As well as being regional, Italian food is very seasonal: Recipes change depending on what produce is on offer (and what feels right to eat with the weather!). Luckily, fall has to be one of our favorite food seasons in Italy. Here are just a few reasons why… and four foods to eat if you’re lucky enough to be here now!
Risotto con funghi porcini (Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont, Alto Adige, and the Veneto)
‘Tis the season for porcini mushrooms—and after winter’s intense cold sets in, you won’t see them again until May, and only briefly. Now, when the weather’s rainy and crisp, is when these little mushrooms are growing in the hills of central and northern Italy. Even if you don’t love mushrooms, try these: They’re like little melt-in-your-mouth bites.
You can find porcini mushrooms served alone (usually simply sauteed or grilled) as a contorno, or sprinkled on top of pastas, in the regions above and in Umbria and Tuscany, too. But we love the variety with risotto, a northern specialty.
Pasta al tartufo (Umbria, Tuscany, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, Lazio, Abruzzo and Molise)
Truffle festivals are happening across Italy right now, but even if you can’t get to a sagra, you can find tartufi in restaurants throughout the fall and winter! A gourmand’s dream, truffles are the gems of the forest. They’re mushrooms, but unlike any you’ve ever tasted—and expensive (the going rate for white truffles just shot up to 3,000 euros per kg!). Luckily, though, you can generally find a pasta with truffle shavings for between 15 and 30 euros, depending on the type of truffle. (White truffles are the most expensive, and their season ends in December. Black truffles, which are cheaper, are hunted throughout the winter).
Even though a pasta al tartufo is pricier than a carbonara, take it from us: Truffles are worth tasting once. At least.
Cinghiale alla cacciatora (across Italy)
With November comes the start of hunting season on cinghiale, or wild boars. That means lots of opportunity to try this game, a particular favorite in Italy’s smaller towns and countryside. Although you can taste wild boar in salumi (especially in Tuscany and Umbria), or ladled over pappardelle, we like it as this simple and delicious secondo, sauteed slowly with onions, carrots, celery, and spices.
Castagnaccio (Tuscany and Umbria)
Yes, you can find chestnuts year-round, at least being sold by vendors on the streets of Rome. But steer clear… until they’re in season in autumn and winter, that is. You can find a variety of chestnut-based dishes across Italy (some quite creative, like a minestrone of chestnuts from Abruzzo or chocolate and chestnut-filled pasta from Emilia-Romagna).
Our favorite, though, is castagnaccio, a dense cake made out of chestnut flour. It’s typically associated with Tuscany and Umbria, but you can buy it in Lazio, Liguria, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna, too.
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