‘Nduja from Spilinga
A traditional Calabrian spicy salami
‘Nduja is without doubt one of the most famous products of Calabria’s traditional foods. It is a soft, bright red salami for spreading, and has a spicy flavour. It is made in Spilunga, a village in the province of Vibo Valentia. Its name has ancient origins: it comes from the Latin word “inducere”, which translates as “to introduce”; it has been influenced by two other cured meats, “salame d’la doja” from the Piedmont region, and “andouille”, meaning “sausage”, from France.
‘Nduja is made with pork meat, fatty parts and plenty of spicy Calabrian chilli pepper, which gives it its strong red colour. Gut is filled with the mixture before being smoked and left to mature.
‘Nduja is often used when preparing tomato puree and meat sauces, or as a pizza topping. The simplest way to enjoy it is by spreading it on slices of toasted bread.
PGI Red Tropea Onion
An ingredient of the Mediterranean diet, it is cultivated in Calabria and has PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status.
As a result of its outstanding qualities, the PGI Red Tropea Onion iswell-known throughout Italy, in spite of the fact that it is only grown in Calabria, in the provinces of Catanzaro, Vibo Valentia and Cosenza. It can be both round or oval-shaped, and is a purplish-red colour. It was first imported into Calabria by the Phoenicians, and later by the Greeks. Its name, however, is misleading: originally, the onions were grown at Capo Vaticano, and were transported on mules as far as the port of Tropea, from where they were then transported.
It is a typical ingredient of the Mediterranean diet and has Protected Geographical Indication status.
The onion’s unique flavour means it can also be eaten raw. Alternatively, it can be used for making a variety of Calabrian dishes.
Monte Poro Pecorino
A typical sheep’s milk cheese made on Monte Poro, in Calabria
Monte Poro Pecorino is one of the best sheep’s milk cheeses made in southern Italy and is the result of a process with ancient roots. It is only made using the milk from sheep which graze on Monte Poro (Mount Poro) in the province of Vibo Valentia. Depending on its maturity, it has very different colours and flavours:
When fresh, the cheese can be eaten like any normal eating cheese. When it is more mature, it lends itself well to making sauces for first course dishes.
Calabrian spicy chilli pepper
A variety of chilli pepper from Calabrian cuisine
Calabrian spicy chilli pepper is perhaps the symbol of Calabria. As with many traditional ingredients of its cuisine, it is brilliant red in colour. It was imported for the first time by Christoper Colombus to Spain, and subsequently arrived in Calabria in the early sixteenth century. This product has forms and chilli pods that vary greatly, and is very spicy. With its very aromatic flavour, it even has documented therapeutic qualities: the first reference dates back to 1635, in the writings of Calabrian philosopher Tommaso Campanella.
Chilli pepper is mainly used as seasoning for food, pasta and pizza, and for preparing preserves, not to mention all traditional Calabrian dishes.
Pizzo Calabro Truffle
Hard ice-cream typical of Calabrian patisseries
Pizzo Calabro Truffle is a speciality with a reputation that precedes it throughout Italy and Europe. It is a handmade hard ice-cream, created by two confectioners from Messina (who had taken over a bar in Pizzo around the early ‘50s) by chance during a wedding banquet. To make it, they covered hazelnut ice-cream with a layer of chocolate ice-cream, adding melted chocolate inside and covering it with sheets of sugar paper. After leaving it to cool, they covered it with bitter cocoa powder. It was named truffle owing to its irregular round shape, as well as its dark colour. It is still made by hand throughout Calabria. There are other products inspired by this ice-cream, but they are made on an industrial scale.
Liquorice, the black soul of Calabria
Liquorice and liqueurs
Liquorice is a very common plant in Calabria. Its extract is used for making sweets and liqueurs. Approximately 80% of all Italian liquorice is made in Calabria. Liquorice is also made in powder form, and is used in many typical products of the region’s cuisine. It is shiny black in colour, and has a very strong, intense flavour which is sweet yet bitter at the same time. The intrinsic qualities of liquorice make it highly recommended as a natural remedy for coughs. It is also an excellent digestive.
Rossano Calabro, in the province of Cosenza, is home to one of the largest liquorice factories: we recommend visiting the factory and its museum, where you can buy liquorice powder for trying your hand at making homemade liqueur, or you can use it as a seasoning for your dishes.
Typical handmade Calabrian pasta
Fileja (also called fileda, filea or filei) is a type of fresh pasta made by hand in the province of Vibo Valentia, using durum wheat flour, salt and water. It is long and spiral-shaped and whitish-yellow in colour. Rough to the touch and made by hand, its flavours and aromas bring to mind life in the countryside. Fileja is very porous and accordingly absorbs any sauces used completely. These mainly include meat sauce and tomato puree with sausage. It is also enhanced with ‘nduja di Spilinga, and Monto Porro chilli pepper.
Recent decades have seen this high quality product being sold beyond regional and even national confines. This is particularly the case with driedfileja, which can be bought and eaten even a long time after.
PDO Soppressata di Calabria
A typically Calabrian traditional cured meat
PDOSoppressata di Calabria is a cured meat made using pork cut into large pieces, natural aromas and chilli pepper. It is very similar to a sausage. The name of this traditional cured meat comes from the method used to produce it, which involves pressing: accordingly it becomes cylindrical in shape, but squashed at the sides. It is typically red in colour and has a strong, spicy flavour, the result of the curing process which lasts three to five months.
Originally it was typical of the Basilicata region, but over the course of time it also spread to Puglia, Campania and Calabria. Calabrian Soppressata is, however, one of the best known, particularly because it has been awarded Protected Denomination of Origin status.
Vecchio Amaro del Capo
A typical herb-based liqueur from Calabria
Vecchio Amaro del Capo is a liqueur which symbolises Calabria, and is made by Distilleria Caffo at Limbadi, in the province of Vibo Valentia. Its recipe calls for 29 officinal herbs that grow throughout Calabria, and in particular on Monte Poro. In fact it is these local herbs (such as bitter orange, sweet orange, liquorice, mandarin, camomile and juniper) that give it a unique flavour, unique of its kind: it is sweet yet it has a strong and aromatic aftertaste, and is also suitable for those who prefer subtle flavours. It has a characteristic dark colour and is served very cold, in frozen glasses that ensure the flavour of certain herbs is heightened. Of its many qualities, it is also an excellent digestive liqueur.