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Campania – Food & Wine

Campania - Food & Wine


Campania is the land of sun, sea, and culture, an area that has distinguished itself since the ancient times for its vast culinary heritage that is rich in unique delicacies.

The region boasts an extraordinarily fertile land, a fundamental condition for the acclimatization of countless species of animals and plants. As a result, the territory has an incredible biodiversity that led to a great richness of traditional dishes.

Campania’s cuisine represents a true cultural heritage of Italy that goes well beyond the exquisite gastronomic tradition, which makes this region a perfect trip to Italy for food and wine lovers. In fact, wine is equally important in Campania and the region boasts one of the most flourishing winemaking cultures.

In Campania, wine pairs perfectly with the traditional products that vary from area to area.

Around the world, Campania is famous for its delicious Mediterranean food. Bathed by the sun, the territory offers plenty of fresh vegetables which are used to create great dishes. Moreover, the cuisine is based on fresh, seasonal ingredients often seasoned with abundant local olive oil.

Campania is the home of pasta and pizza; nevertheless, the region is famous for a wide variety of typical cheeses, traditional salami, and liqueurs.

From all the areas of the region, Gragnano is among the most famous. Known as “The City of Pasta”, Gragnano is a small town in the Naples metropolitan area renowned worldwide for having the most exquisite pasta in Italy, and in the world as a matter of fact.

Gragnano pasta is different from anything else you could imagine. The pasta in this town is different not only because it is made exclusively from the local wheat, but because the grain is dried through a slow process which maintains its flavor.

Furthermore, the pasta is produced following traditional techniques, resulting in a pasta that is different from all the other types in terms of texture, flavor, and shape.

Campania is also the place where one of the most beloved foods around the world was born. We’re talking about pizza, a dish invented to welcome Queen Margherita of Savoy in Naples. In fact, the true pizza owes its name to the queen and is made exclusively with tomato sauce, basil and buffalo mozzarella. It is a favorite in many of the ancient pizzerias in Naples, featuring an explosion of flavors that is second to none.

Initially, this signature dish of Campania’s cuisine was rigorously baked in the ovens in which skillful craftsmen used to produce ceramics. Since its birth, many chefs tried to reproduce the unique taste of the Neapolitan pizza without real success. In fact, the only true pizza can be tasted in Naples and a few other cities in Campania.

If Naples has pizza, Sorrento and the province are famous for their lemons. Thanks to the almost constant sun and mild winters, the lemons of Campania are characterized by a unique crisp flavor and are used as the main ingredient in many dishes and beverages.

One of the most famous types of lemons of Sorrento and Amalfi Coast is a type called sfusato because of its elongated shape. This type of lemon is usually used in seafood dishes while locals often consume it raw, seasoned with salt to exalt the richness and the texture.

Femminiello is another popular variety of lemons used mainly for desserts and for the preparation of exquisite liquors, such as limoncello.

Appetizers

Campania’s regional cuisine is often identified and defined as Neapolitan because in all provinces, with the exception of a few typical dishes, all the dishes that characterize the territory are the same. The simplicity of the flavors and the genuine ingredients are the strong points of the typical foods of Campania.

The cuisine of this region also has the undisputed merit of contributing to the birth of the Mediterranean diet thanks to the use of essential products such as tomatoes, olive oil, and vegetables. As such, the appetizers can only reflect the choice of the healthiest ingredients varying from cheeses and cold cuts to exquisitely cooked dishes.

Campania is essentially a territory of the sea, yet the region boasts a few products more typical to the inland territories, which make delicious appetizers.

Similar to the other regions of Italy, in Campania a meal is usually started with a tray of cold cuts followed by hot appetizers.

The cold cuts typically include prosciutto crudo and local cheeses. The prosciutto of choice is Prosciutto di Venticano, a typical product in the Avellino area. The main characteristic of this prosciutto is its tenderness that is preserved despite the long aging, while the flavor is mild and somehow sweet.

Salame Napoli, a type of salami characterized by a unique taste is also usually included in the cold cuts tray. This salami is produced almost everywhere throughout the region, and it is made from pork meat exclusively cut from the shoulder, neck, and loin. To add flavor, the salami is enriched with pork fat.

The cold platter also contains a wide assortment of cheeses. Among the most famous we can name is the Mozzarella di Bufala. Made of buffalo milk, this type of mozzarella is soft and creamy, and it has a distinctive buttery flavor that will make you crave some more.

Another soft texture and buttery flavored cheese is Provolone del Monaco, usually served with honey and vegetables. Some producers choose to age this cheese, in which case it can even be served grated on various pasta dishes.

The cold platters are often accompanied by bruschetta, slices of grilled or oven toasted bread topped with pieces of tomatoes, oregano, and olive oil.

Among popular hot appetizers is the mozzarella in carrozza, made with stale bread, mozzarella, eggs and a drop of milk. The cheese is placed between two slices of bread, dipped in a mixture of egg and milk and fried in boiling extra virgin olive oil.

Sea appetizers are also popular among the region. The most famous among the locals is probably impepata di cozze, a simple dish made with mussels baked in a saucepan then flavored with parsley, pepper, and oil. The dish is usually served with bread and in the local tradition, it is an obligatory appetizer for the Holy Thursday dinner.

First Course

Campania is renowned all over the world for its pasta, so it is easy to understand that many of the region’s first courses use pasta as a main ingredient. Nevertheless, there are many other first courses that stand out, such as the traditional soups.

Spaghetti is the most beloved pasta in Campania and it is used for the preparation of many delicious dishes. Among them, spaghetti alle vongole is one of the most delicious while some recipes use mussels instead of clams.

Spaghetti alla puttanesca is another simple yet exquisite first dish. Made with capers, olives and tomato sauce, this dish is delicious when served with a sprinkle of grated pecorino.

The love for spaghetti and maccheroni in this region is so high that the locals even transform the leftover spaghetti or maccheroni into another delicious first course, frittata di spaghetti or frittata di maccheroni.

This dish shouldn’t be confounded with a popular street food, frittata di bucatini. The difference is that the first one is made with leftover pasta and beaten egg, while the second is made with cooked bucatini, béchamel, and batter, and is then fried. In the second case, the filling varies from minced meat, peas, and provolone cheese to ham, bacon and fiordi latte.

Sartù alla napoletana is another flavorful first course to taste in the region. This dish is made with rice that is shaped as a timbale and filled with mozzarella or fiordi latte, provolone, dried mushrooms, eggs, pancetta and other delicacies.

In the Sorrento area, a famous first dish is gnocchi alla sorrentina, a type of potato gnocchi cooked in a typical ceramic bowl called pignatiello with tomato sauce, fiordi latte, parmesan and basil.

Maccaronara is a pasta typical to the Avellino area, similar to spaghetti but with a squared section. This type of pasta is usually used to make the famous pasta fagiolie cozze with beans and mussels or served with tomato sauce and basil.

Among the most popular soups, we can mention the zuppa lenticchie e friarelli. This rustic dish encloses the genuineness of Campania’s cuisine and it has a unique taste thanks to the typical vegetable used as the main ingredient.

Zuppa di vongole al pomodoro is another popular first dish that is typical of Campania’s coastal areas. Prepared with clams and fresh tomatoes, this soup is really simple and it is made from a few ingredients. In the region, this soup is prepared exclusively with fresh clams.

During the festive periods and especially during the cold season, many locals also prepare and serve as a first dish Minestra Maritata, a soup made of mixed vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, chicory, cauliflower and other herbs cooked in beef broth and accompanied by boiled beef or pork meat, lard, caciocavallo cheese and ossobucco.

Lastly, in Campania no Sunday lunch is complete without ragù, usually served with ziti pasta.

Main Course

Just as the first dishes, Campania’s main courses are divided and vary depending on whether you are tasting them in the coastal areas or further inland.

If you are visiting Naples and the province, one of the most delicious main dishes to taste is trippa alla napoletana, a dish made with beef tripe, local lemons and other vegetables, and usually served with a slice of tasty local bread.

Salsicce e friarelli, on the other hand, is a real rustic dish, tasty and with a rich character. This Neapolitan specialty is made with friarelli, the inflorescence of the turnip greens.

If you want to taste a traditional sea dish, the sauté di vongole is one of those mains that will conquer your taste buds forever. Although the dish doesn’t have Italian roots, the abundance of clams in the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas made this dish a classic of the coastal areas.

In Ischia, one of Campania’s islands, a main course that stands out is coniglio all’Ischitiana. While it is rare finding a non-fish based dish on an island, what is even more impressive is the fact that this dish is the most popular in the region. Made with a special type of rabbit unique to the island and seasoned with erbapiperina that only grows in Ischia, this dish is similar to a stew and it is baked in a clay pan.

A delicious vegetarian main is parmigiana di melanzane alla napoletana. Made with eggplant, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, basil and mozzarella or fiordi latte, this dish is similar to a lasagna.

In Naples and the province, a popular Sunday dish is calamari ripieni alla napoletana. The squids are stuffed with a mixture of breadcrumbs, olives, and capers, and cooked in tomato sauce seasoned with oregano, salt, and pepper.

Other famous mains are polpiveraciaffogati, made with octopus, tomato sauce and parsley, maialeal latte, and various types of baccalà dishes.

Side Dishes

Similar to the other Italian regions, Campania’s side dishes are inspired by the local products and by the peasant traditions. The sides are usually made of seasonal vegetables and vary widely between summer and winter.

In spring and summer, a popular side dish is asparagi alla pietrelcina, made with asparagus, prosciutto cotto and parmesan cheese.

In late autumn and winter, the artichoke of Paestum is the protagonist of many side dishes, such as carciofi gratinati con caciotta or carcioforipieno. The first recipe includes gratin artichokes and three types of cheeses, usually caciotta, pecorino and parmesan. The second dish is stuffed artichokes with a mixture of breadcrumbs, parmesan, and sometimes sausages.

Dried fruit, such as the hazelnuts of Giffoni, is another popular side dish. Rarely served with the main course and usually consumed after the meal, these hazelnuts grow in a few areas around Salerno and are characterized by a unique taste.

Desserts

When it comes to desserts, Campania certainly is a region that impresses. Campania’s pastry is one of the most famous in the world, inspiring many pastry chefs with simple yet exquisite recipes.

Some of the most famous desserts feature ricotta as the main ingredient. One of them that should definitely be savored is sfogliatella. Baked throughout the region, this delicious dessert has two versions and it is made either with multi-layered pastry or with friable pastry and filled with ricotta, candied fruit, and semolina.

The adepts of each type claim that their favorite is the best; nonetheless, both versions are simply exquisite.

The babà is one of the few desserts, or dishes, as a matter of fact, that wasn’t born on Italian territory. Despite being a foreign acquisition, the dessert found its fame in Campania and today it is considered a traditional dessert in Naples and the province. This type of sponge cake is dipped in rum syrup and sometimes served with whipped cream.

Pastiera is a traditional sweet typically made for Easter but that is found in most pastry shops all year long. The pastry is filled with ricotta and candied fruits, and it has a taste somewhat similar to the sfogliatella.

In the carnival period, another ricotta-based sweet to try is migliaccio. This dessert doesn’t have a definite recipe and each family has its own version. In the provinces of Avellino and Benevento, this dessert is even baked in a salted version made with corn flour.

Street Food

Campania is also the land of exquisite street food.

Cuoppo is probably the most diffused street food in the region, especially in the Naples area.  The terms refer to a paper cone filled with all sorts of fried goodies, that range from fried vegetables to fried seafood.

If you are looking for something more consistent, a panuozzo will probably stop your hunger and impress you with its goodness. This type of sandwich is made of pizza dough that is baked then cut in half and filled with different cold cuts or cooked foods. Among the most preferred versions is panuozzo with parmigiana di melanzane or panuozzo with polpette.

As it is easy to imagine, in the land of pizza this popular food is also a street food. You can choose either from a classic slice of baked pizza or a pizza fritta, made of fried pizza dough and topped with tomato sauce, basil, and other toppings.

In all coastal areas, fried anchovies are another popular street food, as well as a highly appreciated main.

Wines

Thanks to the conformation and position of the territory, Campania is also one of the world leaders in wine production.

Although famous worldwide for its wine, Campania actually has a small oenological elite; nonetheless, these wines are of an absolute excellence.

The three prominent DOCG wines of the region are Greco di Tufo, Taurasi and Fiano di Avellino. These wines are characterized by flavorful bodies and astonishing aromas, pairing well with a wide variety of foods and cheeses of the region.

Apart from the DOCG wines, Campania boasts a wide range of DOC wines mostly produced from indigenous grape varieties such as AglianicoPiedirosso, Falanghina, Biancolella, and Aspirinio.

Amalfi and Sorrento's areas are not famous for their wines, yet are famous for limoncello, an alcoholic beverage produced from the local species of lemons and characterized by a pleasantly sweet flavor.