Sweet, savory, crunchy, gooey, and absolutely delicious. There’s just no way around it, Italy is home to some of the most delectable dishes in the world, and Lombardy is no exception. Let your stomach guide you on your next vacation and you’re guaranteed to have an amazing time. With a strong culinary heritage, the region is home to countless traditional dishes, unique ingredients, and recipes passed down through the generations. Without further ado, here’s a taste of the many traditional dishes of Lombardy.
Cotoletta alla Milanese
Famous all over the world, you can find similar versions of this Milanese classic in other countries, but don’t be fooled… the real Cotoletta or Costoletta alla Milanese is a 1 inch-thick, bone-in veal cutlet fried in butter—no oil allowed. Typically served with small tomatoes, a bit of grana, and arugula, this mouth-watering plate can be enjoyed in countless trattorias throughout Milan and the region. Try your hand at the recipe before coming to try the real deal!
You can’t leave Mantua without tasting this phenomenal recipe that takes a special local ingredient, the Mantuan pumpkin, and combines it with just the right spices and technique. The result? Savory pumpkin tortelli pasta that will have you asking for seconds. Mixed with amaretti and a unique condiment known as mostarda, the irresistible filling is folded inside homemade pasta and served with melted butter, sage, and grated cheese. Don’t forget to pair it with a nice glass of wine. Not too long ago #inLombardia365 took a trip to the city to try the dish for themselves – learn the recipe and cook them at home before going to taste them in a local restaurant.
There are countless ways to enjoy this versatile dish. In fact, northern Italians are known to cook the specialty made from corn flour often. Topped with everything from ragù to mushrooms and cheese, it can be fried, grilled, baked, and more. A special variety known as polenta taragna is made with cheese and a mixture of corn and buckwheat flours. As a base to many dishes, it quickly became a tradition and is enjoyed year round. Wherever you decide to travel in Lombardy, there’s no excuse to not try this local favorite.
This winter dish unique to the Milan area is made with a mixture of leftover meats and vegetables and is sure to warm you up when the temperature starts dropping. Although the dish is tied to the feast during the celebration of Sant’Antonio on January 17, it’s actually prepared from October, coinciding with the slaughtering of the pigs. Cabbage was added to the mix as it was one of the cheapest ingredients, taking on a better taste after the first autumn frost. With everything from pigs skin, tail, feet, ribs, and more, it was a way to limit waste. Don’t be fooled by its appearance, Cassoeula is a must-try.
Another recipe that’s sure to bring a smile to the face of the locals, Panettone is enjoyed around Christmas all over Italy, but with Milanese origins, the best place to taste this specialty is in the big city. Story has it that one day in the court of Ludovico il Moro of Milan, the cook was told to prepare an extravagant feast, but after burning the cake, he was forced to improvise. With what was left in the pantry—flour, sugar, eggs, and raisins—he created a new recipe for the court to enjoy. The guests loved it and demanded to know the name of the new dessert. The cook explained that it was “L’è ‘l pan del Toni” (Toni’s bread), from which the name “panettone” is derived. Whether the legend is true or not, we cannot say, although it’s more likely that the name simply means “big bread”. Whatever the case, this fabulous holiday dessert goes great with a glass of spumante, or sparkling wine.
A classic from Valtellina, this unique pasta is adored all over the region and beyond. With origins in Teglio, it’s mountain food that’s both filling and flavorful. Made with buckwheat flour, the pasta is mixed with butter, boiled potatoes, cabbage, and Valtellina Casera DOP cheese before being served. Perfect after a long day of hiking in Valtellina, Pizzoccheri are best enjoyed with a nice glass of Valtellina red wine.
Risotto and Ossobuco
You can’t say you’ve been to Milan without trying this iconic dish. The perfect combination of creamy Risotto alla Milanese with Ossobuco cooked to perfection is a Milanese must. The richness of the tender veal shank sits atop the golden colored risotto, having taken its color, and flavor, from the vibrant saffron. Try your hand at this classic before sitting down to the real thing in one of the countless trattorias in Milan that serve it.
This nougat sweet from the Province of Cremona is another local holiday favorite. Made from egg whites, honey, sugar, and almonds, the Lombard specialty has clear influences from the Middle East. Torrone is said to have first appeared at the wedding between Bianca Maria Visconti and Francesco Sforza in the form of the Torrazzo, the iconic tower of Cremona, and has been a favorite ever since.