The Calabria region of Italy forms the toe of Italy’s boot. A rich culture and fantastic landscape characterize it. Calabria has always been associated as one of the poorest regions of Italy, mainly due to the lack of infrastructure and investment.
The territory of Calabria has a lot to offer to the tourists that visit this beautiful region every year. Starting from the beaches of Tropea, mentioned in Italy as one of the most beautiful “Borgo of Italy,” to Scilla, Reggio Calabria with its suggestive promenade and the Ionian Coast, with Roccella that it’s undoubtedly worth visiting, especially during the summer season.
Calabria and all the Italian regions are not only worth visiting for the places and the atmosphere they can offer, but also for its incredible food. In this article, I focus mainly on the most popular food in Calabria, sharing with you all that I know about it. In particular, we will dive into the origin of the Calabrian foods, the cultures that influenced the foods you can taste nowadays, and much more. So let’s dive in.
Origin of Calabria Food
Since Calabria has served as an immigration pole for the Hellenic population, many Calabrian dishes have Greek origin, in fact, in the past, Calabria was named “Magna Grecia.” However, Greeks were not the only population that lived in Calabria; other populations contributed to influencing the food that you find nowadays in Calabria.
The other main influences on the use and foods are Arabs and Normans.
Calabria’s food has always been mentioned as a “poor cuisine” mainly because they use cheap ingredients to prepare food. However, as we will see during this food guide of Calabria food, all the main dishes and the most traditional dishes of Calabria are made with ingredients that can be easily findable and that do not require a lot of investment.
Characteristics & Style of Food in Calabria
Before I start going deeper and showing you the most popular foods in Calabria, I have to tell you something. The” calabrian cuisine” is not spread equally among the region but changes from province to province. There are very few typical dishes that are widespread throughout the region; these are: pasta ca muddica and anchovies, eggplant parmigiana and stockfish. Traditional Calabrian dishes that we will see better later.
If you visit Calabria, you will notice that in some “bancarelle,” that is to say, “market stalls,” are present canned foods. Some of Calabria’s most popular canned foods are salted anchovies, nduja, and canned eggplant.
Another important thing worth mentioning is the role of bread in Calabria. It is part of the tradition of the majority of the Calabrian family (especially in the inner region of Calabria) to know how to prepare the bread and make it more time per week.
Not only salty foods in Calabria !!
Calabria is most famous for its spicy foods, where the nduja and soppressata bring high the region’s flag. You probably still need to learn that Calabria is famous for citrus fruits. The most renowned citrus fruit of Calabria is the Bergamotto.
The Bergamotto is mainly cultivated in Calabria, favored primarily to the climate and territory characteristics. This citrus fruit has achieved considerable success during the last period, both in Italy and worldwide. The success of the Bergamotto is mainly due to its uses: in facts it can be used to produce ice-cream and granite. Or they are used as cosmetics or for the production of perfume.
During this guide dedicated to food in Calabria, we will discover many traditional sweets.
I want to tell you that “tartufo di pizzo” is only one of the specialties that you can taste. But first things first, let’s start with salty food.
First-Course Food in Calabria
I would love to start the list of the most famous food in Calabria by beginning with the first course that you can find easily in the majority of restaurants in Calabria.
Calabria and other regions of Italy eat pasta during their lunch, while a second course usually characterizes the dinner. Let’s look at the most popular first-course foods in Calabria.
Fileja is one of the most famous types of pasta in Calabria. The shape of Fileja resembles elongated screws, and you can find them in every province of Calabria.
Fileja pasta is prepared by hand, and the preparation uses a ferretto, which is utilized for giving this particular shape. In the most traditional restaurant, you will find the Fileja served with goat meat. However, it is also served with nduja.
If you are going to visit this beautiful region soon, you cannot miss Fileja. However, Fileja pasta can also be prepared with other ingredients. For example, during my last visits to the Tropea, I found on the menu “Fileja alla Tropeana” the main ingredients changed from the traditional one, and in fact, there were presents mozzarella, olive, and nduja.
#2 Pasta Ca Muddica
As I already mentioned in the initial part of the article, the food in Calabria is mainly characterized by using poor ingredients. The second dish present on the list is a classic example. I am speaking about Pasta Ca muddica.
In this case, the main ingredient used to make this Pasta that you might find in some restaurants is the breadcrumbs. It is characteristic of the Calabrian family ( some years ago) to use the leftover bread, chopped and then added with tomato sauce and anchovies.
This dish is not the same in all the territory of Calabria; in the area of Reggio Calabria and province, it is not used tomato sauce, but it is simply prepared with only anchovies once the Pasta is cooke.
#3 Pasta With Nduja
If there is something that you cannot miss during your stay in Calabria, it is undoubtedly Pasta with Nduja. So if you are next to visiting Calabria, be ready to hear Nduja so many times. “Calabresi,” the name of people living in Calabria, love using Nduja in every salt dish.
Nduja is the main ingredient of Calabria, becoming very famous during the last period in all of Italy. If you are asking yourself what Nduja is, here is what you need to know. Nduja is a spreadable salami with a creamy consistency.
If you love spicy food and are curious to taste it, you will not have any problem finding it. Every restaurant or pizzeria has it. Nduja is paired with pasta, pizza, arancini, bruschetta, and much more.
Proceeding with the list, we found some things very unique. Honestly, as an Italian, I didn’t have the opportunity to taste it, but it sounds exciting. Morzello, also known as “Morzeddhu” is a typical traditional dish of Catanzaro.
In fact, Morzello is the symbol of the city of Catanzaro. Morzello is prepared with veal, which, to be precise, is mainly used the entrails of animals. In particular, the heart, lungs, spleen, liver, stomach, tripe and intestines are the ingredients of this dish.
All this part of the calf meat is cooked with tomato sauce and enriched with spicy peperoncino. The traditional way Morzello is served consists of inserting all the preparation inside “pitta,” a typical Bread. If you want to taste Morzello, you might find it only in Catanzaro or some nearby city. The cost is very cheap; most restaurants sell it for 5$ or less.
#5 Pasta a lu fùrnu
As you might see on the about page, this website was born to give you hidden gems and tell you the true Italy from an authentic Italian. The fifth dish I decided to include on the list is the most famous in the province of Reggio Calabria.
Pasta a lu furnu, is simply the name of a type of pasta prepared with meatballs, mozzarella, prosciutto Cotto, eggs, and peas. But, wait, before thinking that it doesn’t have anything special, I will tell you one more thing about the preparation of this dish.
This type of pasta is called “a lu furnu” because it means that after the boiling process of pasta, it is cooked again together with all the ingredients mentioned before in the oven, mixing everything one more time. It is a type of pasta that, as tradition, is cooked every Sunday, recognized as the day of rest.
Main course food in Calabria
After covering Calabria’s most traditional and popular first course, our attention will be moved to the Main course food.
Calabria is a regions with the most authentic and original history. As you might imagine, it is almost impossible to cover all the Main courses of Calabria, but I will try my best to include the most popular ones.
Do you remember what I said at the beginning of the article? The food in Calabria is mainly prepared with poor ingredients, and for everything, it is used for, nothing is throwaways. This is the case of “Frittole“.
Frittole is a typical way used in Reggio Calabria to prepare pork meat. To prepare Frittole, it is used in a big pot, called in the local language “caddarone,” where it is added in large quantities of fat pork and other animal waste parts such as the muzzle, cheek, rind, tongue, ears, kidney. Once added to the pot, it is left cooking everything for around six hours.
As you can imagine, we are speaking about a very high-calorie dish, and indeed not for everybody. Anyway, if you are in Reggio Calabria, and you don’t have any problem gaining some pounds, it is surely worth tasting.
At the beginning of the articles, we already mentioned Nduja and its importance for Calabria. However, since it is considered the primary symbol for this southern region of Italy, it is worth mentioning it in more detail.
Nduja is made utilizing the meat of pork and Calabrian Chilli peppers. If you are visiting Calabria, you will notice that it is not only served as the condiment of pasta, but you will find it also served with bruschetta.
You cannot return to your county without tasting Nduja; it is a must if you are visiting the Calabria Region.
#8 Mulinciani Chini
Another popular ingredient in most of the places you will visit in Calabria is eggplant.
Eggplant, together with zucchini, is one of the most used vegetables of Calabria. The “Calabresi” utilizes eggplants by preparing preserved eggplant. (But for this, I will reserve an entire article in the future that you will surely love).
Our attention is now on this typical main course of Calabria called Melanzana ripiena in Italian and Calabrese dialectics, “Mulingiani Chini.” The dish practically consists of utilizing an eggplant and creating inner space, adding breadcrumbs and prosciutto.
After inserting these ingredients, the eggplant is cooked in the oven. Finding this dish is not so easy. However, with more chances, you will find it in the province of Reggio Calabria.
3 Popular Cheese in Calabria
Until now, we have seen the most popular pasta of Calabria, some of the most traditional and popular main dishes of Calabria. We must include the cheese to complete this first section dedicated to salty food.
Since I am a cheese lover, I know very well all the types of cheese in this region. So let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones.
The cheese in Calabria has a vital role in the culture of Italy. This is because Calabria owns one of the most ancient traditional cultures of cheese and dairy products. In the list you will see soon, many Calabrian kinds of cheese are denominated as DOP (denominazione origine protetta). That is a label that approves the original products around the world.
Caciocavallo Silano DOP
Caciocavallo DOP Silano is a dairy product produced in the valley of Sila. The incredible aroma is what makes this cheese so unique.
Pecorino Crotonese DOP
Pecorino Crotone DOP is produced from milk sheep. It is called Pecorino Crotone because it is made in the valley near Crotone. It is a fat cheese and rich in calories. However, it pairs very well with honey or a slice of bread.
Proceeding on the list of the most popular cheese in Calabria, we find the mozzarella Silana. Also, in this case, the name originates from where it is made: Sila. Therefore, you may discover Mozzarella Silana in Cosenza and Catanzaro.
In any case, if you are in some Calabrian restaurant in the summer and someone tells you that you are eating Mozzarella Silana, feel lucky because the production of this mozzarella is minimal and exclusive only for the summer period.
Popular Dessert in Calabria: (Dolce time)
If you are approaching your first visit to Calabria, be ready to taste an infinite number of sweets. Whatever places you visit in Calabria, you will always discover something different.
Among all the regions, the types of desserts offered are different. But now, let’s look at the most popular dessert in Calabria.
One of the most popular sweets of Calabria, which is now becoming famous worldwide, is Mostaccioli. The origin of the name is greek “mustacea,” and it is mainly produced in the zone of Soriano Calabro.
The main ingredients used to prepare this traditional Calabrian sweet are; flour and honey. The consistency of this biscuit is hard and heavy, and they assume different shapes. As a tradition, they are consumed during the village fair. Some parts of Calabria are only prepared during the easter period.
Now it is time for an authentic sweet gem. The Torrone Calabrese is a typical Calabrian sweet produced during the Christmas season. The original torrone of Calabria is made in a small town inside the purple coast of Calabria named “Bagnara Calabra.”
Torrone IGP of Bagnara Calabra is produced by using the following ingredients: sugar, toasted almonds, honey, white egg, bitter cocoa, and essential oil. There are mainly two types of torrone that you can taste: hard and soft. Both are worth tasting. If you are visiting during the Christmas period Calabria, and you are visiting Reggio Calabria or Tropea, reaching this small town is worth your time.
Tartufo di Pizzo
After getting to know Tropea and its beautiful beaches and crystal clear sea, which is why most of you will visit the Calabria region. I imagine that during your research you also heard about the Tartufo di Pizzo.
Tartufo di Pizzo won’t be left aside in this Calabria food guide. The Pizzo truffle is a sweet originally from Pizzo Calabro, a small town near Tropea.
The lace truffle consists of a scoop of ice cream with creamy chocolate. If you are in Tropea or plan to visit Tropea or nearby places, you will find the Tartufo di Pizzo as a dessert in most restaurants.
The toppings change; in addition to the traditional recipe based on dark chocolate, you will find pistachio, fruit, white chocolate and many other variations. The price for a Pizzo truffle will be around $ 7.
Now it is time to take a look at some typical desserts consumed during the Christmas period. First, you must know that in Calabria, many typical desserts are prepared exclusively during this period. Petrali is part of that tradition.
Petrali is the name attributed to a sweet produced in the Reggio Calabria province. They are made with shortcrust pastry with a crescent shape, stuffed with dried figs, walnuts, almonds, raisins, and citrus peels, brushed with egg yolk, and covered with colored annexes.
The preparation is long but is undoubtedly worth the timing. Also, in this case, I cannot say anything other than to try this fantastic dessert part of the Calabrian food tradition.
What is Calabria famous for food?
After seeing so much Calabria’s food, your mind can be a little bit confused and your stomach hungry; I can understand that, ahaha.
But what if we have to summarize the food of Calabria? What can we say about it? What is the most famous food? What do I have to try when I visit Calabria?
Calabria is mainly famous for fish and seafood dishes. Since Calabria Coast is wet with more than 500 miles of water from the Tyrrhenian sea, Ionian, and mediterranean sea, the catch of fish covers an essential part of the economy for this region. Indeed the primary type of fish that you will see in most restaurants, especially on the coast of Calabria, is the swordfish. Other types of popular fish are tuna and anchovies.
What are the unique products associated with Calabria?
As for every Italy region, Calabria shares many unique products. The most known are peperoncino, Tropea Red Onion, and bergamot. Followed by nduja and cheeses.
As soon as you set foot on Calabria, you will surely notice the horn-shaped red pepper that will decorate all the surrounding places. The red pepper has become a symbol for this region of Italy.
Calabresi loves to add spicy in every dish, either fish, meat, pasta, cheese, or whatever is possible; locals add spicy red pepper.
Tropea Red Onion
Another unique product that will make you remember your stay in Calabria is the Red Onion in Tropea. If you visit Tropea, the first thing you will notice as soon as you make your first step into the town is the presence of the Red Onion.
The Red Onion in Troepa has become very popular due to its sweet taste and use in most Calabrian dishes. Whatever you eat, from pasta to pizza, you will always find some things related to The Red onion of Tropea.
From salty to sweet, Calabria is undoubtedly a region of Italy rich in food and things to taste. With this article I hope to have passed on everything I know about food related to Calabria, giving you a great idea of what to taste when you visit Calabria.
Hey, I’m Giovanni, an Italian that lives in Italy and the author of this website! I started this website because I like to travel, discover new places and share my knowledge about Italy with more people worldwide. I love writing about everything regarding Italy, its culture, history, and lifestyle. I hope you found value in whatever article you read, and if you have any remaining questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!