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15 Typical Food Products from Piedmont, Italy

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15 Typical Food Products from Piedmont, Italy
Photo David Lebovitz

Piedmont is a magical region for food and drink, nestled in northern Italy seated at the foot of the Alps. How else can you define a land where some of the best wines in the world come from, think Barolo and Barbaresco, Alba, the home of white truffles, and where Michelin-starred restaurants sit comfortably alongside traditional trattorias, not to mention the sweet offerings of the capital city Turin. 

If the abundance of local products makes is sound like the Land of Plenty, it probably comes as no surprise that it's also the home of the Slow Food Foundation. The Carlo Petrini–led association has done a lot for the development and promotion of the region, reinforcing its credentials as an essential culinary destination for traditional local foods.

Making a list of the best typical products of Piedmont is difficult, if not impossible, so we have selected the most interesting and characteristic of the region.

Here are 15 typical Piedmontese products you need to know:

1. Saras del Fen

Photo: Slow Food Foundation

The saras was borne from the need to bring cottage cheese from the mountain pastures into the valley: the hay in which it is wrapped is called the 'fin' and follows a process that varies from herdsman to herdsman. The taste exhibits herbaceous flavours, which develop with ageing.

2. Testa in Cassetta di Gavi

Photo: Pagina Food

Don't be scared off by the name: the 'testa in cassetta di gavi' is good and (unexpectedly) light. It is traditionally produced in the winter months, using pig offal, which in recent times have been added to cheaper cuts of beef along with spices, pine-nuts and rum.

3. ROBIOLA DI ROCCAVERANO

Photo: Slow Food Foundation

Choosing between the various cheeses from Piedmont is extremely difficult: few Italian regions boast such a variety of dairy products. However, Robiola of Roccaverano deserves a mention. The Slow Food, which only uses raw goat milk, is helping to save the endangered Roccaverano species of goat.

4. RAMASSIN DELLA VALLE BRONDA

Photo: Slow Food Foundation

Ramassin is the dialect name for the damask plum, cultivated since ancient times in the valleys around Saluzzo. Picking the fruits is a precarious process as they are delicate and perish quickly. They are very sweet and can be eaten fresh, but also dried, preserved or as jam.

5. PASTE DI MELIGA

Photo: Mangiare Buono

Flour, wheat and maize (corn in dialect), butter, eggs and sugar: though the ingredients don't change, the forms range from the classic half-moon to a simple circle. Crispy and fragrant, the biscuits are perfect bathed in red wine or dunked in passito.

6. CARDO GOBBO DI NIZZA MONFERRATO

Photo: La Mia Cucina Casalinga

Sown in May, harvested in October, the bending, the most important part, happens in September: this is when the thistle is folded and covered with earth, and it is here that it takes on the characteristic bending (and even the white colour). How to eat them? Raw with bagna cauda.

7. Snails  from Cherasco

Photo: targatocn.it

Snails are a specialty of the elegant Piedmont town of Cherasco, where you'll see them for sale in every other shop. Enjoyed in soup, stewed, and fried, their distinctive flavour develops during the careful farming process (heliculture).

8. Porro di Cervere (Cervere Leeks)

Photo: Fuori Porta

Cervere leeks are sweeter than other leeks and also highly digestible. To enjoy them at their best eat them au gratin or fried, or as an accompaniment to rice and tripe soup.

9. Mustardela

Photo: Slow Food Foundation

Another 'reclaimed' sausage that uses up unwanted cuts of pork. A head, blood, rind, onions and leeks are combined to create the purple, soft and spicy sausage, eaten boiled with potatoes or polenta. Doughy and soft in the mouth, it has a spicy and slightly sour flavour.

10. Bella di Garbagna

Photo: Slow Food Foundation

A wonderful name for a wonderful fruit. The cherries from Garbagna are collected manually and, thanks to their characteristic crispness, lend themselves very well to being preserved in jars – provided that you can resist eating them right away.

11. Gallina Bianca di Saluzzo (White Hen of Saluzzo)

Those who have tasted the meat of the Saluzzo hen will know it is of a higher quality. The "Bianca di Cavour" is reared naturally outside, usually in family–style farms.

12. Fragola Profumata di Tortona (Tortona Strawberries)

There are traces of this strawberry as far back as the 15th century. Having almost disappeared in the 1990s, several projects are currently underway to prevent the disappearance of this small and delicate fruit with an intense aroma and a sweet taste.

13. SALAME DI PATATA (Potato Salami)

Photo: Wikipedia

If you have insufficient meat to make a salami, what do you do? Add potatoes, of course. The Salame di Patate is, of course, more appreciated for its distinct recipe in modern times, as we no longer have a problem with meat shortage. The salami can be eaten cold, spread on toasted bread, or lightly warmed.

14. Baci di Dama (Lady's Kisses)

Photo: David Lebovitz

Bite-size biscuits made from flour, hazelnuts, sugar and butter sandwiched together with dark chocolate make the delectable Lady's Kisses. Not to be confused with the equally good dark chocolate and hazelnut kiss of Cherasco (Baci di Cherasco).

15. PEPERONE DI CARMAGNOLA (Peppers from Carmagnola)

Photo: Parks

The 10–day Turin festival that celebrates the Carmagnola pepper is one of the most important fairs in Piedmont thanks to the important role the pepper plays in the agricultural economy of the region. The time honoured colourful vegetable comes in four varieties and is as fragrant as it is tasty. 

Disappear into Valle d'Aosta for some more traditional Italian foods.

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