The Food and Cuisine of Calabria
Calabrian cuisine is known for hearty vegetable and pasta dishes and filling soups. Many of these meals feature eggplants, peppers and tomatoes. Ciambotta, stewed eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes seasoned with onion and peppers, is eaten either hot or cold. Other vegetables commonly used in Calabrian cooking include asparagus, artichokes, peas, beans and potatoes. Their red onions are said to have premium flavor and aroma. Mushrooms grow well in the Calabrian region, especially the beloved porcini. Vegetables are often served in soups in Calabrian cuisine. Licurdia, a bread thickened onion soup, is seasoned with grated pecorino and hot pepper. The “thousand thing” soup, millecosedde, has fava beans, chick peas and many vegetables, including cabbage, celery, and mushrooms.
Calabria produces a fourth of the country’s olive oil. It is used extensively, not only for Calabrian cooking but also for preserving food such as mushrooms, vegetables and fish.
Pasta in Calabrian cuisine includes the ubiquitous spaghetti and maccheroni but also includes some unusual shapes. Làgane (flat, long noodles), ricci di donna (lady’s curls), and capieddi ’e prieviti (priest’s hairs) are special Calabrian recipes. These pastas are often served with piquant sauces made from vegetables and meats. Perciatelli e lumache has tubes of pasta served with a sauce made from snails and a peppery tomato sauce. Rigatoni alla pastora combines fresh ricotta, sausage and grated pecorino to make a rich, meaty sauce. Sagna chine festive lasagne has a filling with ground pork, mozzarella, hard cooked egg pieces, peas, artichokes, mushrooms and more.
In Calabrian cuisine, pork is the preferred meat. Preserving meat as sausage, ham and salame keeps it fresh through the year. Murseddu is a savory pork and veal liver pie seasoned with tomato and peppers. Offal are used, also. Mursiellu is a popular stew made from organ meats, peppers and tomatoes flavored with wine.
Calabrian cuisine includes plenty of fresh seafood caught in Tyrrhenian waters. Tuna is prepared in a sweet vinegar and onion sauce to make alalunga in agrodolce in traditional Calabrian cooking. Swordfish is roasted with olive oil. capers, parsley and lemon to make pesce spada alla bagnarese.
Every town has its own version of baccalà, dried cod, usually stewed with tomatoes and peppers with potatoes. Anchovies and sardines also add flavor to many Calabrian recipes. Sardines can be breaded and fried, then served with a garlic and mint seasoned oil and vinegar mixture or preserved in oil to make a food that is locally referred to as “Calabrian caviar”.
Bread comes in homey shapes, both as plain loaves and in savory dishes. Local varieties of pizza include proscuitto and ricotta and a more unusual raisin and pork rind version. Pitta chicculiata, a local version of pizza, is topped with tuna, anchovies, black olives, tomatoes, and capers.
The fruit in Calabria is famous for its high quality, especially the citrus and figs. Many of the figs are dried and sometimes coated with chocolate. Much of the citrus ends up candied for use in desserts and sweet foods. Other than fruit, Calabrian cuisine boasts many fried desserts. Cannarìculi are fried fritters served at Christmas time. They are made from wheat flour flavored with sweet cooked wine and are bathed with honey before serving. Fried ravioli called chinulille are filled with chestnuts, candied fruit, nougat and chocolate.
Alto Crotonese PDO, Bruzio PDO, Lamezia PDO
Peperone di Senise PGI
Clementina di Calabria PGI, Bergamotto di Reggio Calabria PDO
Caciocavallo Silano PDO
Fresh & Cured Meats:
Soppressata di Calabria PDO, Capocollo di Calabria PDO, Pancetta di Calabria PDO, Salsiccia di Calabria PDO