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Dreaming of a trip to Northern Italy? We know you are (rightly) excited for pizza and pasta, but there’s a whole lot more delicious food to discover when you finally get here. Food in Italy is highly regional, with local specialities varying even within the same region!
If the idea of chocolate, white truffles, fresh pasta served with a roast beef sauce and full bodied red wine is your idea of paradise, then we think you’re going to like Piedmont food and all its delicious-ness. Read on to find out what you must definitely eat on a trip to this mountainous region!
Where is Piedmont?
Piedmont is in the very north of Italy and borders Switzerland, France and the Italian region of Liguria. It is full of mountains and surrounded by the Alps. The capital of Piedmont is the elegant and regal Turin, which was the very first capital of Italy. Any trip here undoubtedly includes visiting castles & palaces, hiking up mountains and discovering the wine regions, but it’s certainly not complete without indulging in some of the local specialities.
Piedmont, Italy Food: course by course
The cuisine of Piedmont can be quite rich and is known for being full of flavour. Piedmont is famed for its huge variety of antipasti (appetizers), so much so, that you could make a whole meal out of them. If you’re eating at a restaurant in Piedmont, some of the most popular antipasti you can expect to find include:
- Russian Salad (or insalata russa in Italian)
- Vitello Tonnato
- Battuta (raw beef)
- Lingua (tongue)
- Tomini (cheese) with various toppings
- Anchovies with salsa verde
- Giardiniera (marinated vegetables)
- Caponet (cabbage leaves with meat wrapped inside)
Some typical primi (or first course) dishes include:
- Pasta: Look out for tajarin (see main photo) and agnolotti (more on that below)
- Risotto: Piedmont (Vercelli) is famous for its rice
Secondi (or second course) Piedmont dishes can include:
- Bolitto misto (boiled meats)
- Fritto misto (Mixed fry)
Classic desserts in Piedmont or ‘dolci’:
- Bonet: Chocolate pudding delight
- Pesche ripiene: stuffed peaches with amaretti biscuits
- Hazelnut cake
- Gianduja chocolate
- Zabaione: Made from eggs, sugar and marsala. You can dip torcetti biscuits into the sauce.
Piedmont Food You Simply Have to Try
1. Bagna Cauda
Bagna Cauda is a warm dipping sauce made from garlic, oil and anchovies. You can dip seasonal vegetables like carrot sticks, celery, capsicum, beets, spring onion and even bread into the sauce. It is served in a terracotta pot with a flame underneath to keep the sauce warm. Once a dish for peasants, the bagna cauda is now very popular throughout the region, but be warned, it’s for true garlic lovers! As this dish is quite filling, you can consider it a complete meal.
Agnolotti is a filled pasta and one of the most regional pasta dishes you can try in Piedmont (besides the rich egg yolk tajarin). It is usually filled with a mix of roast beef and vegetables and served in the juices of the beef, enriched with butter. A variation you will likely see on menus is the agnolotti del plin from the Langhe and Monferrato part of the region. The difference is the shape, agnolotti are square whilst the plin (meaning ‘pinch’) are folded over like a little napkin.
3. Insalata Russa
Known as Russian Salad in English, this is a popular antipasto dish throughout Italy but especially in Piedmont. It’s made with boiled carrots, peas and potatoes; cornichons; and eggs in a creamy mayonnaise dressing. Fancy whipping it up yourself? Try this recipe (complete with homemade mayonnaise and prawns to pimp it up) over at Livguine’s blog.
4. Fritto Misto
Literally translated as mixed fried food, this is a classic Piemontese meal where quite literally every course is fried. Traditionally, you ate 18 courses of mixed fried foods! Start with fried vegetables, before you move to fried offal (think cuts like the brain and liver), and finish with fried fruit. It’s (obviously) quite a heavy meal, but very delicious!
5. White truffles
If you’re lucky enough to visit Piedmont between September and December, then you simply have to go mad for white truffles. Shaved over fresh tajarin, fried eggs, or raw meat, they are utterly exquisite. White truffles have a more refined flavour compared to the also delicious black truffles. They’re more difficult to find and available for a shorter period of time, so don’t come cheap! However, you really cannot miss trying this delicacy when in Piedmont.
6. Vitello tonnato
Think thin cold slices of veal with a creamy tuna sauce and a caperberry on top. You might be questioning the mix of meat with fish, but trust us, the Piemontese know what they’re talking about! The meat is cooked in a broth, becoming juicy and moist, before a sauce made from eggs, oil, anchovies and tuna is spooned over the top. This dish dates back to the 19th century and today you will easily find it available in most restaurants throughout the region.
7. Brasato al Barolo
Did you know the famous wine Barolo is from Piedmont? A delicious ‘secondo’ or second course dish you can enjoy, is a braised beef dish cooked in a bottle of Barolo wine and vegetables. The meat is cooked in a pot for hours, becoming tender and delicious. It’s the ideal winter warmer served with crusty bread or polenta.
8. Hazelnut Cake
Piedmont is a region full of hazelnuts or nocciole as they’re called in Italian. Originating from the Langhe part of Piedmont, comes this tasty cake where the nuts truly shine. Made with hazelnuts, eggs, sugar and butter, it’s a simple cake to make and even easier to eat.
Hungry for Piedmont food?
Ready for a trip to Piedmont after learning about all the delicious morsels to find there? Get further inspired with a read of how to spend 48 hours in Turin, the elegant capital. If you’re planning on heading out to Barolo, take a look at the New York Time’s guide for how to spend 36 hours in Barolo (hint, it involves a lot of good food and wine!) Don’t forget to try the local wine (have a glass of Barbera) and aperitivo with vermouth on the rocks too!
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Olivia is an Australian woman living in Piedmont, with a huge love for the land of la dolce vita, cooking and wine. She has spent the last two years learning the language and working on organic farms, wineries and agriturismi (in between falling for a local and a global pandemic!) Follow her adventures on Instagram on Livguine.