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 the 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 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 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.
If you ask anyone to name an Italian cheese, gorgonzola might come a solid third after parmigiano reggiano and mozzarella. The cheese's origins are arguably Piemontese. Even today the zone of production includes such areas as Novara, Vercelli and Cuneo. All are entitled to label their produce with the official mark of quality. Legend states that in the 12th century a herdsman was travelling to summer pastures in Valsassina when he left a version of gorgonzola in the town. The cheese was appropriated by the local population and the rest, as they say, is history.
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.
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.
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.
The cuisine of the Province of Sondrio and the surrounding Valtellina mountains is designed to keep the inhabitants warm in the cooler months.
The pastas are cooked with butter not olive oil and are subsequently heavy and thick such as the classic 'pizzocheri'.
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.