Lombardia Food (22)
Delicious local Italian gastronomic products from the region of Milan and Lombardia. Where to go, what to look out for and when to find them in season. Start with our latest articles below.
To understand Milan's premier gastronomic dish, you must understand the city and wider territory. The local food traditions have always been closely linked to the River Po valley and wide flat plain which produces abundant meat and dairy products.
Butter always dominated in cooking especially for frying and to also make fillings and desserts. The ever present pot of broth boiling on the stove gave rise to the popualrity of dishes requiring many hours of preparation such as stews and soups. This also created a whole culture of using every part of an animal; tripe, braised veal shanks (ossobucco), liver etc
Veal was consumed here more than anywhere else in Italy. Prices were lower thanks to the large number of farmers producing high quality meat and the supply chain was very short. The midollo or bone marrow is essential an an ingredient in authentic risotto alla milanese.
Another fundamental element is the zone of Lomellina, home to Italy's best rice. Dried pasta and olive oil based dishes only really appeared in the post war boom period, imported from south Italy by migrant workers. Hence, rice as a the key element in local cuisine. Our book of historical recipes from Milan lists 13 specific risotto types.
'Bitto' is a wonderful Alpine cheese used in a lot of the cooking in the high Valtellina mountains. There are dedicated cheese festivals and fairs every October in Morbegno or Sondrio, officially titled 'Mostra del Formaggio Bitto e Fiera Regionale dei Prodotti della Montagna Lombarda' or 'Formaggi in Piazza'. They are showcases for the many small producers of bitto and other traditional cheese in Lombardia.
A good wine should be tasted with a good cheese and Grana Padano is perfect with either white or red. With this in mind, the Consorzio has been promoting the wine with one of the best adverts on Italian television. It features a taste tester's knife flying through grapes, honey and wine glasses before sticking in a huge round grana padano cheese with a firm thud.
Panettone is the classic Christmas cake eaten across Italy during the festive period or holiday. Panettone is, in fact, a typical cake from Milan. Although there are several versions of its origins, this legend of how panettone was born is one cherished by the Milanese.
Cremona is famous for its mustard of course, but perhaps it should be more famous for its sweet Christmas nougat called torrone. The annual Festa del Torrone, or Torrone Festival, takes place in the third week of November and is the ideal pre-festive appointment before Christmas.
The historical center of Cremona is full of stands celebrating the sticky sweet. Not just torrone from Cremona, but other versions from all over Italy. Most torrone is made from honey, vanilla, eggs, almonds and toasted hazelnuts and Cremona is Italy's capital. The event is full of processions, spectacles and many free hapenings, not least for the kids.
There are two main wine growing zones in the province of Brescia. The first occupies the slopes towards Lake Garda while the second is the the famous Franciacorta to the west of the provincial capital on the sweet slopes of the 'colline moreniche' facing Brescia and Lago d’Iseo.
Happy Hour Aperitivo in Milan Featured
Taking an aperitivo in Italy has now become very fashionable in the main Italian cities, not least Milan. An aperitivo (or aperitif in English) is traditionally considered to be a pre-dinner drink, served to stimulate the appetite before a meal.
At most bars throughout Italy, drinks are served with a bit of potato chips and olives to snack on. But, in many bars throughout Milan, the idea of an aperitivo has since grown to include enough food to serve as a replacement dinner.
The province of Cremona is characterized by the flood plain of the River Po and its borders with Emilia Romagna. Interestingly, it's not the famous salami from the zone which catches the eye, it's the mustard. Indeed, Cremona is Italy's mustard capital.
The Colle di San Colombano are located due south of Lodi and the San Colombano d.o.c. wine is the only DOC wine produced in the province of Milano.
The hills are surrounded, rather incongruously, on all sides by the lowlands of the River Po plain.
Yet, the minerals absorbed from millennia of floods have left a terrain ideal for producing good wine.
Although the cereals grown in Lombardia are predominantly rice and corn, on the lower slopes of the mountainous areas of Valtellina in northern Lombardia, Grano Saraceno or Saracen's Grain is considered the most important.
As can be guessed the grain has origins further to the east thanks to the brief presence of Tartars and Turks, in the late medieval period who preferred their own flat bread. It is also known as 'grano nero' thanks to the black coating on the triangular grains.
It grows in areas where other grains and wheats cannot adapt such as South Tirol and Valtellina and the short growing period, from spring to autumn, makes the cereal perfect for cultivating in the mountains.