These succulent chunks of skewed mutton are barbecued on a brazier. Ovine fat is sometimes placed between the chunks of meat, lending the arrosticini a more tender texture. They are served wrapped in tin foil and typically eaten with the hands, pulling off the meat with your teeth. They are enjoyed with home-made bread soaked in olive oil while chilli peppers, and washed down nicely with a glass of red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
These stuffed rice balls coated with breadcrumbs and fried take their name from their shape and colour, which is similar to an orange (arancini means “little oranges”). In eastern Sicily arancini are conical shaped. They are usually stuffed with tomato sauce, mozzarella, ragù (Bolognese sauce) and peas. Arancini are thought to have originated around the tenth century when Sicily was under Arab rule, when rice is said to have been introduced to the island.
Bucatini all’amatriciana, Lazio
Amatriciana sauce takes its name from the town of Amatrice in the Lazio region. This delicious pasta sauce is made with guanciale (pork cheek lard), sweet tomatoes and chilli peppers. Bucatini (long, hollow tubular pasta similar to spaghetti) are boiled until al dente, and mixed in with the sauce and some grated pecorino cheese.
It is said vincisgrassi were first prepared in honour of the Austrian general Windisch Graetz who had fought against Napoleon in 1799, defending the city of Ancona (the name vincisgrassi derives from the mispronunciation of the General’s name). This baked pasta dish is composed of layers of mixed meat ragù (bolognese sauce) of beef, pork and chicken giblets, enriched with a creamy béchamel sauce and topped with grated Parmesan cheese.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina, Tuscany
Served rare, bistecca alla fiorentina, or Florentine beefsteak, is a succulent T-bone steak that is flame-grilled over charcoal, sealing the fillet juices with a dark crust. Traditionally, bistecca alla fiorentina is a cut taken from a Tuscan breed of ox known as chianina, although nowadays Spanish beef is largely used. The steak is seasoned with salt, black pepper and a drizzle of oil.
Cappelletti in Brodo, Emilia Romagna
This egg-based pasta with a meat filling is served in a flavourful chicken broth. Small strips of dough are stuffed with meat and folded in a half moon shape. The corners are then stretched around until they meet, forming the pasta’s curious shape, which recalls a medieval style hat (cappelletti literally means “little hats”). They are cooked in boiling broth, and left to simmer at low heat until they float to the surface (usually about five minutes). Cappelletti in brodo are traditionally eaten on Christmas day.
Frico con Patate, Friuli Venezia Giulia
Similar to an omelette, frico con patate is made with thinly cut or grated potatoes sautéed with onions. Montasio cheese is added and the dish cooked for twenty minutes or so. Once the potatoes have cooked and the cheese has melted, the ingredients are gently pan-fried until golden brown.
Sardine in Saor, Veneto
This Venetian antipasto consists of fried sardines, pine nuts, raisins and caramelised onions cooked with vinegar. The saor cooking method was favoured by Venetian sailors when out at sea to preserve fish for prolonged periods of time. Sardine in saor are in fact tastier if left to rest for 24 hours.
This hearty soup is traditionally made with sweet onions from Tropea, a region of Calabria that lies along the Tyrrhenian Sea, where they have been cultivated for over two thousand years. The area’s microclimate, fertile soil and proximity to the sea contribute to their unique taste. The onions are peeled, sliced thinly and cooked in lard with hot water, and hot chillies are added at the end. Licurdia is ladled over crispy bread that is placed at the bottom of individual soup bowls.
Pallotte Cacio e Uova, Molise
Made of cheese, egg and bread, pallotte (dough balls) are cooked in a tomato and red pepper sauce. Bread is soaked in milk and mixed with eggs, Pecorino cheese, parsley and garlic, and moulded into dough balls that are fried in boiling oil. The dough balls are then mixed in with the sauce and left to simmer for a few minutes. They can be served as a warm appetizer or as a vegetarian main course.
Bagna Càuda, Piedmont
Originally served in a communal dish in the middle of the table, this piping hot garlic and anchovy dip is today placed in fojòt, individual terracotta pots. Raw, boiled or roasted vegetables – typically cardoon, cabbage, celery, radish, fennel, onion, Jerusalem artichokes and peppers – are dipped in the sauce and enjoyed with bread. Bagna càuda is traditionally eaten in the autumn and winter months either as an antipasto or as a main dish.