Italian Food: Cooking in Lombardy (Lombardia) |

The Food and Cuisine of Lombardy (Lombardia)

Lombardia cuisine has roots in many different cultures, resulting in extravagant dishes. Lombardia cooking traditionally uses generous amounts of butter, cream and lard, but recently has been converting recipes to olive oil. The first food to come to mind for most people is the decadent risotto alla Milanese. The classic golden tint is provided by saffron, the most expensive spice in the world. This creamy rice dish is heavily enriched with plenty of dairy butter and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Risotto alla certosina braises rice, peas and tomatoes with frog legs, crayfish and perch fillets in a luscious onion and leek sauce. Another seafood variation contains freshwater eels and fish with chicken. This regional rice speciality is often prepared with meats such as veal lung or sausages and vegetables like asparagus, broccoli raab, winter squash or fresh parsley.

Lombardia recipes for more casual rice dishes are also enjoyed. Sometimes rice is flavored with pork and beans, known as risòtt rustì. Risotto alla pilota, a rice and sausage variation, is very popular. In addition to this specialty, rice is also used frequently in vegetable minestrone and soups.

Unlike most of Italy, polenta and rice are both eaten far more often than pasta. Polenta, or cornmeal cooked into a soft cereal, is a mainstay of Lombardia cuisine. It is generally served with plenty of butter, cheese and sometimes meat or vegetables. It can be served soft as gras pistà, covered with ground salt pork and a fresh garlic and parsley topping similar to pesto. Polenta e osei is piled generously onto a platter and garnished with tiny birds that have been roasted with sage leaves. When the cereal is permitted to chill and get firm, it can be sliced and layered with mushroom sauce, tomatoes and pork and baked for polenta pasticciata.

Another beloved grain in Lombardia cooking is buckwheat. This flour is used to make pizzoccheri, noodles that are served with cooked vegetables and cheese. It can also be cooked in milk to make a corn-free polenta called polenta in fiur. Sometimes the buckwheat is cooked with cornmeal and served with butter and cheese to make polenta taragna. It can also be used with cheese to make sciatt, a grappa flavored fritter.

Despite not being a staple food, some unique forms of pasta are found in Lombardia cooking. Tortelli de zucca is a pocket filled with winter squash, grated cheese, finely crushed almond paste cookies and sometimes mostardo, a mustard flavored candied fruit preserve, served in a bath of melted butter with fried sage leaves. Agnolini, a filled pasta similar to tortillini, are filled with a mixture of beef and pork.

Other famous ravioli include casônsei, filled with cheese, sausage and bread. These pockets are always served with butter and grated Grano Padano. The most well known pasta are marubini, a cheese and meat dumpling served in broth.

Lombardia dishes are heavily reliant on meat with an emphasis on poultry. Two of the regional specialties are preserved goose salame and foie gras. Goose is also used to make sausages. Tacchina ripiena is a turkey stuffed with apples, pears, chestnuts, walnuts, pork and veal flavored with herbs and brandy traditionally served for Christmas.

The plains are an ideal location to raise cattle, so beef has always been an important part of Lombardia cuisine. Bollito misto is a boiled supper consisting of a variety of meats, primarily beef and beef offal, though there may be poultry or pork sausage for variety. These meats are served with mostarda, a mustard flavored candied fruit preserve. Zuppa alla pavese is a rich broth made from the beef bones and served in a bowl with pan fried bread and poached eggs. Tripe is slowly cooked until tender in busecca, a soup flavored with salt pork, minced salame and vegetables flavored with herbs and grated grana.

Tender veal calves are used in many Lombardia recipes. Costoletta alla milanese fries breaded veal cutlets in butter and splashed with fresh lemon juice before bringing to the table. Slowly simmering veal shanks, sliced to expose the succulent marrow, in herbs and wine makes osso bucco alla milanese. These tender morsels are seasoned with gremolada, a garnish of lemon zest, garlic and fresh parsley, before serving with risotto alla milanese.

Cold roasted veal is sliced and served with a tuna, anchovy, lemon and caper sauce for vitello tonnato. Uccelli scappati is a skewered dish made from pieces of veal and pork and fresh sage leaves. Scraps of beef are flavored with cheese, formed into croquettes and fried to make mondeghili. The brains, liver, sweetbreads and lungs are fried and served as part of fritto misto, an appetizer of assorted fried food.

Pork is also used in many dishes. In addition to the salume for which most of Italy is famous, a succulent stew called cascoeûla. Cabbage, pork sausages, ribs, leg meat along with the head and skin are simmered in herbs and wine and served with polenta. In nervetti in insalata, pig feet and shanks are cooked in a broth made with onions, celery an carrots. The tender meat is served cold with oil and vinegar as a salad.

Seafood is not a large part of Lombardia cooking, but lake fish, crayfish and snails are enjoyed. Agoni are preserved with bay leaves to eat in a dish called missultitt. Alborelle, a tiny fish, are deep fried and eaten whole. Frogs are cooked with onions, tomato and garlic in white wine and butter to make rane in guazzetto.

Pannetone is a sweet, yeast raised egg bread with raisins and citron served for Christmas. Easter brings Colomba, almond topped bread dove shaped. Religious holidays are known for their delightful array of desserts, but the rest of the year is not without its special treats. Miascia, rosemary flavored bread pudding, is full of raisins, apples and pears. Polenta is used in torta sbrisulona, a crisp, buttery almond cake. Other desserts eaten in Lombardia cuisine include the crescent shaped offelle and bussolano, a lemony potato cake.


Fresh & Cured Meats:
Salame Brianza PDO, Zampone di Modena PGI, Cotechino di Modena PGI, Mortadella Bologna PGI, Bresaola della Valtellina PGI, Salame di Varzi PDO ,Salame d’Oca di Mortasa PGI, Salamini italiani alla cacciatora PDO

Bitto PDO
Formai de Mut dell’Alta Val Brembana PDO, Gorgonzola PDO, Grana Padano PDO, Provolone Val Padana PDO, Quartirolo Lombardo PDO, Taleggio PDO, Valtellina Casera PDO, Parmigiano Reggiano PDO

Olive Oils:
Garda PDO, Laghi Lombardi PDO

Pera Mantovana PGI

Gourmet Delecacies:
Mostarda di Cremona


Learn more about:

The Wines of Lombardy (Lombardia)

Authentic gourmet products:

Gorgonzola Cheese
Panettone: Italy’s Favorite Christmas Cake

Suggested recipes:

Risotto allo Zafferano (Rice with Saffron)

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