Calabria Food Guide: Typical Foods and 10 Traditional Dishes

Calabria Food Guide: Typical Foods and 10 Traditional Dishes

Due to the many invasions and plunders that the region of Calabria has been subjected to in the past, the cuisine of Calabria is mostly what you would consider Italian cuisine; nevertheless, it also exhibits distinct signs of French, Spanish, and Arabic influences. The beauty of Calabrian food actually does lay in its rich history, which is similar in some respects to the cuisine of Sicily, which is located just to the south of this province.

When you arrive in this magnificent area of beaches and mountains, you are greeted with the laid-back concept of “repose,” which translates to “rest.” The fact that the cuisine served here is everything but sluggish, though, is perhaps the one thing you can bet on not being an accurate reflection of this notion.

No matter what your tastes are, you’re sure to have a nice time with Calabrian cuisine since it’s loaded with fresh meats, flavorful veggies, and the greatest native spices. Lamb, hog, eggplant, and seafood are just a few examples. If you are unsure of how to get started, have a look at our food guide for an overview of all that you need to know in order to get started.

The consumption of food in Calabria is a cause for jubilation, so let’s plunge right in!

ABOUT CALABRIA

Before you cross the Messina Strait and arrive on the island of Sicily, you will find yourself in Calabria, which is the most southern region of the Italian mainland. It is a sprawling region that is located between the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas and makes up part of the “toe” of Italy’s “boot” shape.

The area is just as lively and colourful as any Italian coastal city, from Portofino to the Amalfi Coast, and it has its fair share of seashore cliffs, lush woods, bustling towns, and laid-back villages.

Calabria is a region in Italy that is strangely considered to be one of the poorest areas in the country. As a result, towns in this region are not generally considered to be among the most renowned culinary centres in Italy. Because there is little infrastructure and frequent earthquakes, this stunning location has earned the undeserved reputation of not being secure enough or attractive enough for tourists to come. In spite of this, you should not allow this to deter you from taking advantage of Calabria’s warm welcome and the amazing joys it has to offer.

In terms of gross domestic product, Calabria is among the top 15 most productive regions in the nation. To get the most out of your time in Catanzaro, rather than spending it in one of the city’s busier urban centres like Catanzaro, consider spending some time in one of the region’s charming seaside hamlets or making your way inland through olive and citrus groves while inhaling the rich aromas that fill the air.

Calabria is the embodiment of what the Italians refer to as “Cucina Povera,” which means “poor kitchen,” and it is a gastronomic wonderland for foodies. Here, simple ingredients are transformed into excellent dishes.

Keep reading to find out all there is to know about the most well-known and authentic Calabrian meals, as well as the foods that are considered to be the region’s staples.

STAPLE FOODS OF CALABRIA

Bread

Pitta bread

Bread is a great way to start off any Italian cuisine guide, just as it is the traditional way to begin a meal. One of the types of bread that are typical to Calabria is called pita bread, which has Middle Eastern influences. The pita, which is simply a yeast-leavened flatbread that is crispy on the exterior and fluffy on the inside, has played an important role in the cuisine of Calabrians for many years.

You’ll often find a pitta bread or two loaded with meat, herbs, tomatoes, cheese, and very frequently Calabria’s traditional peppers, whether it’s at an auspicious occasion or at a quiet cafe on the streets of Calabria.

Sausage pitas made with Toulouse sausages from The Gourmet Sausage Maker, Bexley, Kent

Biscotto di Grano

This bread, which is similar to a biscuit, may be found more often in the urban areas of Reggio Calabria. Because the bread has a peculiarly salty flavour, it is recommended that it be consumed with red, ripe tomatoes after being soaked in either water or oil to make it easier to chew.

Meat

Guanciale

Guanciale is a kind of cured hog meat that is traditionally eaten in Calabria. It is created by curing flesh from pork cheeks, neck, and pepper. This imparts a complex flavour to the meat that stimulates your taste buds and makes you want more of it.

Locals also refer to it as buccalaru, and it is a staple ingredient in a variety of popular pasta dishes, including the traditional carbonara.

‘Nduja Sausage

The traditional Calabrian nduja is a spicy and buttery sausage that is most often enjoyed in the form of a paste or spread. It is an absolute need for every traveller visiting the region of Calabria.

It is often served on a loaf of bread with a sprinkle of olive oil and is prepared by combining various cuts of pork with chilli peppers in a blender. It’s a pairing made in heaven for those of you who are passionate about spicy cuisine.

Cheese In Calabria

Provola

Calabrian provola, a kind of cheese produced in Calabria, is widely regarded as having one of the most exquisite aromas and tastes of any cheese produced anywhere in the world. You may have it on its own as an appetiser, or you can use it as an element in a meal. Either way, it is delicious.

This cheese is easily recognised due to its distinctive form and yellow velvet shell that encases a solid core. It is often served smoked or grilled, just like other stretched-curd cheeses, exactly like other stretched-curd cheeses.

Caciocavallo

Caciocavallo is another famous stretched-curd Italian cheese that has its roots in the southern region of the country. This cheese is obtained from the Sila plateau, which is an environmentally pristine area. As the cheese ages, its flavour transitions from salty to spicier, and it pairs well with wines. The addition of the spice causes the cheese to take on a grainy appearance, which makes it an excellent candidate for grating.

Butirro

Have you ever encountered cheese that smelled like summertime? Bairro is a kneaded-curd cheese that is well-known for the floral and fruity aromas that it exudes.

This sweet cheese, which has a stringy texture, may be served on its own as an appetiser during meals or as an ingredient in recipes. It tastes delicious either way. The burro has a layer of solid cheese on the surface, but the inside is made of pure butter, which is full of taste and perfume.

Pasta

Lagane

Lagane, which is sometimes referred to be the world’s oldest kind of pasta, is a component of the traditional staple food of the area, which is known as lagune e Ricciardi (more on this below!).

Lagane is a kind of pasta that is broader and thicker than tagliatelle. It is often presented as wide ribbons of velvet and is served with fresh soups and other types of classic pasta meals.

Fileja

A kind of pasta known as file, which has the appearance of elongated screws, is a common shape that may be seen most often in southern Italy, especially in the region of Calabria. In the traditional preparation of the well-known Italian pasta dish known as Fileja ‘Nduja, it is normally served with a fiery sauce that is created with the robust nduja sausage.

A sheet of dough is formed into a hollow string by winding it around a ferretto, a method that has been used to make pasta in Calabria for years. This technique has been handed down from generation to generation.

Unique Produce In Calabria

Peperoncino

Peperoncino is a horn-shaped Calabrian red pepper that is considered to be the most valuable player in the game of Calabrian Italian cuisine. The natives of the area have a strong and consistent preference for spice. To the point that it is often and informally referred to as a symbol of the area due to its prevalence there.

Remind yourself to utilise this component in moderation regardless of whether you want to include it in meat, fish, a vegan salad, or use it as a condiment alongside a meal. This nasty guy has the potential to seriously burn your taste buds!

Tropea Red Onions

These crimson onions, which originate from the cliffs of Tropea, are an essential component of the one-of-a-kind cuisine that can be found in Calabria. Because of their distinctively sweet flavour, they may be consumed raw with just a touch of olive oil, or they can be utilised as an ingredient in any and all traditional dishes, including pizzas, pasta, and the like.

On the other hand, many people who live there will tell you that the flavour of this product may be appreciated to its fullest when it is prepared as marmalade and enjoyed with the cheeses of your choice.

Red onions. Free public domain CC0 image

Bergamot

The Bergamot citrus fruit, which takes great pride in being cultivated in groves all throughout the area, is considered to be the region’s hallmark citrus fruit. Bergamot is the signature taste of Earl Grey tea, which is sure to be familiar to anybody who enjoys drinking tea. Is Earl Grey your favourite or least favourite tea?

The bergamot fruit, which is popular for the essential oil that can be derived from it, is used in its whole by the locals in a broad range of cuisines, from the pulp to the zest. Additionally, it is often used in aromatherapy, making it a popular component of high-end spa treatments. This aromatic fruit may be used in a wide variety of applications, from desserts and alcoholic beverages to seasoning and granitas.

Dulce: Sweets And Desserts

Torrone

A nougat sweet in the truest sense, the torrone is a time-honoured treat that is considered a jewel in its own right. Sweet nougat, crunchy toasted nuts, intense vanilla, a dash of spices (sometimes with an orange zing), and a generous amount of honey come together to form this delicious Italian sweet. The humble creation is made using the most basic ingredients that can be found locally to pack a powerful punch of flavour and texture.

Mostaccioli

Mostaccioli is a kind of Italian gingerbread that is traditionally made in private homes using the most unusual ingredients possible, such as honey made from figs, wine, and spices sourced from the area.

These pieces of edible artwork are baked until they achieve a firm consistency and are available in every conceivable form and size, including humans, animals, and trees. This allows them to have a lengthy shelf life while yet retaining their earthy, rustic taste while giving them a longer shelf life.

10 TYPICAL DISHES OF CALABRIA

Zuppa Di Asparagi

Calabria is home to a traditional version of the Italian soup known as Zuppa di asparagi. When in Calabria, it’s one of the meals you just have to have since it’s so velvety and delicious.

In addition to garlic and pecorino cheese, the taste of the asparagus, which serves as the dish’s main attraction, shines through. Fresh parsley, eggs, and necessary spices are combined, and then the beef stock is added to give the dish that extra something. Even though the broth is served creamy and fresh, and even though it is occasionally accompanied by croutons, we recommend that you enjoy the soup by pouring it over a couple of pieces of your favourite crispy bread.

The recipe, in its many iterations, is like a prized artefact that is handed down from generation to generation in several families. This nutritious soup is the sort that is refined over the course of years of cooking and the addition of fresh ingredients. It takes after each hand that produces it.

Melanzene Ripiene

For many generations, this meal that is both traditional and unassuming has maintained its position in the Calabrian culinary canon. The recipe is prepared using eggplant, which is a regional staple that plays an important role in many other foods that are traditionally served in Calabria today.

Stuffing eggplants with stale bread and pecorino cheese are the most common method of preparation for this meal. However, the preparation of the dish might vary somewhat depending on the region. Additionally, ground beef and fish are sometimes included in certain areas. After being prepared in one of three ways—grilling, frying, or baking—the eggplants are finally dipped into mouthwatering sauces.

Lagane E Cicciari

This pasta dish, which is a shining example of Cucina Povera, blends lagane with a variety of Italian spices as well as the meal’s star ingredient, chickpeas. The magic that this ingredient is able to perform inside the meal is nothing short of amazing, despite the fact that it may not seem very lavish or unique at first.

To get a buttery consistency in the pasta, the cooked chickpeas and the sauce that was made from them are combined and then mixed with the pasta. On top of it, traditional Italian olive oil, garlic, rosemary, white wine, and a straightforward seasoning of salt and ground pepper are added to the mixture. This brings the dish to a satisfying conclusion.

Pesce Spada Alla Ghiotta

Since the second century, fishing for swordfish has played an important role in the history of Calabria. Since that time, this particular fish has earned the reputation of being the star of the show when it comes to the region’s seafood, and this “greedy man’s meal” gives the fish every bit of honour.

Fish steaks are the main component of this recipe. They are braised in olive oil and flavoured with anchovies and red onions from Tropea. When you are in Reggio Calabria, take a stroll down the shore and stop at one of the many restaurants along the way to have a succulent steak while taking in the fresh air and warm sun along the coast.

Fileja ‘Nduja

On your tour through the cuisines of Italy, don’t forget to give this delectable combo a go since it encapsulates all that is Calabrian. In this outstanding meal of pasta, the meticulously created form of the file blends nicely with the wonderfully prepared sauces and the nduja.

In order to prepare this meal, the nduja is first mixed into the tomato puree, and then the fileja is stirred in at the end. This flavorful pasta, which is garnished with parsley and cheese, is driven by the aromas and tastes of garlic, rosemary, and peppers from the nduja.

If you want to sample the meal, you should go to Hotel Club Esse Sunbeach when you are in Catanzaro. And don’t forget to serve it with your go-to burgundy or other dark wine!

Cuddruriaddri

Have you ever been curious about how Christmas smells in Calabria? The month of December brings with it the aroma of Cuddruriaddri, a kind of doughnut that is cooked till it is golden and crunchy.

If you can successfully pronounce this 5-syllable term with a lot of rolling R’s, you’ll get a gold star from us. It sounds somewhat like “coo-drop-ree-ah-dree” if you’re curious!

As is the case with the vast majority of other types of food, the cuddruriaddri may be found in many different regional iterations, some of which include the addition of potato dough and meats.

Even at the simplest of Cosenza’s food stalls, you may have a taste of these delicacies, which are served piping hot and drizzled with sugar in accordance with local custom. Enjoy the crunchiness of these freshly baked sugar pleasures while you lose yourself in the experience, or take them with you and enjoy them with your favourite wine.

Pasta E Alici

Pasta e alici is a meal that is produced with just a few simple ingredients and has anchovies as the main flavour. It is certain to satiate your rumbling stomach while also making an impact on your tastes.

Along with the anchovies, occasionally other ingredients such as earthy nuts and citrus that is grown locally are added. You can always depend on the silky texture of the pasta to be contrasted by a coating of toasted breadcrumbs, no matter what variation you try. This is something you can always bank on.

You may have a sample of this scrumptious and crispy delicacy at L’ormeggio at the Monasterace marina, which is a fantastic place to stop.

Pizza Calabrese

The crust is the primary characteristic that sets Calabrian pizza unique from the pizzas of its bordering regions. Calabrian pizzas, on the other hand, have a very thin and crunchy crust, in contrast to the typical pizza foundation that is chewy and airy.

Because the dough is rolled out flat with pins and then cooked at a lower temperature for a longer period of time, the base of the pizza has a crumbly texture. On the other hand, the toppings include a wide variety of mouthwatering ingredients. Who in their right mind could say “no” to salami, black olives, red pepper, or even a spread of nduja on top of mozzarella cheese?

Rigatoni Alla Silana

Rigatoni Alla Silana is a dish that has its roots in the hilly Sila plateau and is considered a traditional dish of comfort food for the people of Calabria, particularly during the colder months of the year.

Rigatoni is prepared using ingredients of the greatest possible quality, including tomatoes, porcini mushrooms, red peppers, and both caciocavallo and pecorino cheeses. It is then cooked to an al dente consistency. For the meat component, soppressata and sausages are great options for putting this culinary miracle together.

Tartufo Di Pizzo

Attention all chocolate addicts: this one is for you! This traditional Italian delicacy is made out of a chocolate shell that is filled with two distinct flavours of gelato and encases a molten chocolate centre. When you cut it open, the chocolate centre oozes out onto your dish. To counteract the sweetness, the shells are dipped in cocoa powder before being rolled in it.

If you want to transport your taste buds to chocolate heaven with this ice cream bombe, the most well-known place to go in Pizzo for this experience is Bar Gelateria Ercole.


It is well worth the trip to experience the cuisine of Calabria, Italy. You will discover that the Calabrian way of life is reflected in each of the region’s culinary masterpieces, from the most simple of dishes to those that have been painstakingly put together.

During your travels through this area of uncomplicated delights, be sure to consult our cuisine guide for Calabria, Italy. It is certain to assist you in getting the most out of your stay in terms of the meals!

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