Northern Italian cuisine has some important differences from the culinary traditions of the rest of Italy. These differences stem from the geographic differences found in each region.
Northern Italy has eight distinct regions—Liguria, Val d'Aosta, Piemonte, Lombardia, Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, and Emilia-Romagna—each with local specialties and distinctive regional variations on well-known Italian specialties.
Although a trip to Northern Italy might be tough to come by - especially in 2020 - here is some inspiration for a delectable dish you can easily make at home with ingredients from an authentic Italian grocery store. Take your tastebuds on an Italian getaway!
Northern Italian Food
Stemming primarily from the differences in climate and terroir, northern Italian cooking relies on certain ingredients that are less commonly found in dishes from other parts of the peninsula. Rather than olive oil, many recipes from Italy's north call for unsalted butter, which is more readily available locally.
Different forms of broth, or wine, are more commonly used as cooking liquids, with chopped herbs serving to add flavor. Also, tomatoes feature far less prominently than in classic dishes from the south of Italy.
Pasta remains a staple of northern Italian cuisine, but in different forms, and not quite to the same extent, as seen in other regions. Items like polenta and risotto are on par with pasta in terms of popularity, and the northern regions tend to rely on stuffed pasta dishes, rather than the long pasta shapes that people usually associate with Italian food.
Milan is the capital of Lombardia (Lombardy) in northern Italy, a region better known for its contributions to the world of fashion than culinary innovation. But there are many local delicacies to discover! This region is known for an eclectic mix of ingredients, which shows the influence of both the mountains and the valleys in this region.
Many traditional recipes from Lombardia use slow braising or stewing, so here we are presenting one of the best known examples in risotto alla milanese. This recipe is perfect for a main course, as it provides four generous servings.
- Butter (5-6 tablespoons)
- Onion (1 small, finely chopped)
- Italian rice (2 cups)
- White wine (1/2 cup)
- Salt (1 teaspoon)
- Parmesan cheese (to taste)
- Beef stock (3 cups)
- Saffron (two pinches)
- Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a heavy skillet, and chopped onion and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add rice and stir well, make sure onion and rice are fully coated with butter.
- Add wine (dry white wines, like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, are best) and cook for 5-6 minutes, or until wine is almost entirely gone.
- Add stock slowly, one cup at a time, making sure that each cup is absorbed and cooked down before adding the next.
- As rice reaches desired tenderness, add saffron and keep stirring to make sure it does not stick to the pan.
- When rice is done cooking, remove from heat and add remaining butter. Add grated Parmesan cheese as you see fit and serve immediately.
- If you're looking to add a protein, cured meats pair wonderfully with the richness of the risotto.
- Sliced truffles, or a hit of truffle-infused olive oil, make great finishing touches
Authentic Italian Flavours
The next time you want to serve authentic Italian comfort food, like risotto alla milanese, to your family and loved ones, start your prep work by visiting Nini & Deluca. A few minutes browsing through the vast selection of authentic Italian products will be enough to get everything you need for a hearty and delicious feast!