When you think of Italy, what are some of the flavors that come to mind? Tomato sauce? Wine grapes? Olive oil? The Italian food culture is so far embedded into the roots of its history it is often a source of pride among its people. Family recipes passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter held close to the heart of the community. Here you will find the five flavors of Italy as seen by me a San Franciscan living in Tuscany.
Have you ever had true Italian gelato? The sweetness of Italian gelato is a foundational flavor that stretches as far back as the late 1600’s when Francesco Procopio made the very first ice cream machine in Sicily. Gelato is based with milk, cream, sugar and a choice of pureed flavors of fruit, nuts, chocolate and more.
This particular type of ice cream is lower in fat having more milk, less cream and is higher in sugar. This gives a richness in flavor than other types of gelato doesn’t have.
Gelato tends to be kept at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream which gives it a softer scoop to every bite. There is nothing like grabbing a scoop and heading to the nearest piazza to sit and people watch as you enjoy your sweet treat.
I went back and forth with many of my closest Italian friends about this particular flavor and 7 out of 10 of them said lemons are the sour flavor of Italy. And the more I look around the more I realize how right they are.
Granita (shaved ice doused in lemonade), Limoncello (a candy-like liqueur), Delizia (a fluffy cake filled and topped with whipped lemon cream), Spremuta di Limone (fresh-squeezed lemonade), and lemon flavored ice cream also known as gelato. This sour flavor, although often made sweet, is this flavor of an Italian summer.
Southern Italy is well known for its abundance in lemons and citrons. Used in many of their summer dishes and beverages. The Amalfi coast is where a majority of Italy’ lemons are grown and where the limoncello is proudly produced.
On my first evening out in Italy, I noticed most people had ordered a red colored drink with a slice of orange poured into a red wine glass. I was curious about it because I didn’t recognize it right away.
Known as a Campari spritzer by most Americans it ironically is called an Americano here in Italy. One part Campari one part Sweet Vermouth three parts soda water, garnished with a lemon or orange twist.
This beverage is a typical drink to have before dinner. Generally, on the weekends or holidays for a pre-dinner gathering, also known as an aperitif, when people come together to drink cocktails or wine before sitting down at a dinner table to enjoy the food.
The precise ingredients to Campari is a mystery however, we know it is an alcoholic liqueur consisting of infused herbs and fruit. It is most easily identified by its bright red color. You can find this liquor in soda water or variations of cocktails.
Fun fact: It was invented in 1860 by Gaspare Campari in Novara, Italy it was originally dyed red with crushed cochineal insects, until 2006 when they switch to red dye.
Salumi – Umbrella term for Cured Meats in Italian.
The cured meats of Italy is one of my favorite appetizers to enjoy before dinner entrees. With a variety of meats sliced very thin and often accompanied by a selection of cheeses and jams, this lovely platter is as beautiful as it is delicious.
Rich in smell and flavor salumi (different from Salami) makes the mouth water with its aromatic fatty yumminess. You may be surprised how many variations of Salumi there are but if you are a foodie who loves meat I suggest you try as many different types of cured meats on your trip to Italy. Each with such distinguished flavors and textures it will be hard to find which is your favorite.
This was another difficult flavor to decide on, simply because most Italians are not very fond of spicy foods. Pepperoncini (pronounced pepper-oh-n-chee-nee) is the spicy flavor of Italy.
In Italy, you can find more spicy dishes in the south but central and northern Italians tend to have little to no spice in their dishes. In southern Italy, they have a spreadable pork called “‘Nduja”, very spicy and often spread across a piece of bread. There is also “pasta arrabbiata” which translates to “angry pasta.”
In late summer, peperoncini are hung on wires and left to dry out in the hot sunlight, allowing their use in cooking until the next harvest. They are eaten whole, fried until crisp, crushed, powdered or as a paste. On the scale of spice and depending on the individual’s comfort with spice pepperoncini’s are not a very spicy pepper, and actually, carry a sweetness.
What do you think of this list? Would you change the flavors? Comment below tell me what you would change.
Are you a coffee lover? Click here to learn all you can about ordering coffee in Italy.