Visiting Calabria means discovering the – very often strong – savours that characterize this wonderful Italian region, and eating in Calabria you get the chance to taste some of the typical dishes and products that are part of the culture and history of this region. Although many typical dishes of Calabria have remained the same through time and have been influenced by the peoples that inhabited this region in the past, from the Greeks and the Arabs, Calabria cuisine is well-known all over Italy (and beyond) for the large use of chilli peppers, an ingredient that was imported only after the discovery of America, thus less ancient than other ingredients. And chilli peppers, in fact, is very widespread in Calabria cuisine, and many dishes are characterized by strong and spicy savours.
This is the case of ‘Nduja, a typical soft salami, and of whitebait of bluefish in oil, which is called Jancumangiari in Calabria, and is prepared with chilli peppers and fried. Another very widespread ingredient in the cuisine of this region is onion, strictly from Tropea! The little village in the province of Vibo Valentia has been strictly connected with the name of the famous red onion, which has gained the quality mark, and which is notably sweet. Onions are used as ingredients for many dishes, like “freselle” with tuna, a typical dish of Tropea.
The fact that this cuisine is characterized by strong and spicy savours might appear strange, as it seems to be in contradiction with the high temperatures recorded in summer in this region, but chilli peppers, onion and strong savours are essential parts of Calabria cuisine. Calabria cuisine is self-evidently rich of fish dishes, as this is one of the Italian regions with the higher percentages of coasts. If you happen to visit the coasts of Calabria, you will probably happen to taste delicious fish dishes. Tuna and swordfish belong to the most widespread fishes of Calabria cuisine, at least as far as Tyrrhenian Sea is concerned, while on the Ionian coasts the specialty is whitebait of bluefish.
Some of the dishes that stand out are “sardella”, a sauce made of pilchards or whitebait of bluefish and enriched with spices and chilli peppers, of course – that you can spread on bread or pour onto pasta. Not only fish though: also the offer of meat dishes (goat and pork above all) is very rich in Calabria. Some typical dishes of this region are “frittole”, made with pork ring and meat boiled in the fat of the pork, lamb chops Cosenza style (with onion, tomatoes, peppers and green olives), Calabria sausages, the very famous “soppressata” (a sort of salami that can be spicy or sweet) and pasta with pork and goat sauce. The most widespread vegetables are, apart from onions, aubergines, broad beans, tomatoes and peppers, which are used to prepare very tasty dishes like Aubergine Parmesan or “pipi chini” (stuffed peppers). To sum up, eating in Calabria means tasting strong savours and dishes that tell you a lot about this Italian region.