If you're a fan of Italian food, you'll know there's more to the cuisine than spaghetti with meatballs, but it's easy to fall into a routine of ordering your old favourites when you go out to eat. There are so many authentic Italian dishes to explore that use regional and seasonal ingredients, but with many restaurants across Australia opting to alter their menu to appeal to Australian tastes, it can be difficult to know which dishes to order when you want a taste of traditional Italian cuisine. Here's an overview of four authentic dishes that are worth looking out for:
Bottarga is a Sicilian speciality that consists of cured roe from grey mullets. The roe is harvested in the autumn and salted before being left for at least six months to develop a wonderfully briny flavour with smoky undertones. Bottarga is typically eaten over pasta or enjoyed sliced and served with citrusy salad leaves as a starter.
Ribollita is a hearty soup that originated in Tuscany and utilises fresh, seasonal vegetables. The soup is thickened with bread, which was used in place of meat when this dish was first created, as meat was expensive and not readily available. Beans are used to add protein to the dish, which is typically served as a main dish and is popular in autumn when greens and root vegetables are harvested.
Saltimbocca is said to have originated in Rome and is a popular dish across Italy. Some restaurants sell chicken saltimbocca, but veal is the traditional meat to use for this dish. The veal is thinly sliced and topped with prosciutto and sage before being gently sautéed until the meat is just cooked. This is a slightly salty dish that melts in the mouth due to the tenderness of veal. Enjoy saltimbocca with a zesty salad and freshly baked bread.
Torrone is a southern Italian nougat, which can be enjoyed after a meal with a strong cup of coffee to complement the sweetness of the confection. It's made with honey, egg whites and toasted nuts and is served as a bar. Torrone is sometimes dipped in chocolate, but that's a newer twist on this delightful after-dinner treat.
These are just a few examples of authentic Italian dishes every fan of the cuisine should try. Next time you visit an Italian restaurant, ask your server to recommend a few traditional dishes for you to try.