Italy Roundtable: 7 of Italy’s Most Strange Foods

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Many people know what “Italian food” means. I have already discussed “Italian cuisine” is not a thing. However, there are certain ingredients and dishes that we associate with Italy.

For this month’s Italy Roundtable theme FLAVOR I wanted to talk about some of the dishes and ingredients that may sound strange or unappetizing at first but are loved and often surprising delicious.

We all know that travel is a great way for you to expand your horizons at many levels. What could be more exciting than trying new cuisines at the dinner table? Although you may not find a new favorite flavor, it is possible.

Let’s start with the basics:

A person’s favorite dish may be someone else’s strange food.

This means that while some people reading this may be averse to the following dishes, I encourage them to remember that they are traditional and well-loved dishes. They are also culinary specialties that tell stories about the place they came from and can show how resourceful people can become when they are poor.

Cucina povera, which roughly translates to the food of the poor has been in fashion for some time. Michelin chefs are reinventing meals that were originally created out of necessity, and charging a lot for them. Many of these regional specialties are based on humble beginnings. They were created by a whole socioeconomic class that couldn’t afford a better cut of meat.

But I digress. I digress.

Before I dive into the fun list of strange Italian delicacies, let me remind you that even with less than ideal ingredients, Italians can create delicious, nutritious, and flavorful meals. Although I haven’t tried all of the items on this list, I will.

Except for the one item. This is still a problem for me.

Now, let’s get on with the show!

Cervelli Fritti

It would be a challenge for anyone to refuse a plate of deep-fried food. Even if it’s brains, in this instance, it is. Cervelli Fritti are calf and lamb brains that have been boiled then cut into small pieces before being deep-fried. These can be eaten the same way as any other fried treat: with a pinch of salt or a splash fresh lemon juice.


Marti NA (@marti_na23).

February 24, 2016, 10:33 AM PST

Trippa

Tripe is an ingredient found in the stomach of cows. Trippa can be prepared with tomatoes, beans or tomato sauce. This is a dish that needs to be done carefully in order not to be too chewy or taste bland.

Pani ca Meusa

Pani ca meusa is one of Palermo’s most popular street food. It’s a sandwich made with the spleen, lungs and meat of veal. If you wish, you can add some shredded cheese. It’s okay that the meat is a bit gray. It’s delicious.

Pajata

After 14 years of being on the blacklist Pajata is making a comeback to Roman cuisines. The locals are thrilled about this. This classic Roman dish uses the intestines from milk-fed calves. The creaminess of this dish is due to the milk remaining in the intestines. It can be served as a side dish or as a sauce for pasta.

Lampredotto

This Florentine sandwich has one of the four stomachs of a cow and is slow-cooked with vegetables and herbs. It’s a popular quick meal because the soft bread can be dipped into the meaty juice, before being stuffed with the meat. Lampredotto food carts can be found throughout the city, as well as some Italian-style fast food restaurants.

Sanguinaccio

For dessert, try a sanguinaccio dolce – sweet blood pudding. The custard is made from fresh pig’s blood and chocolate. It is dense, sweet, and slightly mineraly. A savory version is sanguinaccio insaccato, which tastes a lot like blood sausage.

Casu Marzu

For me, however, Sardinia’s casu marzu is the best of Italy’s bizarre delicacies. Flies lay eggs in hard sheep’s cheese wheels (the cheese makers encourage it) and maggots eat through the cheese to create soft, wiggly interior.

Yes, even though the cheese is still alive with live maggots in it, it’s loved by locals.

Cazu marzu maggots can be very jumpy, so it is a good idea to use eye protection. Which… GAH.)

It is possible to kill the maggots by placing the cheese in a bag and preserving its soft texture. However, I am sure that locals would not consider this cheating.

Let us know what you think. What are your thoughts? Which one would you like to try?

Italy Roundtable: Other Voices

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6 Responses to “Italy Roundtable 7 of Italy’s Weirdest Foods”

  • Trippa is something I have tried many times. However, I find that it tastes better when I use it as an ingredient in pasta sauces. The maggot cheese is the only one I would not try.

  • It was amazing! I can still remember my first experience with fried brain in Florence. I was there with my ex-family and we all giggled when they explained that it was fried cauliflower. My only comment was “it’s so creamy!” Pani ca Meusa is something I’d love to try. !

  • Trippa is a favorite of my husband. He said that it’s all about the sauce, as it is quite bland.

    I try to avoid eating organ meats and have made it a practice of not eating them. Bravo to the more daring!

  • Pete R has the following:

    This would be an episode on Fear Factor. My stomach is too weak for these Italian dishes, but I love Italian food!

  • Valerie says:

    Trippa and the horrendous coratella have been given to me (blech), but these are more disgusting than those meals! Although I don’t shy away from food, the whole thing turns me off. Thanks for the reminder. Most of these I had never heard of.


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