Neapolitan Treats and Traditional Dishes

Napoli is well known abroad for being the home of pizza, one of the simplest yet more scrumptious and satisfying treats in the world. This is good and true, but Naples and the whole Campania region offer many more yummy and attractive recipes to try at least once during your staying!  Neapolitan cuisine is varied, even if seafood and fish tend to have a more prominent role, while meat is less used.

One of the princesses of Naples is mozzarella di bufala, no doubt about it! It’s worldwide famous, and everyone in Italy recognizes that the most delicious water buffalo mozzarella comes from the southern zones of the peninsula, namely from Campania, hands down. Here you can get the freshest product, sometimes just a few hours after it was made! That definitely makes a difference, because as the time passes mozzarella changes, and goes from being very firm and oozing milk when you cut it to being soft and somewhat soggy. Besides, its flavor changes in bad, becoming weak and not so exciting, while a mozzarella should be milky and fresh.

For lunch, try Sartù di riso – a rich dish, prepared with rice seasoned with green peas, tomatoes, mozzarella and small meatballs. It looks like a rice cake with a thin golden crust, and of course, everyone has his own recipe for sartù! Sometimes hard boiled eggs and/or ham are added to the mix. Even if it’s not very complex it asks for a long preparation, but it’s definitely worth it! The sartùis traditionally prepared for important days.

Traditional cuisine from Campania also offers many fish dishes. Famous is pasta con le vongole, in which spaghetti are coupled with a simple, fragrant sauce made with garlic, olive oil, clams and parsley. It’s delicious, light and simple, and it’s one of the symbols of the regional cuisine. Also, if you’re in for something light, try insalata di mare (sea salad), made with the freshest seafood like squid, octopus, clams and mussels, tossed with olive oil, lemon and herbs.

As an alternative, try with fritto di paranza – a mixture of small fish rolled into flour and quickly fried in hot oil. Once cooked, it is transferred on paper sheets so to absorb some oil, and should be eaten immediately, as it’s best when it’s hot. You can add some drops of lemon juice to the fish, so to give it a fresh yet traditional twist. Impepata di cozze is also a must, and it’s a sort of mussel soup with pepper and parsley.

Gattò di patate could also be a nice choice – it’s a fluffy mixture of mashed potatoes, with cubes of salami, ham and mozzarella. Add some grated parmesan cheese and eggs, mix it up and bake it. Filling and satisfying! If you like veggies, you can also try peperoni ripieni, peppers stuffed with olives, capers, tomatoes and much more, as they like them in Campania!

Struffoli are another yummy treat you shouldn’t miss when in Naples. They are easier to find at Christmas time, but you may be able to find them even at other times of the year. Struffoli consist in small balls of dough, deep fried and then covered with liquid honey and multicolored sprinkles. You can buy struffoli in small portions, but the best thing is to get a big tray. You’ll never have enough of those delicious tiny balls! Eating them with your fingers, one by one, may get you all sticky, but it’s definitely worth it!

While in Naples, don’t ever turn down a babà. Even if it has a funny name, it’s serious business! A babà or babbà is a soft sponge cake shaped like a champagne cork (or a mushroom!) or like a round cake, and it’s soaked with rum. It can be filled with pastry cream or whipped cream, and decorated with cherries, candied or fresh fruit, or chocolate drops. Some chefs brush it with apricot jelly, to make it shiny and even more appealing. You will find it in nearly every bakery, and in a lot of sizes! The babbà was originated in Poland, where it’s called babka ponczowa –grandma’s cake, and it arrived to Italy thanks to the French master chefs that worked for Neapolitan rich noblemen.

Once the dinner is over, try Strega – produced in Benevento, is one of the most appreciated liqueurs of Italy. Its name means “witch” and is connected to the legendary witches that apparently infested the area in ancient times. The liqueur has a yellow color thanks to the saffron, which is among the 70 herbs of the original, secret recipe, which is still kept secret nowadays. With its inebriating perfume and its digestive properties, Stregais perfect after meals. It can also be used to sprinkle sponge cakes and desserts and to enrich coffee.

Limoncello can’t be omitted, as it’s worldwide known as one of the most famous products of Campania, made especially on the coast, where the best limoni grow big and round under the sun. It’s so famous it’s almost not necessary to describe it – a bright yellow liqueur made with lemon peel, sugar syrup and herbs. Refreshing!

Last but not least – the famous Pastiera cake. It’s typically made for Easter, and it requires a long preparation and a bit of know how. It looks like a simple tart, but it’s actually a delicious shortbread shell that contains a cream made of soft wheat grains cooked with milk, candied orange peel, orange flower essence, ricotta cheese, and eggs. Beware! You’ll want a second, and possibly a third, slice.