Without a doubt, Italy is one of Europe’s most revered culinary destinations, and a place where discerning palettes can explore with sheer pleasure. Since her first trip to Italy more than 30 years ago, Quench founder Jen Deacon has indulged in the discovery of its varied regional flavours and has sought out local, seasonal cuisine from the top of the boot to the bottom of the heel.
Last month, Jen spent three weeks in Italy: The first two were spent guiding a multigenerational family from Venice to Rome, and then she headed straight to Puglia for some R&R with friends. Tough as it was to pick favourites among a long list of exceptional meals, here are Jen’s top 5 five eats that no Quench traveller should miss:
1. Fiori di Zucca
Savour this gorgeous vegetable in the summertime when it is at its finest. On this trip Jen ate them in a delicately divine sauce for pici pasta, but the winning dish was a decadent antipasto of lightly fried flowers stuffed with melted mozzarella, pepperoncino, basil and sage.
2. Fried Sage leaves
Fresh from the garden, battered with flour and Prosecco and fried in the region’s best olive oil, this crispy and salty snack is the perfect pairing for your apertivo. Simply divine.
Trapizzino is a Roman street food that is similar to a mini calzone, except that the dough is baked separately and then stuffed with delicious savoury fillings. Its name is a play on words, a combo of tramezzino (a traditional triangular sandwich served in cafes) and pizza. The pocket-sized snack is great on-the-go, and in between museum hopping.
4. Hand-made Orechiette in Puglia
During a private cooking course in Puglia, Jen prepared the typical ear-shaped pasta of the region called “Orecchiette” with a sauce of five varieties of local tomatoes and finished with fresh sage and a sprig of basil. The dish is simple, but ultra rich in seasonal flavour.
5. Melanzane Parmigiana with a twist
This classic Italian dish can be served with a unique Puglian twist…no tomato! The lightly battered eggplant is layered with fresh burrata and smoked provolone cheeses before baking. Just before serving, the chef drizzles it with olive oil from an ancient grove nearby. Perfection.
What was your most memorable Italian dish? Share in the comments!