Posted on April 19 2018
Italy is a country known for its exquisite cuisine. Beloved the world over, many people believe they know much about authentic Italian food, particularly since many of the country’s most famous dishes have become so prominent abroad.
Despite this, there is a still a plethora of dishes that most have never tasted, or even heard of, outside of Italy. From hidden gems to strange and unique meals, here are five authentic Italian foods that you’ll struggle to find outside of Italy:
This traditional Roman dish actually fell out of favour (and off menus) for many years, due to EU restrictions. However, pajata is now back to being a popular Italian dish, and one that you likely haven’t heard of. Served in many trattorias in Rome, pajata is made from the intestines of veal that have been raised exclusively on their mother’s milk. This means the veal becomes creamy when cooked. Sometimes the dish is grilled, but mostly, it’s served stewed in a tomato sauce with rigatoni.
Often known as saltwort or friar’s beard, agretti is a green vegetable that is almost impossible to find outside of Italy. In high demand amongst Italian chefs, agretti appears grass-like in appearance, and is described as tasting similar to spinach. Traditionally, the vegetable is served with oil and lemon, and is only available during a short window in the summer season.
Maccheroni di San Giuseppi con La Mollica
A simple but very unusual dish – at least to non-Italians. Maccheroni di San Giuseppi La Mollica is a dish eaten on St Joseph’s Day in the small town of Casacalenda. While it’s main ingredient is spaghetti, which is well known to palates the world over, this unusual recipe is actually very sweet: spaghetti tossed in a sauce comprised of oil, raisins, honey and breadcrumbs. While dessert pizzas have taken off in other countries, we’re yet to hear of dessert pasta becoming a popular choice.
Even the most ardent cheese lovers may be wary of this dish, since it contains live maggots. Casu marzu - literally “rotten/putrid cheese” - is a traditional Sardinian cheese, made from sheep’s milk. Similar to the popular pecorino, casu marzu however takes its fermentation process a step further, into decomposition. The cheese fly is brought to the cheese, with the larvae causing the fats to break down. The end result is a softer, creamier cheese.
A dormouse is a rarity these days, however back in Roman times the edible dormouse or ‘gliris’ was farmed and eaten as a delicacy.
The dormice were caught in the wild and then kept and raised in terra cotta containers. They were fed on walnuts, chestnuts and acorns for fattening.
To serve, the mice were either stuffed or roasted and glazed with honey.
The dish is talked about by Petronius as being “Glazed with honey and rolled in poppy seeds” The Roman gourmet who lived during the reign of Tiberius in the first century AD wrote the recipe: “Stuffed them with a mixture of pork mince, dormouse meat trimmings, pepper, nuts, asafoetida (green saffron) and nuoc mam (fish sauce) and then roasting or boiling them (Apicius 8.9.1)
Today, wild edible dormice are consumed in Slovenia where they are considered a rare delicacy.