Italian food is the most popular food on the planet. The “Mediterranean Diet” has conquered the hearts of people all over the globe. Scientists have declared it the healthiest way to eat and ensure that our organism receives the right balance of all the nutrients it needs. The secret of its success is in the prime material.
If you want to differentiate your business and your menu from the rest and compete with the best, you’ve got to know the products which made Italian cuisine so famous in the World. The list of all Italian products is enormously long, and many products’ origin have become legends. Single regions offer such a fabulous range of quality products that you could write a book about it. Italian products are truly that important.
However, we will start with the most popular. The top 50 of an infinite list!
These are the 50 most important product used every day in all top Italian restaurants:
Parmigiano Reggiano is the World’s most famous cheese. Available as Mezzano, aged for 12-15 months or Parmigiano Reggiano, aged for 12-24 months. This last one is the most used and is an essential ingredient of many Italian dishes. The forms which age more than 18 months are approved and tested once more and are the “extra” quality and, of course, the most expensive. Parmigiano Reggiano is like many other products, absolutely territory related to a small area around Parma. But other brands are well known, such as Grana Padano produced not too far away, but still in the north of the peninsula.
Prosciutto di Parma e San Daniele
If you have been to Italy and visited any supermarket, perhaps you have seen homemakers buying ham. “Crudo” is the way they order it.
🙂 Could I get 100gr of “Crudo” please?
:–/ Which one do you prefer, Parma or San Daniele?
And here we enter into a real religious aspect of people’s taste!
Who does not know Prosciutto di Parma? It is one of the clearest examples of what microclimate can make. The wind coming from the Alps and running through the Po-valley, together with salting the meat’s secular experience, makes it possible to enjoy this exquisite product crafted in the Parma region since Roman times.
San Daniele, which is concurrent, is crafted in Friuli in San Daniele and is sweeter and darker than the Parma one. Probably due to the fresh alpine air coming from the eastern Alps.
You will have to taste it and decide which one is your favorite.
Pasta di Gragnano
Pasta in Italy’s kitchen is a matter of religion.
If we talk about durum wheat pasta, Gragnano is the place. Crafting this type of pasta is all but easy. The end product is very different from brand to brand. Indeed every Italian family has its favorite and goes with it for the whole life.
The one which can guarantee to stay “al dente” for the longest time is the winner. But like many things, it’s about faith. Technical details make the difference. Quite simply, the longer the drying, the better the end product. To obtain the right product, a minimum of 9 hours is required. But some producers take it to the top and reach 36 hours!
The second important part is how the pasta is drawn. Teflon drawing makes the pasta smoother, and therefore, the result is a pasta that does not welcome the sauce well. Bronze drawn pasta is characterized by an evident roughness and is distinguished by its opaque and rough surface. Easy!
So do not fall into the trap of Penne “liscie o rigate” but check the drawing, the drying time, and the quality of the wheat when deciding which the best type of pasta is.
Types of pasta made in Gragnano are:
Pasta Corta like Penne, Fusilli, Sedani, Paccheri and Rigatoni
Pasta Lunga like Spaghetti, Vermicelli, Bucatini and Linguine
Pasta laminata like Farfalle
Pasta al forno like Cannelloni, Lumaconi, Conchiglioni and Fettuccine
Incredible but true. Even Caviar has since time become part of the Italian excellence in food products. We do not talk about fish products in this article. Still, we wanted to list Caviar to remember that some of the World’s most famous caviar producers are based in northern Italy. More than twenty producers and one of them is the most significant worldwide.
Rice is another of Italy’s excellences. All the area around Vercelli in the north-west has been dedicated over the last centuries to rice production. But as well in other regions more in the west of Italy. The most known types are Arborio, Carnaroli, and Vialone Nano. Together with Roma-Baldo, Ribe, and S.Andrea, these are the traditional Italian varieties. Every chef will have its favorite to make risotto, and you should try them all to find out which one is yours!
Pane di Altamura
What to say about a bread that is already mentioned by the latin poet Orazio in the year 37 b.C., and which has been certificated as D.O.P. food product (like Parmigiano Reggiano).
Altamura is undoubtedly a visit worth, not only to taste this fragrant bread but also because of Matera’s proximity, the capital of culture 2019. You should try Pane di Altamura just with a bit of olive oil (of course, extravergine) and salt. But as well with fresh tomato puree. Anyway, you will fall in love with it. I promise!
T.I.P.: buy your Pane di Altamura online. Delivery worldwide!
Lardo di Colonnata
If you’ve never seen it before, by the first time, you could think of marble. Yes, it is true. The color and nuances are incredibly similar. And for this reason, it is incredible that Lardo di Colonnata is truly crafted a few miles away from the marble quarries of Massa Carrara. Colonnata, a small village in this corner of Tuscany, is famous in the World for this lardo. The best way to try it is very thinly sliced over warm slices of toasted bread.
This simply salt-cured pork jowl is an unsubstitutable ingredient of the Italian cuisine. Just think of Amatriciana or Carbonara. Both without this ingredient would not be the same. And don’t think you can use Bacon instead. It’s definitely a different taste.
The unique shape is what characterizes this variety of pasta. The orecchiette was invented in Puglia and is still handcrafted by housewives. At the same time, they sit together in their short yards and the middle of Bari’s small alleys. The most famous way to serve them is with tomato sauce and broccoli.
Within the Truffle family, Tartufo d’Alba is undoubtedly the most researched. Its unique flavor gives especially risotto and pasta dishes a taste which is the maximum of the experience.
Olio di Oliva Extravergine
Olives have been cultivated on the peninsula since the times of Magna Grecia. The grandpa of all olive trees in Italy is situated in Sardegna. His name is S’Ozzastru, and he is about 4000 years old. Of course, every region claims the title for producing the best olive oil. But to make an excellent Olio di Oliva Extravergine, the olive fruits must be pressed in the cold from the first pressing to the last one.
Italian Olio Extravergine di Oliva is produced with a wide variety of olive sorts. Each region produces its own “green gold.” And each one has great nutritional properties.
Zafferano is produced in Italy in three different regions. Sardegna, Toscana, and Abruzzo. This spice is derived from a flower commonly known as the “saffron crocus” and mostly known for the rich aroma. It is used to affinity many Italian dishes such as “risotto “a la Milanese,” but also pasta dishes and desserts.
Caprese, Pizza Margherita, Mozzarella in Carrozza, and many more dishes would not exist without this cheese, that originally came from the south Italian region Campania. Nowadays, it is produced all over the peninsula.
Mozzarella di Bufala
Mozzarella di Bufala is made from the milk of Italian mediterranean water buffalo and is a product whose production is limited to the regions of Campania, Molise, Lazio, and Puglia.
It is also the base to produce the burrata, which is a Mozzarella di Bufala filled with cream of the same milk.
Almonds, sugar, and eggwithe is all you need to prepare these delicious almond-flavored biscotti. Every region in Italy has its recipe. Since middle age, they are part of many recipes and served to accompany an espresso or cappuccino.
The original one is called Provolone del Monaco and has been produced since the 1700s in the area around Naples and Vico Equense. It is a semi-hard cheese made from raw cow’s milk and has a sweet and buttery flavor and is used as one of the basic ingredients of Neapolitan cuisine.
This type of lemon became famous probably thanks to the liquor Limoncello, which is a must to have on stock for any Italian restaurant around the globe. Limoni di Sorrento is a type of lemon which is abundant in juice, and they have a balanced sugar content with high acidity levels. Thanks to the microclimate in the Sorrento region and the particularity of the plants themselves, these lemons are available all year round and are used for many regional recipes.
Other Italian lemon qualities are: Limone Femminello del Gargano ( Puglia), Limone di Rocca Imperiale (Calabria), Limone Interdonato di Messina ( Sicilia), Limone di Siracusa (Sicilia), Limone Costa d´Amalfi (Campania).
Another Citrus type that comes from the very past greek age is the Cedro (citrus medica). It is one of the three original varieties of citrus fruits from which all the other species have been produced over the centuries. It comes originally from the middle east and is in Italy cultivated mainly in Calabria at the Riviera dei Cedri. It is a large citrus fruit with a thick rind.
Arancia Rossa di Sicilia
Blood Oranges from Sicily, which are available in the three varieties Sanguinello, Tarroco, and Moro, result from a citrus fruit that had to adapt their growth in a volcano area where temperature variations during the day can be very significant. The bloody red color is due to the presence of anthocyanin. Usually common only to flowers and fruit
Speck Alto Adige
From the south alpine tradition of Sued Tirol comes this ham, which thanks to smoking with low resin woods and the air of this alpine region gives a real taste. Try it as it is, with bread and wine but also as a base for elaborate recipes.
It is no coincidence that Mortadella’s name brings us back to the city where this unique recipe was born. It offers a real explosion of flavors in the mouth. Its origins are lost in the Etruscan past of the homonymous city of Bologna. It is made with the meat of native pigs and flavored with traditional and secret ingredients, to be eaten in a relatively coarse cut at the cartel or finely sliced like a ham.
The Capocollo is a sausage that is produced throughout Tuscany but not only. Also, the Calabrian version is very appreciated. It is a product that comes from the processing of pork meat on the neck and shoulder. Marinated for a short period of about 15 minutes, it is then first massaged with spices and then dried for even two winter months to ensure a homogeneous drying of the meat.
Pecorino cheese comes from the processing of sheep’s milk. It is a cheese present mainly in the central-southern regions.
The most famous is the Sardinian and Roman. Still, the Tuscan and all the others offer a unique taste experience too.
Gorgonzola is a blue cheese produced in Italy from whole cow’s milk and available at two different ages. The sweet one matured for about 50 days, and the spicy one developed for 80 or more days. The mold present in Gorgonzola is entirely free of bacterial contamination and therefore edible.
Stracchino is a fresh cheese of short maturation and generally produced with whole cow’s milk. It is mainly made in northern Italy regions and consumed simply with a drop of extra virgin olive oil and bread.
This cheese with a high fat content (60-70%) is the base for very rich desserts, such as Tiramisu.
Aceto Balsamico di Modena
Among the provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia is produced this elixir, which has become one of the best-selling Italian products in the World. The “Balsamico,” as it is called in slang, is versatile and suitable for every taste. Whether to dress a salad or to enrich a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano. But also to prepare more elaborate recipes.
Pomodoro di San Marzano dell’agro sarnese-nocerino
Tomatoes of San Marzano are not only the most popular of their kind by Chefs all over Italy. They are also the tomato par excellence used to make the “real Neapolitan pizza” and then exported across the globe to satisfy the most demanding pizzaiolis.
Cipolla Rossa di Tropea Calabria
Imported by the Phoenicians and grown in Italy for over two thousand years, the Red Onion of Tropea, thanks to its sweet and delicate taste, is undoubtedly one of the most popular vegetables in Italian kitchens and demanding chefs of restaurants around the World.
Even if we find them now all over the peninsula, the Taralli are native of central-southern Italy. Among other things, they are proposed in various options, from salty to sweet.
Basically, it is a bakery product made with flour, water or wine, olive oil, salt then ingredients of your choice to customize them.
Another bakery product that has conquered the World is the Breadsticks “Grissini.” Made with bread dough and baked to reach the crunchy note. The most famous is undoubtedly the Torinese ones. Perfect to tease while waiting for a meal and be served instead of bread with cold cuts and cheese.
The Cantucci, also called Prato cookies in Tuscany, are dry almond cookies twice-baked that usually is served as a dessert with the famous vin santo.
Panettone e Pandoro
Among the most famous Italian sweets are certainly the panettone and pandoro—both inevitable at Christmas dinners but present for the entire winter period. At Easter, they are then replaced by the Easter Dove.
Even this dessert traditionally made with raisins and candied fruit in the case of panettone and without pandoro is now presented in infinite variations, from chocolate to zabaglione and various creams. Every Italian has his favorite.
The Piadina Romagnola, or even piadina, is a traditional food product of Emilia Romagna composed of a thin focaccia made of wheat flour, lard or olive oil, bicarbonate of soda or yeast, salt and water, which is traditionally cooked on an earthenware disc. It is usually served stuffed with parma ham or cheese. But also with the addition of some vegetables.
Lenticchie di Castelluccio di Norcia
Castelluccio, a small fraction of Norcia, in Umbria is famous for this legume that, growing at an altitude of about 1500 meters, offers excellent and unique nutritional qualities. The lentils of Castelluccio di Norcia are cultivated in limited numbers and enjoy the protected geographical indication (I.G.P.).
Pesto Genovese (never to be confused with pesto “Alla Genovese) is a sauce invented in Genoa and is as simple as it is brilliant. To achieve its unique taste, you need basil (possibly D.O.P. from Genoa), extra virgin olive oil (possibly from the Ligurian coast), Parmigiano Reggiano D.O.P. or (Grana Padano), Pecorino D.O.P. (Fiore Sardo), pine nuts, garlic, and salt. For the preparation, it is essential to use a marble mortar and a wooden pestle.
Zampone e Cotechino
Both made with lean and fat pork, minced and then combined with pork rind, chopped and seasoned with pepper, nutmeg, cloves. But you can also add cinnamon and wine. The only thing that distinguishes them is the casing: the pork leg, strictly the front one to the trotter, and the casing for the cotechino. Not to be missed at Christmas and perhaps accompanied by lentils of Castelluccio di Norcia and mashed potatoes.
Radicchio di Treviso
Treviso, an elegant city on the outskirts of Venice, whose province is famous worldwide for the countless brands of the textile industry and its unique craftsmanship, is also the city of Radicchio Rosso di Treviso.
This Italian vegetable product with protected geographical indication is unique in its taste. It is eaten raw or cooked and grilled and is used as an ingredient for excellent risottos and first courses. Its shape is due to its immersion in the cold waters of the Sile river that crosses the city of Veneto. This process takes up to 20 days. In contact with the water, the roots of radicchio, in turn, create a new bud inside the plant: the late radicchio or Radicchio Tardivo.
The Sicilian Pesto that is actually the “Pesto Trapanese” is a variant of the Pesto Genoese. Also, there are basilic, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and pecorino or ricotta cheese for the Sicilian pesto. Instead of pine nuts, you can also take almonds. In short, a more flexible recipe than Pesto Genovese, but with a soul of the south 100%.
Caciocavallo is a cheese aged for 3-4 months with pasta filata typical of southern Italy. It has a distinctive oval shape and is produced with the rather fat milk of Podolica cows. Caciocavallo can be spicy or sweet, depending on the rennet used.
Puzzone di Moena
If you are ever lucky enough to visit the Dolomites and the Val di Fassa or Val di Fiemme, you will understand why these mountains and the products of this region are so famous in the World. One of them is, without a doubt, the Puzzone di Moena cheese. It is a cheese produced in the area of the town of Moena. It has an intense and unique flavor due naturally to its processing and aging and thanks to the milk of the cows that have always fed on the high pastures of these unspoiled mountains.
Stracciatella dairy product is born from using the remnants of buffalo mozzarella. It is used for the filling of buffalo mozzarella. But it is also used in the kitchen as, for example, to prepare the famous Orecchiette Alla Stracciatella and turnip tops.
Porchetta di Ariccia
That of Porchetta is an ancient tradition throughout Italy, but Ariccia is especially appreciated for its pork preparation and the resulting flavors. In June 2011, at the European level, the Porchetta di Ariccia obtained the recognition of protected geographical indication (P.G.I.).
La Soprèssa Veneta is a salami of a rather large size and weighs up to 3 kilos. It needs a long maturing period of up to 2 years. It is prepared with the pig’s noble parts, such as the thigh, the shoulder, the cup, the Bacon, the loin, and the throat.
Vegetables grown in central and southern Italy and known by different names depending on the area, Friarielli, as they are called in Naples, are used in a thousand ways. Steamed and seasoned with extra virgin olive oil and a base for risottos and pasta dishes.
Gianduja is a chocolate and hazelnut cream and was invented in Turin after the rise of cocoa prices in the Napoleonic era that had established blocks to commercial, naval, and British transit. To compensate for a part of the cocoa that was too expensive, Turin’s confectioners added hazelnuts. A product of excellence that is served as a dessert but is also used for the most refined confectionery preparations.
While the classic polenta is prepared with only corn flour, the Taragna polenta is also added to the Grano Saraceno (buckwheat). Only imagination sets limits to the culinary combinations with this polenta that is also proposed as a single dish.
As they are called in Veneto, the small and tender artichokes or Castraure are the artichoke shoots, picked first to give the plant more vigor for whole artichokes’ growth. They are eaten raw like a salad.
Radicchio di Chioggia
Like its cousin from Treviso, Radicchio di Chioggia also has the initials I.G.P., Protected Geographical Indication, and is a vegetable sold all over the World. It was delicious in a salad and baked in the oven or a base for more complex dishes.
Formaggio di Fossa
The Fossa cheese takes its name from its three-month maturation method, which occurs in typical oval-shaped pits dug into the rock or in tuff pits. It is a mature fat cheese made of pure sheep’s milk or a mixture of cow’s milk and sheep’s milk.
Bresaola della Valtellina
The Bresaola della Valtellina is the top of the bresaola and enjoys the abbreviation Protected Geographical Indication. It is obtained with beef that is salted and dried according to traditional methods. Bresaola della Valtellina can only be produced in the province of Sondrio.
Pancetta is made with the pig’s belly part, which, being very fat, gives it a very intense flavor. It is usually processed and spiced only with black pepper and then seasoned for about 50 -120 days. Very similar, but never to be confused with Bacon, which, due to the processing and preservatives’ presence, makes it a much lower quality product.
Taleggio, which takes its name from the valley of the same name, is a cheese with a washed rind for treatment during maturation and soft consistency.
The most evident characteristic is the quadrangular parallelepiped shape.
Potato Gnocchi is a dish that has become famous far beyond Italian borders and is appreciated for its simplicity in preparation and versatility in accompaniment. For their preparation, we use flour, potatoes, salt, and (optionally) egg.
People in the World are increasingly aware of what it means to eat well. Healthy eating is the basis for aging well and avoiding problems, especially cardiovascular issues and other kinds of problems.
Feeding on genuine products is the basis for creating a healthy society. The Mediterranean diet is undoubtedly the most famous for its right balance between the various nutrients a person needs to grow and age healthily.
The flavors that we can enjoy today when we taste the various Italian cuisine dishes result from food research that goes lost in the pages of the Mediterranean’s ancient history.
Wheat, barley, cheese, olive oil, and wine are probably the first products introduced to the peninsula since ancient times when the Phoenicians and Etruscans arrived with their ships from the Aegean Sea.
Many foods were introduced by those very populations, who then settled in the ancient “Italy.” They grew their territorial influence and began to import products from all over the then known world from the Roman rule centuries until the Maritime Republics and the trade with the Far East. And then with the Americas in more recent history.
The new routes increased exponentially the variety of products available to research and experiment with new recipes. And this would create the basis for what we know today as the “Mediterranean Diet,” which makes school all over the world.
Knowing the basics or at least some of the products that are part of this very long tradition is almost a must for any entrepreneur who wants to dedicate himself to the restaurant industry.
I sincerely hope that my first list of Italian food products has pleased you and that you can become passionate about the ” Made in Italy”, which will surely give you great satisfaction.
Meanwhile, I continue to work and research other products that can be an added value to your experience to ensure the success you deserve.