The Campania region in the south western region of Italy has a 217 mile coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea and rich and fertile farmland inland, sloping up to a mountainous interior. This entire area produces superb quality cheeses and wines, fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, as well as a magnificent bounty from the sea. Naples, the capital of the region, is where pizza originated and it is now probably the world’s most favourite and well known food. Mozzarella di Bufala, or buffalo mozzarella cheese, is made in Caserta and Salerno and is exported worldwide.
The cuisine of Campania is colourful and rich, thanks to the wonderful produce grown in its lava rich soil. Best known are its lush Sorrento Ovale lemons, which are not only used in a variety of recipes, but which are also made into Limoncello liqueur; its tiny pomodoro di San Marzano, the juicy red cherry tomatoes eaten raw in salads and incorporated into a host of cooked dishes and sauces; amazing olives and olive oils; and grapes, which are made into many excellent wines, both red and white.
Mozzarella di Bufala is not the only cheese made in Campania. The region also produces a mozzarella from cow’s milk, wonderful ricottas from both buffalo and sheep milk, cow’s milk provolone and a goat’s milk caciotta from high in the mountains – where one of the region’s most interesting meat supplier is found – the wild boar. Smoked hams and salamis are served everywhere.
Gourmets and gourmands alike will enjoy the bounty of the ocean. The freshest of fish and even usually underrated species like sardines, anchovies and eel, as well as squid, octopus, clams and mussels, are commonly found on restaurant menus. Octopus are cooked for hours in sealed clay pots, squid is baked, stuffed and grilled, deep fried or served in salads, while clams and mussels form the base of seafood Marinara Pasta or are used in salads. The most popular sauces for these delicacies of the sea are made from tomatoes, olive oil, white wine, olives, capers, chilli and garlic.
Durum wheat is widely grown, as it is produces the strong flour needed for the host of pizza and pasta dishes for which the region is so renowned. The most authentic pizza is the Neapolitan Pizza, a simple crusty base with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil leaves, representing the colours of the Italian flag, which is baked in a wood fire oven. Calzone is a folded pizza which looks similar to a Cornish pasty and can be bought with a variety of fillings; and a Marinara pizza has a topping of mixed fresh seafood. Spaghetti Puttanesca, or the strumpet’s spaghetti, is a simple dish of pasta, tomato sauce, capers, anchovies, black olives garlic and chilli, while Scialatielli, found all along the Amalfi coast, is a thick spaghetti made with Parmigiano cheese, eggs and parsley, is generally served with tomatoes and mixed seafood.
Desserts are usually unforgettable handmade gelatos, a shot of Grappa or Limoncello and some of the world’s best coffee.