Easy Italian food

 

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Trentino alto Adige

The flavors of mountains and lakes

Even more than its northern neighbor Alto Adige, the Italian region of Trentino manages to combine the best of both worlds, incorporating the snowy peaks and verdant meadows of the Alps and the olive groves and vine yards of the South. It seems a long way from the sunny shores of Lake Garda, with its lush Mediterranean-type vegetation and its pastel-colored villages, to the sheer rock faces of the western Dolomites, and yet by any measure - time, kilometers, or ease of access - these two very different worlds are "down the road" from one another. Indeed, Trentino is the perfect destination for visitors in search of varied gastronomic experiences. You can enjoy a lunch of lake fish drizzled with light, fragrant olive oil and accompanied by a delicate local white wine within sight of one of Italy's loveliest lakes, and then go on for dinner in a rustic Alpine restaurant, feasting off the heartier flavors of game, cured meats, pungent cheeses, and polenta. The northern part of the region offers meat lovers some real treats with excellent cured meats such as Speck and "lucaniche" (spicy pork sausages). However, you shouldn't miss the opportunity to try "carne salada," lean beef cured in brine and seasoned with a varying mixture of spices, the composition of which tends to be kept a closely guarded secret in the individual valleys. As an antipasto, "carne salada" can be enjoyed sliced on its own or served warm with beans and onions. For the first course you can sample "canederli," the region's version of the South-Tyrol "Knödel," which are basically dumplings made with bread and finely chopped Speck and salami. They are served in broth or else topped with tomato sauce or melted butter and cheese. Other characteristic first-course dishes are thick and satisfying barley soups, ravioli served with cheese, wild asparagus, or a delicate nettle sauce, and gnocchi of various types (made with potatoes, ricotta, or semolina). In particular, the variety known as "strangolapreti" (made with bread and spinach) features widely in the region's menus, served with melted butter, sage, and Parmigiano. In Trentino, in addition to the normal yellow cornmeal polenta, you will also find a polenta made with potatoes or buckwheat flour. Polenta is often served to accompany a typical main course dish of roast or stewed pork, game, or beef, though it also makes for a delicious combination with wild mushrooms in the late summer and autumn or all year round with the area's famed farmhouse cheeses ("formaggi di malga" such as "tosèla," "puzzone," and "casolét"). Other main courses include goulash, "sguazet" (a regional specialty made with offal), salsiccia, and tripe. If you prefer fish, the area's many lakes and fish farms will provide a variety of freshwater species, in particular trout, carp, and char. As a region, Trentino is famous for its production of fruit, especially the apples grown in the orchards of the Val di Non. Indeed, apples turn up in anything from risotto to meat dishes to the ubiquitous strudels and pies. Soft fruits are used to make wonderful jams and preserves and as a filling for crisp latticed open pastry pies ("crostate").

Alto Adige (A taste of South Tyrol)

Don’t come to Alto Adige expecting to taste "Italian" food: pizza dough, pasta, tomatoes, garlic, basil, and the other characteristic ingredients of Italian cuisine are as "imported" here as they would be in New England or Wales. In fact, this beautiful mountainous region, part of the historical South Tyrol, only became part of Italy in 1918, after six centuries of Hapsburg domination, and the regional cuisine reflects the influence of Austria and the north rather than that of the Mediterranean and the south. However, having said that, you can be sure of finding excellent, genuine cooking and dishes that are particularly appropriate to this time of year, and a visit here will be no less of a gastronomic treat than in any other Italian region. You can start off your meal with paper-thin slices of their smoky cured haunch of pork, known as Speck, or with the many local varieties of smoked sausage, accompanied by the dark rye bread so characteristic of the area. The classic first course is "Knödel," dumplings made with bread and flavored with Speck, cheese, liver or spinach, which are served in broth or as a rich side dish. Alternatively, you can choose a hearty barley soup or the tiny dumplings known as "Spätzle," made with buckwheat, chestnut or wheat flour and served in broth. If you miss the taste of pasta, you can always go for the Schlutzkrapfen, large ravioli often filled with ricotta and spinach, while a more delicate first-course option is "Weinsuppe," a creamy soup made with clear broth, white wine, egg yolks and cream. Main courses are equally substantial: you can feast on the ubiquitous goulash, baked shin of pork served with "crauti" (sauerkraut), or "Gröstl," a mixture of roast potatoes, beef and onions fried in a skillet. The most popular desserts are the famous strudel (Alto Adige is famous for its apples), "Strauben," ribbons of sweet omelet fried and dredged with confectioner's sugar, and "Krapfen" (donuts filled with fruit jams or chestnut purée, or topped with poppy seeds).


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Liguria Lombardia