Calabrian cuisine is among Italy’s poorest and simplest regional cuisines, yet its flavours are strong. It derives from a poor tradition that depended heavily on preserving food, especially pork and fruit, which are dried, and vegetables, which are preserved in oil.
Among the first courses, the traditional types of pasta are usually artisanal and thick, so as to blend well with the full-bodied sauces typical of the local gastronomy: the fileja, the filateddhi and the shtridhelat must be tasted. The friscatuli, polenta with suet and broccoli, and pumpkin scraps, gnocchi made of flour mixed with pumpkin, seasoned with garlic and chilli or with sardine and broccoli, are popular dishes in Calabria.
Among the main courses, it’s possible to taste ‘maiale alla pastora’: the pork meat has to be previously marinated with onion and pecorino cheese. Renowned also the lamb chops in Cosentina style with onions, peppers and parmesan with asparagus.
The trademark of Calabrian cuisine is peperoncino, spicy chilli pepper, used copiously in many dishes, and thought to ward off illness and misfortune. Try the spicy sorpressata salami, Nduia, a hot peperoncino and pork fat spread. As in all southern cuisine, cheeses such as caciocavallo, mature provola and pecorino are ubiquitous. The cipolla rossa from Tropea is a sweet red onion used in rustic pies, meat dishes, and in sweet preserves called ‘composta’.
Traditional to Calabria is stockfish: it can be cooked in many ways and the most known is the ‘stocco of Mammola’.
For dessert, try mostazzolo, an almond cookie sweetened with honey or wine must, or anything containing bergamotto, a citrus fruit that grows along the south coast. The pitta nchiusa, or pitta with oil, is an extraordinary dessert, cooked with liqueur, must, dried fruit, honey, sugar and pine nuts. One should also try the pignolata, a dessert made in the shape of a pinecone and covered with lemon and chocolate icing.

Baccalà alla cosentina