Cuisine and Wines of Campania

The Stunning Amalfi coast has been described as the most beautiful coast in the world and to be there and seeing it one would have to agree. Alongside the wonderful scenery the variety of foods in this region are also truly stunning. Fresh seafood and fish from the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean give rise to tasty yet simple dishes, that sprinkled with the juice of freshly picked Amalfi lemons bring the dishes to life. Clams are used a lot in dishes such as “Zuppa di vongole” or “Spaghetti con le Vongole in salsa bianca“, “Zuppa di polpo” (octopus soup),“Frittelle di mare“,”Triglie al cartoccio” (red mullet), “Alici marinate” (fresh anchovies in olive oil) and “Insalata di mare” ( a seafood salad), dishes not to be overlooked when visiting this area, also used in many guises are mussels, squid, octopus, prawns and anchovies. The Cuisine of Campania varies within the region, and while the Neopolitan dishes centre around the wonderful fresh seafood, the regions of Casertan and Aversana include more vegetables and cheeses, and Sorrento brings together the cuisine of Naples and Salerno.

The rich volcanic soil of Campania is ideal for the growing of some of Italy’s wonderful vegetables including the San Marzano tomato which is considered by chefs to be the best tomato in the world for producing tomato pastes and sauces, and it is the only tomato that can be used to make a true Neopolitan pizza. It has a longer season than other varieties and are particularly suited to warmer climate. The flesh is thick with few seeds and the tomatoes are long and pointed with a stronger and sweeter flavour that is also less acidic than other varieties. Alongside tomatoes there are peppers, zucchini, salads, broccoli, garlic, basil, and olive and lemon trees, from all these come the wonderful dishes of Campania, which are famous throughout the world

The fruits of Campania also grow so well in this fertile soil and these include apricots and peaches, melons, figs, grapes and oranges, and of course the wonderfully fragrant Amalfi lemons which grow to an amazing size and can be seen displayed, for sale, on roadside stands throughout the area, and they produce the refreshing Granitas and the Limoncello liqueur.

Pasta has long been the basic food in Campania and there are producers of pasta using techniques passed down through generations, exporting pasta all over the world. Made of Durum wheat flour it is wholesome, healthy and filling. Favoured shapes of the region are generally tubular in shape so that they can hold the delicious sauces, there are the Macaroni and elbows, Calamaretti ( thick pasta rings cut to look like sliced calamari and dyed with squid ink ), Campnelle with fluted petal-like edges and a hollow centre, and Candele, long hollow pasta shapes, which as the name suggests are similar to candles. All these pastas are ideal to capture and hold the wonderful, rich tomato based sauces. The area around Naples has been a pasta-making centre since the 1800’s, the towns of Gragnano and Torre Annunziata being the main places. The towns were designed so that the long strands of spaghetti could be dried on long poles in the streets which were positioned to catch the warm breezes so ideal for drying the pasta. Nowadays it is produced in factories but the best pasta is still made in the old way with rough surfaces so it can hold onto the sauce and not slide off. Pasta was originally the staple food of southern Italy and was introduced to the north and to the rest of the world as people started to look elsewhere for work after the second world war, so pasta lovers everywhere have the people of Campania to thank for this.

Another great food that we have this region to thank for is the Pizza and Naples is of course the home of the Pizza, although it has world-wide renown and is found in cities all over the globe. Pizza started out as a peasant food, flat bread sold in the streets, nowadays there are numerous toppings and you can have whatever takes your fancy but the most famous pizza of all remains the simple Margherita pizza, named after the wife of King Umberto I, the baker who made the queen’s pizza topped it with tomato, basil and mozzarella cheese -red, white and green to represent the Italian flag- it has remained a favourite ever since. There are strict rules as to the making of a “true Napolitan Pizza” and it is governed by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana which claims that there are only three true variations Pizza Marinara – tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and oregano-, Pizza Margherita – tomatoes, olive oil, basil and mozarella-, and Pizza Margherita extra – tomatoes, olive oil, basil and water buffalo mozarella made in Campania– all the tomatoes must, of course, be the San Marzano tomato and the dough must always be formed by hand.

Water buffalo roam the marshlands around Capua and Salerno and they yeild the milk to produce the wonderful Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, Ricotta and Mascarpone are also made with the buffalo milk. Other cheeses from Campania inclue Fiordilatte which is a mozzarella made from cow’s milk, Provolone from cow’s milk and Caciotta from goat’s milk.

The area also makes some mouthwatering pastries and sweets, Struffoli (a dish of deep fried balls of dough, crusty outside and light in the centre served with honey, cinnamon and orange rind), Zeppole (sugar coated doughnuts) and Sfogliatelle Riccia (a puff pastry filled with orange flavoured ricotta, almond paste or candied lemon) among some of the best. Pastiera Pie is made at Easter time and contains ricotta cheese, Babà, which was introduced to Campania during the Austrian domination, is best served with rum or Limoncello, and Zeppole is eaten on St Joseph’s day. Zeppole are similar to doughnuts and are usually filled with pastry cream or jam or a butter and honey mixture, they are also known as Bignè di S. Giuseppe and are often given as gifts on the 19th March (St Joseph’s Day). Gelato (ice cream) flavoured with fresh fruits and nuts and icy Granita flavoured with coffee or lemon.

A delicious way to finish of a hearty meal is with a glass of Limoncello, a sweet lemon liqueur made from the Sorrento lemons. Limoncello is made by steeping the zest of the lemons (without the pith) in alcohol until the oils are released and then it is mixed with a simple sugar syrup, it is vest served chilled in small glasses.

List of Italian DOCG wines of Campania

  • Aglianico del Taburno, produced in the province of Benevento
    Fiano di Avellino (bianco), produced in the province of Avellino using the Fiano grape.
    Greco di Tufo (bianco, also as spumante), produced in the province of Avellino
    Taurasi (rosso also as Riserva), produced in the province of Avellino

List of Italian DOC wines of Campania

  • Aglianico del Taburno produced in the province of Benevento
    Aversa Asprinio produced in the provinces of Caserta and Napoli
    Campi Flegrei produced in the province of Napoli
    Capri produced in the province of Napoli
    Castel San Lorenzo produced in the province of Salerno
    Cilento produced in the province of Salerno
    Costa d’Amalfi produced in the province of Salerno
    Falerno del Massico produced in the province of Caserta
    Falanghina del Sannio produced in the provinces of Benevento and Avellino
    Galluccio produced in the province of Caserta
    Guardiolo produced in the province of Benevento
    Irpina produced in the province of Avellino
    Ischia produced in the province of Napoli
    Penisola Sorrentina produced in the province of Napoli
    Sannio produced in the province of Benevento
    Sant’Agata dei Goti produced in the province of Benevento
    Solopaca produced in the province of Benevento
    Taburno produced in the province of Benevento
    Vesuvio produced in the province of Napoli
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