Nowhere else in Europe you will find the same variety of regional recipes you can find in Italy. With a bit of curiosity and, sometimes, courage, you’ll discover much more than just pasta!
Italian incredibly high number of recipes derives from its being separated for centuries into many independent “states”, each one with its peculiar traditions, and from the variety of its territory (and what it could offer to be cooked). There’s also another aspect to consider: Italy was a rather poor country. The need to feed an increasing population with the available resources, united to the unbeatable Italian creativity, has given birth to some real weird, hence delicious, dishes.
In this post I’m presenting a selection of my favorite “weird Italian dishes you are going to love”. Buon appetito!
Pajata: this is a classic dish of the Roman Cuisine, which can be found in some traditional trattorias in Rome . Pajata is the term for the intestines of an “un-weaned” calf, i.e., only fed on its mother’s milk. The intestines are cleaned and skinned, but the chyme is left inside. When cooked, the combination of heat and the enzyme rennet in the intestines coagulates the chyme and creates a delicious thick, creamy, cheese-like sauce. The traditional roman dish sees pajata stewed in a typical tomato sauce and served with rigatoni.
Bottarga: popularly known as poor man’s caviar, Bottarga is the classic Sicilian and Sardinian recipe made from the roe pouch of tuna, grey mullet, or swordfish. To make this dish, the roe pouch is dried in sea salt and coated in beeswax until it becomes hard. The Bottarga is typically grated over snacks and main courses like pastas and anti-pasti. Ask for Spaghetti alla Bottarga, and enjoy.
Lampredotto: it’s a very famous dish from Florence , that you may find in restaurants or as street food (“panino col lampredotto”). Lampredotto is the fourth stomach of a cow, boiled in water with tomatoes, onion, celery and parsley. A typical Florentine peasant dish, the most popular way to serve it is in a bread roll, with parsley sauce and optional chili oil. ‘Snap up’ a hot cow stomach sandwich at one of the many street and market stalls in Florence that serve it. The most famous one is just in front of the famous “porcellino” statue.
Coda alla vaccinara: this dish that would now be considered a strange food, dates from back when people used to use every part of the beast after killing it. The butchers from Rome invented this recipe with what were considered to be the scraps of butchering: the cheeks and the tail of the cow. It is a stew with vegetables, lard and tomatoes and other ingredients in as many variations as many are the kitchens in Rome. The meat is softened by the stewing and brings a wonderful flavor to the stew.
Cibreo: again butchering scraps dish from Florence, Cibreo is made of chicken hearts and livers, cooked with roosters’ testicles, cocks’ combs and wattles (the floppy red bits on a rooster’s head). Some recipes also call for the addition of specifically ’unlaid’ eggs, which have to be removed from the interior of freshly slaughtered hens. One of the most reputed, high end restaurants in Florence it’s called Il Cibreo.
Lardo di Colonnata: Lardo, a delightful delicately flavored dish from the Colonnata town in Italy is definitely a nightmare for any serious dieter. The Lardo di Colonnata is nothing but pure pork fat cured with salt, pepper, and rosemary, aged in typycal marble tanks. It is typically served sliced over warm bread, sometimes with an addition of honey
Lingua bollita: beef or veal boiled tongue plays an important part in the classic North Italian bollito misto, or boiled dinner, but can also de a dish on its own, served with Salsa Verde (olive oil, percil and capers, mixt together). Preparation is straightforward: fresh tongue is generally soaked, boiled, and skinned, at which point it is ready to be served.
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