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Calabria in tavola

On the tip of the Italian boot, resourceful Calabrians thrive on bread, pork, seafood and … licorice.

The Land

Calabria is a peninsula within the Italian peninsula, and otherwise known as the toe of the boot.
The Greeks that settled along the Calabrian coast founded many of the region’s most splendid cities, including Reggio, Locri, Crotone, and Sibari.

The area quickly came under the control of the Romans, who made Calabria a province of their Empire. The rest of the regional history follows that of the other regions of southern Italy: first it was taken over by the Byzantines, then the Normans, and then the Angevins as part of the Kingdom of Naples. In the 15th century, many Albanians immigrated to Calabria to escape the Turkish invasion. Albanian is still spoken in some towns around Cosentino.

Calabria is separated from Basilicata by the Pollino massif. The mountains continue east towards Sila, and then taper off around Aspromonte, where you will find terraces covered with citrus and olive trees. What little flat land you find in Calabria is located along the coast. The Sibari plain is found near the Ionian Sea, whereas Sant’Eufemia and Gioia are found on the Tyrrhenian coast.

The entire region is covered with ancient Greek and Roman ruins, as well as Byzantine and Medieval monuments.  Centenary and Crotone are two exceptional examples.

The Food

Calabrians are resourceful people. Although the coast was fairly uninhabitable due to natural disasters and marine invasions, fish is still caught and eaten regularly. Calabrians also seem to make the most of what little vegetation can grow in the mountainous terrain.

Bread is a fundamental part of the regional cuisine. Pitta is a type of Calabrian flatbread that is stuffed and seasoned with peppers, tomatoes and herbs.

Although this is a region of sheepherders, Calabrians consume more pork than lamb. Pork is used to make Prosciutto, Pancetta DOP, Salsiccia DOP, Soppressata DOP, Capocollo di Calabria DOP, and  Nduja, a sausage flavored with sweet and spicy peppers. However, many of the regional cheeses are made from sheep’s milk, like Giuncata. Abbespata, a smoked ricotta, and Caciocavallo Silano DOP, a cow’s milk cheese aged for various lengths of time, are also popular.

Fish and seafood are used in many regional recipes. Swordfish is extremely common, and tuna to a lesser degree.

Traditional Italian licorice, or liquirizia, comes from Rossano Calabro and has been known to aide digestion since 1700. The Calabrians are so serious about their licorice that they built a museum dedicated to the plant. Calabrian desserts are similar to those of the neighboring regions.

Mostaccioli are sweets of Arab origin made with honey and sweet wine.  Another local favorite is Torrone di Bagnara, a sweet nougat.

The intense, full-bodied wines of Calabria pair nicely with the flavors of the food and the local products. Look for Cirò, Greco, Nicastro, Squillace and Montonico.

Traditional Recipes of Calabria

Eggplant Meat-less Balls
This version of traditional meatballs, made with eggplant rather than meat, is a typical Italian appetizer and is quite easy to prepare.

Lasagna with chickpeas
This is a first course from the Calabria region, with its characteristic sheets of pasta reflecting an age-old tradition.

Swordfish with capers and lemon
A quick and easy recipe that will help you discover the versatility of swordfish in the kitchen.

Chocolate-coated figs
For real gourmets.