With its myriad regional flavors, Italian food doesn’t have a national character, but the Italian way of eating does: a reverence for local ingredients, sensitively and simply prepared and enjoyed alongside family and friends, slowly and with gusto. We’ve teamed up with the travel and culture experts at National Geographic to capture Italy’s magnificent regional cuisine, culture, and landscapes in a one-of-a-kind book—Tasting Italy.
Tasting Italy, Part One: Northern Italy
Tasting ItalyFeaturing authentic, kitchen-tested recipes; 300 gorgeous color photographs; and 30 maps, Tasting Italy takes you on a captivating journey through the rich history of Italian cuisine, region by region.
The book is divided into three chapters—Northern, Central, and Southern Italy. In the first installment of our Tasting Italy series, we'll travel through Northern Italy, and visit the other two areas in future articles. But you don’t have to wait to get all of Tasting Italy. Order your copy now and start exploring—and cooking—as soon as it’s delivered to your door.
If there was but one word to describe the food of Italy’s northern regions, it would be “rich.” This territory, which tumbles from the snow-peaked dolomites down to the vast Po River Valley, is Italy’s butter belt, where dairy trumps olive oil, fresh egg pasta beats dried, and meat is supreme. This is ground zero for Italian capitalism. As they say in Italy, “For every church in Rome, there is a bank in Milan.” While Northern Italians may live a fast-paced, modern lifestyle, their cuisine remains rooted in the rustic flavors of the land.
There are eight provinces in modern Piedmont: Alessandria, Asti, and Cuneo, which are famous for their wines; Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, which includes glorious Lake Maggiore, whose microclimate allows for Eden-like gardens of olive and lemon trees; Turin, the industrial heart of the region, with its coolly elegant capital city and delectable chocolatiers; and finally Novara, Vercelli, and Biella, home to so much Italian rice.
Recipes of Piedmont
Beef Braised in BaroloRich, full-bodied, and velvety, the Barolo (often called the king of wines) reduces to an ultraluxurious and complex-tasting sauce that can’t be achieved with a lighter-bodied wine.
A narrow, mountainous arc of coastline strung between the French Riviera and the Tuscan frontier, overlooking 200-plus miles of the radiant Mediterranean. Ligurians still cultivate ancient crops on the narrow strip of earth pinched between the sea and the hillsides. The Riviera di Levante’s enchanting towns, with names such as Golfo Paradiso, Portofino, and Gulf of Poets, evoke its color and romance.
Recipes of Liguria
Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green BeansThis dish features little twisted tubes of pasta that trap pesto in their coils, as well as green beans and potatoes—the latter for soaking up the flavorful pesto and adding extra body to the sauce thanks to an unusual prep technique.
If this region’s capital city, Bologna, is fabled for its culinary treasures, so are the other provinces in the Padan Plain, places with names such as Modena, Parma, and Ferrara that roll off the tongues of food lovers everywhere. This is cattle and hog territory, land of silky hams, famed cheeses, and pastas with whimsical names such as cappelletti (little hats) and tortelli con la coda (pies with tails), all lubricated with good wine.
Recipes of Emilia-Romagna
Other Areas in Northern Italy
What's your favorite dish from Italy? Let us know in the comments! And for our comprehensive collection of recipes from Northern Italy and beyond, order your copy of Tasting Italy today.