Some Like it Hot: An Overview on Calabrian Cooking

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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9 Responses
  1. Starving! Yes, il peperoncino and I are very good friends and I would love to wallow in Calabrian kitchens for a while.
    I also think the beans are so good here because they are treated with respect, treated like beans and not gummed up with a bunch of sweet and smoky and meat stuff.

    Definitely. I think that is why I like beans so much more than I ever did back home.

    .-= Judith in Umbria´s last blog ..Hollandaise: faster than a speeding bullet =-.

  2. Judy Mancuso

    It is dinner time in Hawaii and this post made my mouth water. I can’t WAIT to get to Calabria this September to try all you suggested. Thanks for whetting my appetite. Aloha, Judy


  3. The fondest of memories from Rocco’s Nonna in Gioiosa Ionica, who made the most amazing Salame sotto olio. Never had anything like it since. Flavor unmatched. The only downside is it needed a side order of Zantac. That, and the most amazing crochette I have ever had! Again, side order of Zantac, but YUM!!!

    Ha. That is hilarious. They have this really great stuff you mix with water and drink to help with that. That, too, is a staple in our house.

    .-= Michael @ Culture Discovery´s last blog ..Welcome To Italy… There’s a Tax For That =-.

  4. peperoncino.. how I love thee. I have a jar of them sott’olio and I add them to everything! There are so many Calabrian specialties to love. I think the bread is some of the best in all of Italy.

    I agree, Joe. I was jus trying to think of something you couldn’t use with peperoncini! Mah!

  5. Ciao Cherrye! Yum! There are a lot of similarities between what you write and many of the popular foods here in Campania. The pepperoncino is also king! (Or queen?) We have different fruits and veggies that grow here. I had no idea about the Bergamot orange. So interesting! (I’m drinking Earl Grey tea right now…)

    Yes but you have limoncello. Ooh, begamotcello … hmmm … .

    A Magical Evening of Tango on the Amalfi Coast =-.

  6. Great post! We’re in New York now for Grantourismo and ate Italian the other night and it was just dreadful. Missing ‘real’ Italian food – esp. Calabrian food!

    Oh yes, American “Italian” food just isn’t the same. On another note, I just saw your book and saw that you had the same title as this post. Funny. I loved that part, btw.

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