria. You’ll especially find these in pastry shops around major holidays like Carnevale and Christmas.
Liquore al bergamotto: After a large meal, make like a Calabrian and sip the region’s digestive liqueur made from bergamot oranges! The concoction, similar to limoncello, is made from the juice of an extremely tart orange found on the gorgeous groves throughout the region. A good idea is to bring back bergamot scented teas and perfumes as a great souvenir!
For more info, check out: http://www.walksofitaly.com/blog/food-and-wine/food-of-calabria