Cuisine and Wines of Calabria

Calabria is at the very southernmost tip of Italy and filled with magnificent, rugged mountains. Chestnuts, olives, lemon and orange trees, almonds and figs all thrive in this climate. Farming land is sparse in Calabria and therefore every plot is is used to its best advantage. Among the vegetables the eggplant is the most profusely grown and it features in many ways in the regional cuisine, either stuffed, breaded and fried or sautéed in olive oil with garlic, there are also peppers, artichokes, zucchini, beans, potatoes, asparagus, tomatoes and onions. Simple pasta dishes using tomatoes and vegetables are popular and these can be spiced up with dried or smoked sausages. A combination of all of these will often be found in one of the regions many soups or stews. Having the longest coastline in Italy and breathtakingly beautiful white sandy beaches the waters around Calabria give fishermen the perfect place to bring tuna, swordfish, sardines, lobsters, shrimps and anchovies in, which are simply cooked or preserved in the wonderful olive oil of the region. The inland freshwater lakes offer trout in abundance. Every pretty fishing village in the region has it’s own recipe for dried cod, Baccala or Pesce Stocco. Frittatas are made to use up any left overs and can include anything that is to hand, all bound together with eggs.

Pork reigns supreme in this region and there are many varieties of sausages, salamis and hams. Pigs enjoy the mountainsides along with the goats and sheep, and they are able to enjoy the chestnuts and wild mushrooms which add to the flavour of their meat which is lean and contains less fat than normal because they are more active than pigs reared in farms on the flatter lands. There are four different types of Calabrian preserved meats that qualify for DOP:-Pancetta, Capocollo, Soppressata and Salsiccia. Calabrians have perfected the art of preserving foods, which in this climate is a necessity, there is salting, curing, smoking and preserving in olive oil, most food products can be found to have undergone one of these processes, many of the sausages and pressed meats are flavoured with spices, herbs and red peppers.

Pasta appears in many guises here in Calabria and it is often home-made, such as the Maccaruni which is rolled around a piece of wire, Fusiddi, Cavateddi and Fileja, these are all served with the tasty meat and sauce dishes. Pasta is also included in the hearty soups which include pasta and bean soup, pasta and peas, pasta and broccoli, the list could go on and on, these are all served with a generous drizzle of good olive oil and plenty of chopped red peppers. The dishes of Calabria are often seasoned and flavoured with red peppers so they have a fairly hot, spicy taste. Lamb and goats are reared for both their meat and cheeses. Sciungata is a sheep’ milk cheese similar to ricotta, pecorini, caciocavallo con butirro which is caciocavallo stuffed with butter, today there are more cow’s milk cheeses being included in the regions cheeses.

There is quite a strong influence from Greece in the breads and pastries of Calabria and one can see this in the foccacia and the flatbreads which are popular in this region, the pastries are often dipped or soaked in honey, again a Greek influence. We can see Greece again in the Torrone made with honey and almonds and the pignolata which is a cake made up of small dough balls which are fried in olive oil before being glued together with lashings of honey. The very best of the traditional sweets of Calabria are those made at Easter and Christmas such as Cozzupa which are made in a variety of shapes before baking and decorating.

Most of the lower terrain in Calabria has been agricultural for centuries and the lowest slopes are given over to vineyards and citrus fruit orchards. Citrus fruits grow here in profusion and are candied and used in sweet dishes and baking. A regional delight are stuffed dried figs, other fruits which enjoy this wonderful climate are grapes, almonds, melons and the arancia calabrese which is an orange grown only in Calabria. The higher slopes, above the citrus orchards grow the olive and the chestnut trees before the dense forests, higher up again which consist of oak, pine, beech and fir trees.

Calabrian wines are produced from the same ancient vines that supplied the wine to the heroes of the ancient Olympic games and are heavily influenced by Greece. The grapes are grown mainly around the province of Cosenza. The amount of wine produced is not high but of excellent quality.

List of Italian DOC wines of Calabria

  • Bivongi produced in the provinces of Reggio Calabria and Catanzaro
    Cirò produced in the province of Crotone
    Donnici produced in the province of Cosenza
    Greco di Bianco produced in the province of Reggio Calabria
    Lamezia produced in the province of Catanzaro
    Melissa produced in the province of Crotone
    Pollino produced in the province of Cosenza
    Sant’Anna di Isola Capo Rizzuto produced in the provinces of Crotone and Catanzaro
    San Vito di Luzzi produced in the province of Cosenza
    Savuto produced in the provinces of Cosenza and Catanzaro
    Scavigna produced in the province of Catanzaro
    Verbicaro produced in the province of Cosenza
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