The Cuisine of Calabria
By: Liz Flynn
The cuisine of Calabria is steeped in history and is influenced by dishes from many other countries. Here is an overview of food from this region, why people from Calabria eat the food they do and some typical examples of dishes from this part of Italy.
The Influence of Conquers
This was once a poor region in Italy, so people the people preserved all the food they could for the winter months when food was less plentiful. Therefore, peppers, anchovies, and eggplant are salted and preserved in oil or vinegar. Likewise, octopi are pickled and the tomatoes are sun dried.
Chilli peppers are used as a condiment on the table in the same way as salt, pepper, vinegar or olive oil. Chilli flakes are crushed in oil so that people can sprinkle it over their meals. One possible explanation for the wide use of chilli in Calabria is that people historically believed this was a cure for malaria.
As this is a coastal region, seafood is an important element of the traditional dishes. If you are visiting the area, you will find items such as lobster, shrimp, squid, tuna and sea urchin on the menus of many restaurants.
In the seaside resort of Tropea, red onions are grown in abundance. In fact, the resort is well-known for growing onions and for using them in traditional, local dishes. When eating out, you will find red onions are an ingredient in most of the dishes on a menu.
Caciocavallo is the most famous cheese from this region. It has a teardrop shop as it is hung to dry. The flavor is smooth and salty. It is most commonly used to accompany cured meats or in pasta dishes.
Calabria is famous for this spicy, soft sausage. Locally grown chilli peppers are used in this sausage to give the flavor a kick. It is unusual in that the meat is spreadable, so you can eat it on bread or crackers. It is also delicious eaten on its own or as an ingredient in pasta dishes.
Eggplant is a widely-used ingredient in Calabria and Ciambotta is a fantastic example of a traditional, local dish featuring this ingredient. It is a vegetable stew that usually includes eggplant, tomatoes, herbs, onion, and chilli. However, there are many variations to this dish.
Pasta Ccu Ri Sarde
Most restaurants have a limited dessert menu and the dishes they do offer are light and refreshing. Ice cream and fresh fruit are the most common items found. The watermelon from this area is particularly sweet and delicious.