Italy is famous for its delicious dishes such as pizza, pasta and risotto, but also for a variety of gourmet foods. Gourmet Italian food products like fresh truffles and sheep milk cheese are served in many fine restaurants around the world, and can be purchased in specialty food markets.
Some authentic gourmet Italian food can only be enjoyed in Italy, but if you visit the restaurant of a renowned chef anywhere in the world, you will be able to taste incredible flavours and to experience a perfect gourmet meal.
The following are ten of the best gourmet Italian food dishes:
Italy is the third largest producer of cheese in the European Union, and many fine Italian cheeses are exported and available around the world. Many gourmet Italian dishes are enhanced by Italian cheeses, and simply wouldn’t be the same without them.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is a very popular Italian cheese made from unpasteurized cow milk. Hard and granular, it can be grated or shaved over pasta and salad, or simply eaten on its own. Many have called it the “King of Cheeses”. It goes particularly well with an expensive glass of wine.
Other popular Italian cheeses include pecorino, an aged sheep milk cheese, caprino, a goat milk cheese, and mascarpone, a fresh cream cheese.
2. Black and white truffles
Truffles or tartufi, as they are called in Italian, are a delightful but expensive gourmet food. White truffles grow in Piedmont, and in a few other regions of the country during the fall and early winter. They can be used to create truffle oils, truffle butters, and truffle sauces.
Black truffles are found in Italy, but also in a few other areas of Southern Europe. They can be turned into sauces and paste, or shaved over a dish to enhance its flavour. Truffles are extremely popular in fine dining restaurants, used in many different ways to maximize the taste of the gourmet Italian food.
Prosciutto crudo is a dry-cured ham that is served uncooked, in thin slices. It has a unique sweet and salty flavour, and it can be eaten as an antipasto or included in a variety of gourmet Italian food dishes.
Prosciutto is usually made from the hind leg or thigh of a pig or a wild boar, but it can also be made from the hing leg of other animals, such as lambs.
Many people consider pancetta to be the Italian equivalent of bacon. It consists of a salt-cured meat made from the belly of a pork. It can be eaten as a cold cut, or added to different Italian dishes.
Just like prosciutto, pancetta is a salumi, a type of Italian cold cuts that also includes guanciale, mortadella, soppressata, and salami.
5. Balsamic vinegar
Balsamic vinegar, or aceto balsamico, is one of the most prized vinegars in the world. This dark vinegar with an intense flavour is made from grape must, which contains grape juice, seeds and skins.
Balsamic vinegar is usually aged for at least 12 years in wood casks, but it’s possible to enjoy gourmet balsamic vinegar that is more than a 100 year old.
6. Fruit mostarda
Mostarda di frutta, or fruit mostarda, is a delicacy made from slices of candied fruits such as oranges, apricots and figs, which have been preserved in a mustard syrup.
The result is a colourful and spicy condiment that can be eaten with cheese, or used to add some extra flavour to different Italian dishes.
7. Olive oil
Nothing compares to authentic Italian olive oil. The smooth, warm and fruity flavour of extra virgin Italian olive oil will vary slightly, depending on where and how it has been produced.
It can be used as a condiment, or for cooking Italian dishes that involve meats, seafoods, vegetables, and sauces. It can also be added to soups.
8. Arborio rice
Arborio rice is a versatile rice that absorbs a lot of water while it cooks. This makes it the perfect rice to prepare delicious, rich and creamy risotto.
Many Italian regions have their own risotto recipe, which can feature mushrooms, beef stock, red wine, green peas, and saffron.
9. Fresh pasta
Everyone knows dried pasta, but fresh Italian pasta is even more delicious. Made from wheat and raw eggs, pasta fresca is more tender than dried pasta, it cooks faster, and it doesn’t expand in size while it’s cooking. It has a refined flavour, and can be enjoyed simply with butter sauce and truffle shavings.
Dried pasta has a longer shelf life than fresh pasta, which is why it’s more commonly exported all around the world. It can be made from durum wheat semolina, low grade durum wheat semolina, or durum wheat whole meal, and it’s best enjoyed with a flavourful sauce.
10. Pasta sauces
Italian pasta is best enjoyed with traditional Italian pasta sauces, including bolognese sauce, carbonara sauce, alfredo sauce, marinara sauce, and frutti di mare sauce, to name a few.
Authentic Italian pasta sauces are prepared with fresh and flavourful ingredients, and can instantly enhance any dried or fresh pasta dish.