A selection of delicacies, all deriving from northern Italy
This soft, seasonal, cheese produced in the Alpine region of Valle d’Aosta is best enjoyed in the summer after the Pezzata cows have been moved to the richest grass on the mountain. It’s the cows’ diet of lush mountain flora that produces the cheese’s characteristic sweet flavour. Fontina is used in the classic alpine delicacy, Fonduta Valdostana; an exquisite fondue made of gooey melted Fontina, egg yolk, butter and white truffle. The fondue is typically eaten generously spread over freshly cooked white bread and complimented with a glass of smooth Bardolino.
A balmy town situated on the coast of northern Italy named Liguiria is the home of Pesto, one of Italy’s most famed sauces. Liguria’s sunny climes and proximity to the sea affords the ideal conditions for the sweet basil that’s so integral to the sauce to flourish. The first pesto recipe can be traced back to the 19th century and is named after the Italian verb “pesta” meaning to “pound”. This reflects the method of making the sauce; by crushing all the ingredients together for a wonderfully fragrant flavour.
Asiago cheese takes its name from the charming Asiago plateau in Veneto, bordering the Dolomite mountains and the Adriatic Sea. Produced from cows’ milk, this versatile cheese comes in two forms. Aged Asagio is crumbly, perfect for scattering over pasta or salad; its fresh counterpart, however, is delicious sliced and gently melted in a grilled panino with salty pancetta or fresh vegetables. If you’re looking for a complimentary red, Chianti's bold fruit flavours complement Asiago.
Pumpkin ravioli has been integral to Italy’s culinary heritage since its heyday as a staple at Renaissance banquets. It’s considered a speciality of the north, eaten traditionally in the autumn and winter months, but is also popular across the country.
It’s affinity with expensive Far Eastern spices made this fresh-filled pasta a firm favourite with the wealthy Renaissance rulers of Ferrara in the past; traces of this tradition are still present in local menus across Ferrara today, where cappellacci (pasta dumplings) are filled with pumpkin, lemon zest, Parmigiano Reggiano, nutmeg and cinnamon. Any red berry-like wines work nicely with pumpkin but our favourite is a glass of Poggione Rosso di Montalcino.
The city of Modena is considered the home of authentic balsamic vinegar. True Aceto Balsamic Tradizionale di Modena is made from the Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes native to the Emilia-Romagna region around the city. Good quality balsamic is deep brown in colour, with a balanced, aromatic, sweet and savoury flavour. The vinegar is often used to enhance the taste of grilled vegetables and fish, and surprisingly a light drizzle over strawberries makes for an unusual but delicious dessert!