epicurious.com: wwoofing in italy, new foods

Wine, Cheese, Pasta, Gelato, and More: 10 Classic Italian Foods and Wines (All New to Me)
by Alison Baenen
on 05/27/09 at 10:12 AM

It’s safe to say I didn’t have a bad meal in Italy over the course of my WWOOFing adventure. There are a few dishes that stood out among the rest, most of which I’d never tried before, especially not in the regions in which they originated. I sampled a few clunkers, too, but nothing a glass of wine (or, in the case of the Lambrusco, a totally delicious pizza) couldn’t fix.

Here’s my list.

1. Pici
A Tuscan, and specifically Sienese, invention, pici is a hand-rolled pasta kind of like a super-fat spaghetti (see photo above). It requires a much longer cooking time than most pasta, around 20 minutes, and is usually made without eggs, just Semolina flour and water. I loved it with a cinghiale (wild boar) ragu.

2. Scamorza
On our first night in Milan, friends treated us to homemade risotto with Scamorza cheese and pears. Scamorza is a smoky cheese kind of like Mozzarella, but gooier. I think it might be too intense on its own, but its perfect for cooking. I’m going to try this recipe for Smoky Radicchio Risotto “Michu” when I get nostalgic.

3. Dandelion Greens
I know dandelion greens are on menus all over New York, but I’ve never sampled these slightly bitter leaves. I had them on bruschetta (see photo above) as part of an antipasti before dinner in Cortona; sautéed liberally in olive oil they had a lovely, creamy texture.

4. Tuscan bread
Okay, surely I had bread the last time I was in Tuscany, but I don’t remember it being so boring. Classic Tuscan bread is made without salt, and it really kind of tastes like paper. Anybody with me on this one? It served as a great vehicle for the farm’s homemade olive oil, but on it’s own it was rather sad.

5. Tripe
I’m an adventurous meat eater, but this was my first time trying intestine. As it was part of our epic meal at the Cucina Populare, I only had room for a few bites, but served in a light, garlicky, tomato sauce (as shown above), this tripe was tender and delicious. Definitely an internal organ I would have again.

6. Franciacorta
On the first night of our blackout at San Polino, our host broke out a bottle of this sparkling wine from Lombardy to celebrate. Turns out the French aren’t the only ones who know bubbles.

7. Chianina
Famous Tuscan cow, famous Tuscan beef. Yes, please.

8. Dolce Emma (One of the trademarked Creme Speciali at La Sorbetteria Castiglione in Bologna)
The gelato at La Sorbetteria Castiglione was so insanely good it deserves its own classification system. Dolce Emma (I’m holding a cone, above) is made with fresh ricotta and caramelized figs. Heaven in a cono.

9. Lambrusco
Sparkling red wine. Served chilled. I thought I might like it better if I tried it in its natural habitat. No dice.

10. Latte in Piedi
This sweet dessert is a take on panna cotta; translated it means something like milk standing, and ours was held up in a cute little jam jar (above). We had this at Kuoki, a great no-frills restaurant in Turin with standout food and an uber-charming proprietor who was the one-time personal chef to none other than Giorgio Armani.