11 Incredible Dishes You Shouldn't Leave Italy Without Eating

Best italian dishes
Best italian dishes
(Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo)

Italy is one of the foodie capitals of the world and it's not difficult to see why. Authentic Italian food focuses on using fresh, high quality ingredients, put together simply, which come together to create something very special.

We're all familiar with Italy's traditional favourites - but what's new on the menu? Don't leave Italy without eating these delicious dishes and products...

1. Limoncello-inspired desserts

We've all slurped the obligatory limoncello at the end of a meal - but forward-thinking chefs are also adding it to desserts such as tiramisu and panna cotta. Think of it as the Italian version of lemon drizzle cake!

Limoncello shopping in Sorrento (Alamy)

2. Regional pasta types like candele and ziti

Everyone knows penne, fusilli and farfalle, but there's a resurgence of traditional regional pasta types - such as candele (which have an elongated and hollow shape) and ziti (which is a lot like thick spaghetti with a hollow centre).

Candele with meat ragu (Alamy)

3. Aged and flavoured balsamic vinegars

The selection of balsamic vinegars that you can find in supermarkets has grown significantly but now you can buy flavoured vinegars such as pomegranate balsamic, strawberry balsamic or even cranberry crème to add a twist to your dish.

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4. Varying ages of Parmesan

The minimum aging time for Parmesan cheese is around 12 months, with the maximum being around 36 months for a really mature cheese. You'll find you'll have more choice when buying now, whether you prefer slightly milder or stronger.

Like your parmesan really mature? You're in luck (Alamy)

5. Guanciale

Guanciale is the cured meat used in carbonara and comes from pork jowl or cheek. It's a really lovely ingredient as the fat melts away in the cooking process, leaving tender meat with a delicate pork flavour. Tempted? Try this simple yet delicious spaghetti carbonara recipe.

6. Nduja sausage

This spicy sausage paste is now a regular on pizzas and in pasta dishes. Expertly seasoned, it's a great alternative to tomato sauce.

Our new favourite sandwich filling (Alamy)

7. Polpette

Polpette are giant traditional meatballs that can be enjoyed for lunch or dinner, in a sandwich, with pasta, rice or with crusty bread for dipping. Yum.

Polpette (Alamy)

8. Arancini balls and spaghetti cakes

Arancini balls are traditional Italian street food. These fried rice balls are usually filled with either a meaty ragu or mozzarella for a meat-free version. Plus, while we're on the subject of fried treats, look out for shallow fried spaghetti cakes, which are perfectly crispy on the outside and cooked in a delicious tomato sauce.

Arancini (Alamy)

9. Slow fermented sourdough pizzas

The influence for this delicious treat comes from Naples where in a lot of authentic pizzarias the dough is fermented for 24 hours with natural yeast and contains just salt, water and flour. It's much lighter and easier to digest.

Pizza doesn't get any better than this (Alamy)

10. Aged Provolone cheese

This really delicate and nutty cheese is aged around 24 months and is perfectly complemented by fig molasses and almond bread. It's said it gets its unique flavour from the mountain grass, heather, which sheep graze on - it doesn't get more organic than that.

11. Smoked peppers, tomatoes and cheeses

Smoking peppers, tomatoes and cheeses (or any ingredient for that matter) really alters their taste and gives them extra depth of flavour.