Seasonal ingredients, local olive oil and red hot chili peppers form the foundation of Calabrian cooking and have spurred the now-famous reinvention of home-style, Italian paesano food.
Pasta, always al dente, is usually eaten once a day and is served in heaps and tossed with the perfect sauce to complement its shape and texture.
Some of my favorite Calabrian pasta dishes include pasta con l’ nduja, baked pasta or pasta that is tossed with a simple, spicy tomato sauce.
Pork is king of Calabria, with the famous ‘nduja and soppressata sausages leading the pack. Caciocavallo Silano, or provola from Sila, is a regional specialty, but the famed Pecorino and smoked ricotta cheeses also see their way into Calabrian dishes.
The prized melanzana, or eggplant, is used generously in the Calabrian cucina and is often sauteed in olive oil and garlic, then left to cool and eaten at room temperature. The eggplant is also the star of my favorite dish … melanzane ripiene, and can also be served fried or mixed with sweet red peppers, artichokes or mushrooms.
A variety of beans are used in Calabrian cooking and are served as part of an antipasto dish, tossed with pasta or used in soups.
Olives, almonds, figs, chestnuts and citrus grow freely in Calabria, making them popular additions to appetizer plates, desserts or liquors. The Clementine and Bergamot oranges are popular in Calabria and in fact, Calabria is one of the only places in the world where Bergamot oranges grow naturally.
But to the surprise of many of my Calabrian friends and new family members my all-time favorite addition in my Calabrian kitchen is the precious pepper.
We add it to everything from sauces to appetizers to meat dishes and seafood. There is peperoncino liquor and pepper-flavored gelato. There is red-hot chocolate and spicy chocolate-pepper liquor.
Seriously … there is no place this pepper can’t go.
This is just a brief overview of Calabrian cuisine, so tell me, did I leave out your favorite parts? If so, what are they?
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