How to Visit Italy and Enjoy All Your Heart Desires

Italy. Just saying the word is enough to elicit a sigh of wanderlust. Just thinking about the handmade pasta is tempting enough to book one-way tickets, eat giant hunks of Parmesan, and never come back. Italy is made up of 144 beautiful cities, which leaves plenty of room for exploring the culture and flavors that we’re constantly craving (hello, garlic, basil, tomatoes, wine, olive oil…okay we’ll stop). You’ll find these ingredients across the board, whether at dinner, or in shops and markets throughout Italy—the latter are definite must-visits for a well-rounded, delicious taste of everything the country has to offer.

In honor of the current Plated menu—which features lots of Italia faves—we’re taking a giant, cheesy bite of its culinary scene. Hitting all the can’t-miss dishes, we’ve also got the lowdown on some very Italian cooking techniques, and a tip or two on how to recreate these flavors at home. Andiamo.

Photo on Right Courtesy of William Hereford for Saveur

What we’re eating

When you think of Italian food, you probably go straight to heaping bowls of pasta, whether it’s gnocchi, spaghetti, or linguini. Then, there’s obviously pizza, which you can order by slice and weight. While those are certainly classic (and perfect), Italy is known for a few other things as well…

Osso Buco
Originally from Milan, Osso Buco is a decadent dish of braised veal shanks in a rich sauce of wine and tomatoes. It’s typically served alongside risotto alla Milanese, which is (understandably) another hometown hero.

Pizza Margherita
This is the Italian pizza. The one we’re always thinking about, especially when there’s doughy crust involved. Think mozzarella, tomato, basil, and EVOO. You can’t go wrong anywhere you have it, but if find yourself in Naples, definitely check out L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. If it looks familiar, it was featured in Eat, Pray, Love.

Ravioli are the dumpling darlings of Italy: two thin layers of pasta with filled with meat or cheese or both. While typically square, ravioli are sometimes flat circles with rounded rings. If you’re hoping to buy a little fresh pasta of your own while traveling, head to Passioni di Pasta all’Uovo in Rome for excellent spaghetti, and maybe a light lunch, too.

Oh, how we love a hearty big bowl of carbonara. And what better place to eat than in its hometown: Rome. Think spaghetti, eggs, hard cheese, pancetta, and black pepper. As for where to find the best bowl in Rome, it’s difficult to choose, but you can try out Roscioli, which is also conveniently also a deli (sandwiches for later, yes please). While in Rome, be sure to stop by Mordi e Vai for all the Roman classics.

This veggie-based stew is typically made with leftovers, and is widely enjoyed throughout Tuscany. Ribollita means “reboiled” in Italian, which is exactly what makes it so magical. With the heartiness of chili (all thanks to bread as a thickener), Ribollita is usually a winter dish. If you happen to be in Florence, check out Vini e Vecchi Sapori—it’s a small spot, but worth the wait if there is one. Need more recommendations?  Saveur to the rescue with this list of quick (delicious) hits.

Love it or hate it, we’ve gotta talk tiramisu. This dessert consists of layers of sponge cake soaked in coffee and brandy, topped off with creamy mascarpone and cocoa. If you’re visiting Italy, order it for dessert at least once.

Italy’s ice cream (gelato) is the answer to any question 100% of the time. It’s 11am? Yes. We’re lost? Gelato. The museum is closed? Give me a spoon. While it has lower fat content than American ice cream, gelato is definitely sugar-forward. As for our favorite spots, Vivoli (Florence) and Gelateria del Gracchi (Rome) are good bets.

Cooking techniques

Whether you’re cooking, ordering in, or eating out, learn these terms so you know what you’re getting into before you start eating.

al Forno
Simply put: cooked in the oven. Think pizza or lasagna.

alla Bolognese
This cooking style is home to Bologna (northern Italy). When something is cooked alla Bolognese, it’s code for tomato-based meat sauce.

alla Caprese
Hello, olive oil, tomato, basil, and fresh mozz.

alla Genovese
When a meal is prepared alla Genovese, it’s made with olive oil, garlic, and basil. The first thing that comes to mind? Pesto. Make this one at home.

alla Milanese
You’ll recognize this on menus if the item you’re eyeing is coated with a mixture of breadcrumbs and Parmesan.

al Mattone
Roughly translated, this means “under a brick,” and you’ll most often see it in reference to chicken, and it yields incredibly juicy, crispy results.

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Heimerman for Saveur

Take it home

Whether you’re planning a trip to Italy, have visited before (and want to recreate the magic), or are happily in staycation mode, you won’t miss a beat. We’re happy to share that you can experience the flavors of Italy with Plated. So, go ahead and try these recipes in next weeks’ box.

Pesto Farfalle
With each bite, you’ll feel like you’re sitting in a trattoria, as the creamy sauce made of white wine, shallot, Parm, and pesto tastes like it comes straight from the motherland.

Creamy Corn Risotto
This risotto dish is extra-creamy and colorful, all thanks corn and pea shoots. It’s fresh, craveable, and back on the menu.

Portobello Caprese
Did you know that caprese salad originally came from Capri? We’ve updated the popular salad to a panini, which happens to be vegetarian-friendly.

Crunchy Chicken Milanese
Think thin, breaded chicken cutlets with homemade creamy honey mustard. You won’t regret cooking it.

Love experimenting in the kitchen? Try Plated!

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