Savor Italy’s Local Ingredients and Culinary Traditions, Part 2: From Abruzzo to Umbri

Adam Jones | 12/07/2019
Pesto alla Genovese. Italian pasta with pesto.
Pesto alla Genovese, from Liguria

Traveling in Italy gives you a rare opportunity to taste truly authentic local fare wherever you go. Make the most of your trip to Italy by indulging in the uniquely local and artisanal meals prepared by people who inherited these culinary traditions from their ancestors. 

In part two of our series on artisanal Italian food, explore four culinary delights made from traditional and uniquely local ingredients.   


L’aquila saffron in Abruzzo

Some of the world’s most highly prized saffron comes from Italy’s Abruzzo region. L’aquila saffron, also known as ‘red gold’, is incorporated into some of the area’s most famous dishes. Abruzzo has been growing the good stuff since the 13th century, and now exports its saffron across Italy and the globe. 

An essential ingredient in risotto alla Milanese, you’ll also find l’aquila saffron in a wide variety of local risotto recipes. Make a point of seeking some saffron & baccalà fritter if you’re in the region. A saffron rib of lamb is also a popular local favorite for those who prefer meatier fare. Planning a cooking holiday in Italy? Book a saffron tour, which usually includes harvesting real saffron in the fields of Abruzzo.


Pesto alla Genovese in Liguria

If your trip to Italy involves a stop in Liguria, you’re in for a treat, as you’ll be visiting the home of one of the country’s most famous food exports — pesto. 

If you visit any Genoa markets, you’ll quickly see why pesto was invented here. You’ll find fantastic basil, fresh pine nuts, and local olive oil, all of which are essential ingredients in classic pesto. While in Genoa, we recommend trying the pesto everywhere you go — each local version will have a unique twist and flavor. Sign up for a local culinary class to learn how to make your own pesto in the original Ligurian style.


Pupazzella in Basilicata

Like many parts of Italy, Basilicata was an impoverished region that improvised the best food it could using inexpensive local ingredients. This had led to a long culinary history rich with ingredients such as pork, mutton, and tomatoes. One of the most essential local ingredients is a small round hot pepper that grows in the area. The locals turn this pepper into a spicy treat called pupazzella, which involves soaking the peppers in vinegar then stuffing them with anchovies and parsley. Make friends with the locals by requesting this beloved regional specialty. 


Palomba alla ghiotta in Umbri

When it comes to slow food, Italy is one of the best places to visit. Not only have dishes been perfected over the centuries, but time and care have been put into the cultivation and preparation of key ingredients. Palomba alla ghiotta is a traditional Umbran squab specialty found in every household come wintertime. A rich, hearty meal, the squab is slow cooked with red wine, olives, and spices, then served on a slice of warm bread. Enjoy your palomba alla ghiotta with a glass of local Umbrian red wine.


‘Nduja in Calabria

Perhaps the most beloved food in Calabria, ‘nduja is a unique form of sausage found only in the region. This is spreadable pork salami with a spicy kick that comes from grinding in a blend of local chili peppers. The flavor is unique; if you’ve tasted French andouille sausage you will understand what ‘nduja has to offer. A versatile dish, it can be spread on bread, included in pasta sauce, or used as a condiment. While in Calabria, we recommend tasting ‘nduja it every which way you can.


A culinary adventure in every village

It goes without saying that remarkable local specialities exist in every region and village you visit during your trip to Italy. Even if you’re familiar with the exported version of a dish, make sure to try it at its source; you’ll be surprised by how they have been adapted from their original, authentic flavors.