Image source: Flickr - cyclonebill
Italy is famous for its delicious pasta. There are hundreds, if not thousands of pasta options that could keep you busy every day of the year without repetition. But, what about snacks? The truth is that Italians don't approach snacks like we Americans do. In general, for the traditional Italian, theres no such thing as a snack. They believe in a strong meal, with antipasto, primo, secondo, and dolce.
Even with this in mind, you can still find a few snacks here and there that are just as good as the traditional meals, but in smaller sizes. Here are a few of my favorite Italian snacks.
The Pastiera is a tart that originated in Naples and is a small cake traditionally enjoyed around Easter. It might be hard to find outside the Lenten season, but some local restaurants do make the tart year round.
This tart is made from a very special and old recipe that includes essence taken from the orange tree blossom, cooked wheat and ricotta cheese.
While the Pastiera has a history that stretches back to the Ancient Roman times, it is said that the modern Pastiera was invented in a Neapolitan convent. An unknown nun wanted a cake, which is the symbol of the Resurrection, with the perfume of orange blossoms that grew in the convents gardens. Apparently, she mixed the wheat with the white ricotta cheese, eggs, citron and water fragranced with the smell of the springtime flowers.
From that moment on, the Pastiera became an irresistibly good cake that will easily crumble in your mouth, giving your taste buds the richness of sweet Italian cuisine. This is without a doubt my favorite cake in Italy.
Panini or panino (singular) in Italy are sandwiches made with ciabatta bread, which is made from wheat flour, water, salt, olive oil and yeast. The bread is often cut horizontally and filled with deli ingredients such as prosciutto crudo, prosciutto cotto, salami, cheese, mortadella, or other foods, and sometimes served warm.
While panini can be found everywhere in Italy, I recommend trying them in a Milanese chain, Panino Giusto, which is found in most major cities in Italy and around the world.
They have dozens of delicious panini, but you can never go wrong with a traditional panino with prosciutto crudo, mozzarella, olive oil, lettuce and a warm ciabatta. Delicious!
The Tramezzino is similar to the panino, except that it is made from sliced soft white bread with no crust. Unlike the panino, the tramezzino is not normally heated or toasted.
Tramezzini, which originated in Turin, are popular and inexpensive snack sandwiches available at many Italian bars throughout the day, especially during aperitivo time. Popular fillings include tuna, mayonnaise, olive and prosciutto, among many others.
Bruschetta is an antipasto consisting of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper. This is one of the most common antipasto found in any traditional Italian restaurant as well as any bar during aperitivo.
There are many variations to the bruschetta, like the Ventricina, which is from Abruzzo and made with salami, and the Fettunta, which is from Tuscany and served without toppings so that diners can better enjoy the natural flavors of the olive oil. Other bruschetta may include toppings of tomatoes, vegetables, beans, cured meats, or cheeses.
An equally grand dessert must follow every good meal in Italy, especially if that dessert is a cannolo. The cannolo (Cannoli in plural) literally means little tube and originated in Sicily. This sweet treat consists of a tube-shaped shell of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling made from ricotta. Usually they also contain a layer of chocolate and a piece of dehydrated citric fruits like limes or oranges.
Cannoli were created in the city of Palermo in Sicily and were historically prepared as a treat during carnival season, possibly as a fertility symbol. Eventually, the cannoli became a year round dessert found throughout Italy and even around the world.
The Panzerotto (singular for Panzerotti) is a smaller version of the calzone, but made with softer dough. Like the calzone, the Panzerotto is filled with tomato and mozzarella, and is often complemented with prosciutto, mushrooms and other fillings.
The Panzerotti originated in Apulia and from there it spread all over Italy. While it can be found all around Italy with ease, I recommend you head to Luini, located next to the Duomo in Milan for the best in Italy.
And of course, we cannot end this list without including the pizza. And no, you can't say you've been in Italy until you've tasted their pizza.
While the origins of the pizza are not clear, it is well known that the modern pizza was invented in Naples, and from there it spread all around the world.
One pizza you must try is the Neapolitan Pizza. It doesn't have the same texture, consistency or taste of typically American pizzas, but this is the real taste of a traditional pizza.You'll see that once you try it and I know you'll fall in love with this scrumptious snack.
Which of these tasty snacks do YOU want to try first?