Italian Cuisine: Summer Recommendations

Italian Cuisine: Summer Recommendations

Flying to Italy for the sake of the joy of its food is an old classic. Still, many people head there to tour the country and relax — after all, the season is in full swing right now. If you are lucky enough to get to spend a couple of weeks on the Italian coast, we implore you to try something more than just pizza, pasta, and a Caprese salad. 

We’ve already cooked up a selection of light, scrumptious dishes that you may not have heard of before. They’re the best thing to enjoy at the peak of the hot summer. After all, who really wants to eat steaming hot carbonara or a massive Florentine steak when it’s over 30 degrees Celsius?

ZenHotels Blog
7 minutes read

Caprese vs. Prosciutto with Melon

Anyone can rustle up a Caprese salad made of tomatoes, mozzarella, and rocket lettuce. Frankly, I’ve grown bored of it. I’d rather taste a sweet melon wrapped in cured prosciutto — now that’s true gastronomic bliss!

You can find two types of prosciutto in Italian supermarkets: crudo and cotto. The former is a salted raw cured meat. The latter is steamed prosciutto. Obviously, you should try both of them. Not all at once though. And be sure to take some home with you too.

Savoring the authentic taste of Italy with a plate of prosciutto crudo, a salted raw cured meat delicacy that is a must-try when visiting.
Photo: timolina

Margherita Pizza vs. Marinara Pizza

You like pizza, we like pizza, everyone likes pizza. Whether thin crust or thick crust, whether spicy or mild. The Italians even have a recipe for a sweet pizza as well — with Nutella and strawberries — but the most popular pizza is, of course, Margherita, named in honor of the Italian queen Margherita di Savoia.

This pizza appeared in Naples. The chef Raffaele Esposito prepared it deliberately to feature the colors of the Italian flag – with red tomato sauce, white mozzarella cheese, and green basil. The Neapolitans are naturally proud of their invention: their pizza was recently included in the UNESCO heritage list, while in the city, a sign hangs next to Pizzeria Brandi where Esposito used to work, proudly boasting: “the Margherita pizza was born here one hundred years ago”

In the classic flavors of Naples, savoring a mouthwatering Margherita pizza, a timeless culinary masterpiece from the heart of Italy.
Photo: Racool_studio

What if you have some reservations about eating cheese during the summer? — in thirty degrees of heat, it may not the greatest thrill trying to gorge on pizza with mozzarella. Yet we have a solution! In any Italian pizzeria, you can be sure to find a Marinara pizza — this pizza has no cheese, but comes instead with tomato sauce, garlic, and basil. Unlike a Margherita, which far from everybody enjoys unheated, a Marinara goes down like a treat even after a cold day.

The biggest insult of all for an Italian is a pizza with pineapple, gherkins, or some other abomination on it. If you go to Italy, whatever you do, don’t mention “Hawaiian pizza” — believe us, traditional Italian pizzas make it worth keeping it down about it!

Pasta Carbonara vs. Cold Pasta

Now we turn to pasta. The most famous one is carbonara (with pecorino cheese, eggs, and guanciale — a special type of bacon). This is a Roman pasta, and according to one story of the way it originated they only started making it after Rome was freed by allied forces in 1944. 

Indulging in the irresistible flavors of Italian cuisine with a delectable plate of carbonara, a timeless dish that captures the essence of Italy’s culinary heritage.
Photo: relineo

The carbonara recipe is very touchy for Romans: if they somehow find out that you have added onion, garlic, or (God forbid!) cream to the pasta, they will ridicule you. In the burning heat of the midday summer, carbonara might seem a bit too heavy, not to mention that it’s already rather mainstream. Well, the crafty Italians have come up with around another 50 types of cold pasta! With pepperoni and vegetable marrow, with grilled vegetables, with tuna, with rocket pesto, with cherry tomatoes, oregano, and mozzarella… Choose the one you like best and take it to the beach with you!

Pasta Bolognese vs. Seafood Pasta

Pasta Bolognese is another clichéd classic. We recommend replacing it with seafood pasta (pasta allo scoglio) — with mussels, scallops, squid, and garlic prawns. The pasta is cooked in tomato sauce and white wine. And it is served with the latter. Everything is under control: you eat the pasta and drink the wine.

Immersing in the rich flavors of the sea with Pasta allo Scoglio, a captivating Italian dish that embodies the essence of coastal cuisine.
Photo: freepik

Tagliatelle al ragù might sound unfamiliar to you, but in fact it’s the very same sauce served with spaghetti Bolognese (spaghetti alla bolognese). Strange as it may sound, you won’t find any spaghetti Bolognese in Bologna. Here, the famous sauce is normally served with tagliatelle (yet another type of pasta) or lasagna. If you really want pasta with Bolognese sauce, tell them, “Tagliatelle al ragù, per favore!”

Carpaccio vs. Saltimbocca

We completely agree that you must try real Italian carpaccio. This is a light dish consisting of wafer-thin slices of meat (no more than 0.8 mm thick!) flavored with various spices. One of the tastiest versions is carpaccio made from bresaola (Italian cured beef), grana padano cheese, and rocket lettuce.

Experiencing the culinary artistry of Italy with Bresaola Carpaccio, a dish showcasing thinly sliced, air-dried beef, bursting with flavor
Photo: KamranAydinov

As an alternative, we recommend saltimbocca (Italian: salt im’ bocca, which means “jump into your mouth”) — one of the three mainstays of Italian cuisine (together with the aforementioned carbonara as well as pasta all’Amatriciana). Thin strips of veal are fried in butter and then each is covered in half a sage petal and a piece of prosciutto. Then all of this is stewed in white wine. Each portion is rather small, but that doesn’t mean that eight pieces won’t jump into your mouth after the first one.

Gelato vs. Granita

A day without ice cream is like a wasted holiday. We recommend leaving the run-of-the-mill gelato aside. You’re going to eat it three times a day anyway. For a change, why not try granita — a Sicilian dessert made of crushed ice with fruit, berries, coffee, or even flower flavor. It’s served in a little plastic cup — you may drink it through a straw or eat it with a spoon (the thickness of granita depends on the region; in Sicily, for example, it’s more solid, while in Milan, it’s totally runny).

Refreshing in the flavors of Milan with a delightful serving of Granita, a traditional Italian frozen dessert that captivates the palate.
Photo: freepik

Watermelon is another delicious Summer dessert! Italians love it so much that they even organize watermelon parties (cocomerata). These events are usually held on the beach. Everyone, from the very youngest to the very oldest, gets together and…just eats lots and lots of watermelon. They eat it for pleasure, they eat it for speed, they eat it without using their hands, and then they have watermelon seed fights. Oh, how those Italians manage to enjoy themselves like children even into their old age!

Red wine vs. White Wine

The tradition of navigating the summer with a chilled white wine belongs to many countries, not just Italy alone. However, it’s only here that you can try a wine variety called Trebbiano — a very simple, friendly, and smooth wine. You can find it throughout the country, but the best-tasting wine is produced in the Abruzzo and Lazio regions. Of course, it would be a crime not to try authentic Italian Pinot Grigio. The taste may be either rather delicate or full-bodied. Also, try Soave — this wine is made from the Garganega variety.

Immerse yourself in the rich heritage of Italian wines, where every sip tells a story of passion, tradition, and the art of winemaking.
Photo: KamranAydinov

If you go out to buy some wine in the supermarket, make sure to look at the classifications IGT, DOC, and DOCG — look for these letters on the bottles, and that way you will avoid getting low-quality wine. DOCG is the highest classification category for Italian wine, then comes DOC, and after that the simplest and inexpensive but still high-quality IGT category wines.

Cappuccino vs. Shakerato

The Italian habit of drinking coffee five times a day holds strong even in the summer, except that hot cappuccinos are replaced by cold coffee. For instance, shakerato is the perfect replacement for an espresso, after all, it’s almost the same thing, but mixed in a shaker with ice cubes. If the evening is approaching, then you can add a bit of liqueur to your shakerato. Don’t be bashful! You’re on holiday. You don’t need to wait for the evening.

Indulging in the essence of Italy with a refreshing shakerato coffee, a delightful blend of espresso and ice, capturing the true spirit of Italian coffee culture.
Photo: KamranAydinov

Tourists’ habit of ordering cappuccino at any time of day or night brings a smile to Italians’ faces. Here’s it’s only the custom to drink cappuccino until midday, while at lunchtime everybody (from businessmen to policemen) gets a boost of coffee without milk. Italians believe that dairy products aren’t digested as effectively after midday. So if you want to be taken for a local, forget about cappuccinos after 12:00!

Of course, Italy isn’t all about food. But you could not imagine the country without it — Italian cuisine has long held a special place in the hearts of people around the world. And while it’s best to leave the swimming and sunbathing here for the summer, you can enjoy a meal here in any season!

Bon Appétit

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