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Searching for an Italian destination that’s perfect for food lovers? Look no further than the country’s most famed food region, Piedmont.
This geographically diverse region in northern Italy is at the foot of the Alps and borders France and Switzerland, so many of its classic recipes have a hearty quality suitable to the brisk weather.
What food is Piedmont famous for?
You probably already know the renowned liquors and wines from this area, like Nebbiolo, Barbera, Campari, and Vermouth, but Piedmont’s food deserves hype, too.
With the Alps towering in the north and plains perfect for rice paddies in the south you’ll find everything from cheeses to meats to pasta and more.
Since cuisine in Italy is regional, there are some dishes you simply can’t miss next time you visit the Piedmont region of Italy.
Local Food From Piedmont
Here are 14 local products and dishes to seek out.
Agnolotti del Plin
It’s believed agnolotti del plin was invented after a Piemontese castle successfully defended itself against an invasion. The chef needed to make a celebratory feast but didn’t have heaps of ingredients—so they roasted some meat and veggies on hand and filled some pasta.
The name for this dish comes from the regional dialect of “to pinch,” which is exactly how this tasty, filled pasta is made. During the cooking process, the pasta gets folded over and pinched together, surrounding a mouthwatering filling of roasted meat or vegetables.
This differs from ravioli, where two sheets of pasta are used instead of the one for agnolotti del plin.
Baci di Dama
Hailing from Tortona, Italy, “lady’s kisses” have become popular throughout Italy. The cookies, which date back to the 19th century, feature a chocolate cream sandwiched between two hazelnut-flavored cookies.
Today, you may find varieties of this cookie—some made with almonds rather than hazelnuts, or some with cocoa added for something extra chocolatey. But when in Piedmont, seek out the traditional ones made with local hazelnuts.
Fondue-like bagna cauda has been around since the 16th century. This slow-cooked dip, which combines olive oil, garlic, and anchovies for a potent yet satisfying flavor, jazzed up the (sometimes limited) winter vegetables historically available in the region.
Today, you might encounter bagna càuda served with cardoon, an edible thistle related to artichoke that resembles a celery stalk. Other vegetables like roasted onions or crunchy raw fennel pair well with this dip, too.
Bonet is one of the most classic Italian desserts and we insist you try it! It’s a chocolatey pudding with a caramel sauce, topped with amaretti, or almond cookies. The combination of the creamy custard with the crunch of the amaretti—plus the satisfying mix of chocolate and almonds—is truly divine.
Brasato al Barolo
If you love Barolo wine from the Piedmont region, then don’t miss this dish of beef marinated in vino! Not only does this taste incredible with a glass of red wine, but it’s the perfect comfort food.
Expect a decadent, rich flavor from meat that’s had plenty of time to soak in the spices and ingredients. The word brasato comes from the Italian word brace, or embers—hot, glowing coals that kept the meat simmering for an extended time.
Translating to “raw meat,” you’ll find this Italian take on steak tartare in the Piedmont, Italy region. The ingredients list is minimal but the flavor packs a punch—some finely chopped beef, salt, pepper, lemon juice, garlic, and oil.
Prized Fassona beef from Piedmontese cattle makes some of the best meat dishes in this area, so you’ll encounter the highest quality carne cruda in the Piedmont region.
When eating this, you may find it topped with other local delicacies, like Piedmontese hazelnuts or white truffles.
Fun fact: carpaccio, a dish invented in the 1950s in Venice, is based on carne cruda.
Cheeses Like Castelmagno and Toma
You’ll encounter many types of Italian cheeses in this region, but a couple of our favorites include Castelmagno and Toma.
Castelmagno cheese has a nutty, somewhat tart flavor and comes from cows specific to the Piedmont region. Because it’s dry and a little crumbly, it makes a great topping for salads or appetizers.
Toma cheese is a soft cow’s milk cheese that is creamier and more buttery than Castelmagno, and while it tastes amazing on its own, it also melts well into sauces.
Gianduja Italian Hazelnut Spread
People regard Turin as one of Italy’s most prominent spots for chocolate production, both for eating and drinking, like a Bicerin. And if you’ve ever had Nutella, then you’re familiar with this region’s gianduja chocolate.
This hazelnut paste came about when Napoleon imposed laws that put a strain on the cocoa supply. In order to make cocoa go further, a chocolatier in Turin mixed in hazelnuts.
Traditionally, gianduja should be at least 30% hazelnuts and Nutella is less than half of that. So when you’re in Piedmont, make sure to get the real stuff.
Aside from the spread, you might find gianduja in truffles, gelato, or in the popular candy Gianduiotto.
While numerous regions in Italy grow hazelnuts, many consider the nocciola del Piemonte among the best. The tiny, round nuts have a satisfying crunch and rich, warm aroma—made even more enticing when roasted.
These nocciole go into Gianduiotto nougat pralines, a delicacy from the region, but also make for excellent pastries, cakes, and gelati.
Italy leads rice production in Europe, with much of it growing along the Po River Basin. Risotto rice is a particular type of high-starch, short-grain rice that can absorb a lot of liquid (and flavor) without turning mushy.
This key ingredient makes Piedmont’s Panissa—not to be confused with Panissa from Liguria, a fried appetizer made from chickpea flour. Panissa’s main ingredients are risotto and beans, and the texture turns out similar to stew.
During cooking, red wine enriches the flavor of the risotto and beans of Panissa, and a bit of salami makes for an exquisite finish. Some freshly grated parmesan adds to the creaminess.
You read that right—salsa verde! However, this Italian sauce differs from the spicy green one you know and love in Mexican cuisine.
Made with parsley, garlic, oil, and anchovies, its sharp and zingy taste appears on crostini or hard-boiled eggs for antipasti, or as a dipping sauce for meats, fish, and vegetables.
Salsa Verde sauce most commonly pairs with bollito misto, a comforting stew made with beef or veal.
In the Piedmontese dialect, locals pronounce Taglioni or Tagliarini pasta as Tajarin, or tie-yah-reen. This may look like spaghetti but actually belongs to the ribbon pasta family.
While tajarin is incredibly thin à la cappellini, it measures 2-3 millimeters wide—thicker than cappellini’s 0.85 and 0.92 millimeters yet still thinner than tagliatelle which clocks in at around 6 millimeters. Tajarin has a flat rather than round shape.
The other big difference between tajarin and spaghetti? While other pasta in Italy don’t use eggs or rely on flour like durum wheat or semolina, Tajarin is made from egg yolks and flour. This makes the flavor more savory, and it pairs well with light sauces like sage and butter or with delicate white truffles.
Traditionally, Tajarin pasta requires 1 egg per 100 grams of flour. Some recipes may call for up to 40 yolks per kilo, though.
If you’d like to make some of your own homemade pasta, be sure to check out our tips for making fresh pasta!
Vitello Tonnato—veal with a creamy, tuna-flavored sauce—came onto the scene in the 18th century. Not only did this dish have its moment in the culinary sun in the 1980s, but it gained popularity in various other countries around the globe (even Argentina).
Because the recipe has had such a wide reach, you’ll encounter variations. The traditional Piedmont dish consists of thin slices of veal that resemble roast beef topped with a sauce that has the consistency of mayonnaise, plus garnishes of capers, parsley, anchovies, and lemon slices
White truffles are rarer than other truffles, which, along with a distinct umami flavor, makes them highly desirable. White truffles have a delicate taste, which is why they’re rarely cooked. Instead, you’ll find them shaved on top of dishes or infused into oil or butter.
Some of the finest white truffles in the world come from Alba, a town southeast of Torino. Truffle season, plus the chance to truffle hunt, happens roughly from September to December.
What will you order first when you visit Italy’s Piedmont region? Comment below and let us know which dish—or dishes—you’re most excited to try!
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Photo Credit: Opening photo by Peter Karas; Bagna Cauda by By mvatrabu; Castelmagno cheese by Luigi Bertello; Hazelnuts by Svetlana_Smirnova; Tajain and Agnolotti pasta by cosca; Vitello Tonnato by Alexander Prokopenko