Scenic Calabria, the toe of the Italian boot, is a mountainous region washed by the Tyrrhenian Sea to the West and the Ionian Sea to the East. Separated from the rest of Italy by its geography, Calabrians focus their cuisine on the simple pleasures of the garden, the sea, and pork.
The garden. Calabria is the largest Italian producer of wild dried porcini mushrooms, foraged in the Sila mountain range. Twenty-five percent of Italy’s olive oil is produced here, and three regions of Calabria produce extra virgin olive oil awarded the prestigious DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) seal. Calabrian cooks use olive oil not only to sauté, fry, and dress salads, but to preserve mushrooms, tomatoes and fish at their peak of flavor. Verdant coastal groves produce abundant citrus crops, including citron and bergamot, whose oil is prized in perfumes. The region’s hot, dry peninsula nourishes acres of figs that become an ingredient in many of the region’s sweets.
Twelve of Calabria’s wines have been awarded prized DOC status. Some of the finest red wines come from Ciro.
The sea. The longest coastline in Italy created not only breathtaking white sand beaches and picturesque towns, but a significant fish industry. Tuna and swordfish as the most prized catches, while anchovies and sardines are abundant. Try sardella, a spicy fish condiment spread on crostini made with baby anchovies and red peppers. It is also called “Calabrian caviar.”
Pork. Famous for its pork sausages and salumi, four cured meats boast DOP certification: capocollo (cured pork shoulder), pancetta (cured pork belly), salsiccia (fresh sausage) and soppressata (dry cured salami). Calabrian cooks use pork as the centerpiece of many dishes, including Braciole di Maiale, stuffed pork rolls braised in fresh tomato sauce. Not to miss is Calabria’s famous spreadable hot sausage, ‘Nduja di Spilinga.