Ten Local Foods You Have To Try in Piedmont
The northern Italian region of Piedmont boasts a variety of gastronomic delicacies: from prestigious wines such as Barbera and Barbarolo to cheeses such as Bra, from meats and cold cuts to the classic hazelnuts. In fact, Piedmont ranks fifth among Italy’s regions for number of typical food products – 341. You may not be able to try them all on a single trip, so here’s a selection of ten local foods you shouldn’t miss when you travel to Piedmont.
The queen of Piedmont sauces, bagna cauda (Piedmontese dialect for ‘warm sauce’) is prepared with olive oil, garlic and anchovies paste, extensively cooked; butter, milk, cream or ground walnuts may be added to lessen the salty taste of the anchovies. It's a convivial dish: bagna cauda is traditionally put in a container at the center of the table for everyone to dip into with in-season vegetables and toasted bread. It goes well with the local full-bodied red wines, such as Barbera, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco and Dolcetto.
Among the pastas, agnolotti is a classic first course. It’s egg pasta stuffed with roasted meat, which makes it different from any other type of regional stuffed pasta. The sauce that accompanies it vary according to the area, from roasted meat to butter, sage and Parmigiano Reggiano, from meat broth to ragu Piedmont-style. From the Langhe and Monferrato area come the renowned agnolotti del plin, which are tiny and rectangular-shaped. Wash down with Dolcetto and Barbera.
Another typical fresh pasta is tajarin (Piedmontese dialect for tagliatelle or tagliolini), thin egg noodles, which use a higher amount of egg yolks as compared to egg pasta from other Italian regions. A classic is Tajarin with truffle from Alba.
Risotto al Barolo
Rice and Barolo are both typical of Piedmont, so combining them makes for a classic regional fare. A favorite of statesman Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, this risotto dish uses Barolo, considered one of Italy’s best wines. Barolo is made from the Nebbiolo grape.
Brasato al Barolo
Staying with Barolo, but moving on to second courses, brasato al Barolo is the ultimate Piedmontese dish, a stew cooked for hours in Barolo, which softens the meat and enriches it with the flavors of the wine.
A second course consisting of various cuts of meats boiled for a long time, along with carrots, onions and celery, and served together very hot. It's accompanied by mashed or boiled potatoes, and sauces, such as salsa verde, tomato and anchovies sauce, and mustard sauce.
Among Piedmont cheeses, Castelmagno DOP is an ancient formaggio produced in the north-west portion of the region. The earliest known mention of it is in 1277, but it may date from even earlier. It is a semi-hard cheese produced with the milk obtained from cattle of the Piedmontese breed fed on fresh forage or hay. It can be eaten by itself, but is also widely employed for the preparation of dishes of the Piedmontese cuisine, such as potato gnocchi topped with melted Castelmagno and Castelmagno soufflé with walnuts and honey.
Those with a sweet tooth will delight in the variety of delicious desserts on offer in Piedmont. Bonet is a pudding of ancient tradition, made with eggs, sugar, milk, cocoa, liquor (usually rum) and dried amaretti. It is steamed and served either warm or cold.
Baci di dama
These cookies originated in Tortona in the 19th century, and are so called (lady’s kisses) because they are made of two shells of dough united by chocolate in the middle, recalling lips intent on kissing. They are made with flour, Piedmont hazelnut, butter, sugar and dark chocolate. Sometimes hazelnuts are substituted with almonds. Savor Baci di dama with dessert wines such as Monferrato and Alta Langa spumante rosato.
It’s impossible not to fall in love with this chocolate candy invented in Turin in 1865. Gianduiotto is made from a combination of sugar, cocoa, cocoa butter and the Tonda Gentile delle Langhe, a type of hazelnut produced in the Langhe area of Piedmont. It has an upturned boat shape. Hard to stop at one, be warned!