Gorgeous Italy draws travelers keen on exploring her stunning scenery, unique culture, and gastronomical delights. With its rich cuisine, this beautiful Mediterranean land offers countless famous and traditional must-eat foods.
A multitude of popular Italian delicacies and dishes, sweet and savory, await your discovery during your sojourns when you are in Italy. These traditional Italian dishes are deeply rooted in the Italian culture, and recipes are often passed down between generations and are cherished for their authentic origins.
One of the best ways to get the true taste of these amazing dishes is directly from local home chefs, who are passionate about cooking and sharing a slice of their culture with you.
Be sure to leave ample space in your belly to tuck into these top 10 must-try dishes in Italy:
1. The Mothers of All: Pasta & Pizza – but what and where to eat?
One should not miss out on feasting on pasta and pizza, the two iconic traditional Italian dishes during their vacation.
Pasta types vary significantly depending where you go in Italy. Be sure to try the regional specialties in the cities that you are visiting. If you are exploring beautiful Rome, order a serving of the pasta alla carbonara, prepared with ingredients such as eggs, Pecorino cheese, guanciale (a type of Italian cured meat made from pork cheeks) and black pepper.
If you happen to book the famous Roman home-chef Alessandro’s A truly Roman feast overlooking the Vatican City, make sure to ask for Spaghetti alla Carbonara (with eggs, bacon, cheese, pepper and chili pepper) or Spaghetti alla Gricia (with bacon, cheese, pepper and chili pepper).
When it comes to pizza, the first type that comes to mind is Margherita. Originating from Naples, the pizza margherita is a simple but tasty dish. Order this popular item from the local pizzeria, and you can expect to be served with a crispy, thin-crust pizza topped with olive oil, garlic, basil, tomatoes, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
Here are top 5 pasta or pizza making classes in Italy:
- In Rome: 3 Course Pasta Making Cooking Class in Rome
- In Rome: How to make home made Pasta (fettuccine, ravioli, gnocchi, lasagne, pici, orecchiette)
- In Rome: A Lovely Pasta/Pizza Cooking Class Near the Trevi Fountain
- In Florence: Make, Meet and Eat the Italian Way!
- In Florence: Enjoy traditional COOKING CLASS at Elisa’s house
- In Florence: Traditional cooking experience in my ancient tuscan house
- In Milan: Cooking class: Fresh Handmade typical Pasta (Summer & Spring Edition)
Crisp and golden brown, arancini refers to a dish of stuffed rice balls. The rice balls are fried after being coated in a dusting of crunchy breadcrumbs.
These rice balls are usually filled with ragù, tomato sauce, mozzarella and peas. Similar to pasta and pizza dishes in Italy, there are a diversity of regional variations of the arancini. The regional specialties are made with different fillings and shapes depending on the location that the dish is prepared in.
Some examples include the arancini con ragù (containing tomato sauce, rice and mozzarella), arancini con burro (made with creamy béchamel sauce), arancini con funghi and arancini con melanzane.
Why not try this classic Italian dish with local hosts Antonella and Paola if you happen to be in Rome during your trip to Italy?
Believed to have originated from the city of Naples, this well-loved and yet another classic Italian dish is made by baking sheets of lasagne pasta layered with cheese, ground meat, vegetables and different varieties of sauces, such as the ragù, bechamel or tomato sauce. This dish should definitely not be missed out on if you want to have a taste of true Italian cuisine.
4. Osso buco alla Milanese
Meat lovers will rejoice at the thought of tucking into the osso buco alla Milanese!
Tender veal shanks, braised slowly in white wine, is served with an array of vegetables. A serving of aromatic gremolata, a condiment made with lemon zest, garlic and parsley, is added to complete the dish.
The meal does not end when you have finished the meat and vegetables, for the best part of the dish lies in scooping out and savouring the creamy marrow from the bones of the veal.
An Italian favourite, prosciutto refers to dry-cured ham, served uncooked and cut in thin slices. The finest and priciest prosciutto originates from the central and northern regions of Italy.
Light, savoury and airy, the cured meat is usually served with pasta, or wrapped around slices of cheese or sweet melons.
Traditionally considered as cucina povera, or poor man’s food, the ribollita was created by servants who collected unfinished food, such as bread and vegetables, from their masters before boiling these items in water to make a meal. The origin of this dish gives rise to its name, which translates to mean ‘reboiled’ in English.
Rich and hearty, the ribollita is regarded as one of Tuscany’s most important dishes.
You can try this classic Italian dish with our host Cinzia who serves this dish up right in the heart of Florence.
The dish contains thin slices of veal, topped with salty prosciutto and herb leaves. These ingredients, joined together with a toothpick, are sautéed in a pan until the meat is done. Different varieties of meat, such as chicken and mutton are also used for preparing the saltimbocca.
A well-made serving of saltimbocca promises to be a delectable dish melts away in the mouth. Highly popular among locals and travellers in Italy, this savoury delight is certainly not to be missed.
In fact, you can learn how to make this particular dish yourself with our host Alberto while you are in Rome. Complete with a market tour, Alberto will teach you about the beauty of Italian cuisine with a cooking class right in the heart of Rome.
A visit to Italy is not complete without having at least a serving of smooth, creamy gelato. Travelers who are on the hunt for the best versions of this delightful treat should check this article out for insights on where to find the best gelato in Italy.
Creamy and sticky, the Torrone is made with ingredients such as honey, egg whites, toasted nuts and citrus zest. Thick slabs of this candy are commonly found in cafes and candy stores throughout Italy.
We recommend that you try the original version, as it is hard to beat. Those with a preference for decadent treats may want to try a new variety – torrone dipped in rich chocolate!
Light and creamy, the tiramisu is a well-known dessert sought-after by locals and travellers alike. Ingredients such as ladyfingers, coffee, eggs, sugar, cocoa and mascarpone cheese required in the preparation of this sweet treat.
If you visit Rome, you can also attend Fresh Pasta and Tiramisù Cooking Class to learn how to make home-made Tiramisù.
Creative dessert-makers have given an innovative twist to the traditional recipe of the tiramisu, coming up with varieties such as the fruit tiramisu, chocolate tiramisu, and the intriguing-sounding ch’tiramisu.