Top 10 popular traditional Italian food

As you well know, Italy is a magical place full of breath-taking scenery. It is a country full of art and history and many wonderful places to visit. But not only!

Thanks to the influence of the Mediterranean, here you will find many typical and particular dishes that are a must-eat! And once you taste them, you’ll want to go home and cook them all by yourself!

Here is my personal top 10 popular traditional Italian food!

1. Pasta in all sauces



Making pasta by Jorge Zapata – Pexels

Yes! We Italians love pasta; it is the Italian food par excellence! In any place or province, you will find a particular type, seasoned as tradition dictates.

The pasta originates from the union of semolina and water and is sometimes is freshly made by grandmothers at home. Among my favourites you will find:

a. Gricia pasta

Is one of the most famous dishes of Lazio cuisine. Very often tonnarelli or rigatoni used together with pecorino Romano and guanciale. Before diving into my favourite pasta dish I always dust it with grated pecorino!

b. Bucatini all’ Amatriciana

Together with the pecorino romano and the guanciale, you will find peeled tomatoes. Top the pasta with freshly grated pecorino cheese!

c. Carbonara

Romans cooked the first carbonara in Rome in 1944. The dressing is very easy to do in a few minutes. All you need is bacon and a cream obtained from the yolks and a lot of grated pecorino cheese.

d. Pasta and beans soup

This soup is the typical Italian comfort food. What Italian grandmothers and mothers prepare especially during the winter. This first course contains beans, lard and tomato puree. We cook the lard with sautéed carrots and celery to which we add boiled beans and tomato sauce and water. Once is boiling, add the pasta. Usually, we use short pasta or homemade maltagliati.

e. Freshly made ravioli or tortellini

During holidays also on Sundays, grandmothers enjoy preparing the stuffed ravioli or tortellini. The ones I prefer are ravioli filled with ricotta and spinaches. I like them seasoned with butter and sage and with a sprinkle of black pepper!

f. Sardinian Fregola

If we talk about pasta then we must also talk about the typical Sardinian fregola. This fresh pasta made with semolina is often seasoned with clams or with eggplants! Believe me, is wonderful to eat!

g. Orecchiette with turnip tops

Orecchiette is a dish of the Apulian peasant tradition. They are also known throughout Italy as “recchitelle” because they look a lot like small ears.

They are usually homemade with durum wheat flour. Italians cook them together with turnip greens. After they stir-fry them with a mixture of anchovies, oil and garlic.

2. Caponata


Caponata by Joanbanjo – Wikimedia Commons

Caponata is one of the Sicilian side dishes that I love. Sicilian cuisine uses many poor products according to tradition. Tomato, basil and aubergines are the main ingredients. But you must know that each Sicilian province cooks it in its own way! Onions, green olives and pine nuts give the right perfume to the aubergines. This side dish together with the sweet and sour sauce releases Sicilian perfumes. Is a must-eat!

3. Milanese Ossobuco with saffron risotto


Ossobuco by Pier – Wikimedia Commons

This is the typical dish of Lombardy, also known as “òs büs“. The ossobuco is a cut of beef that needs slow cooking. Usually, they serve it wit a part of yellow saffron risotto. This typical dish obtained the Designation Mark (De.Co) from the Municipality of Milan.

4. The Tuscan Ribollita soup


The Ribollita by Ta4e Negodue – Wikimedia Commons

In some areas of Tuscany, you will find this typical dish. The Ribollita is the classic soup of stale bread and vegetables, of peasant origin. In the past, peasants prepared it on Friday, and in large quantities. And during the week they heated the soup many times on a pan. The basic ingredients of the Ribollita are black cabbage and beans, but also bread.



Tiramisu by Amasuela – Luis Lafuente Agudín – Wikimedia Commons

Tiramisu is a typical spoon dessert spread throughout the Italian territory. You can find it in all restaurants but also in ice cream parlours, as there are many variations of the dessert! The dessert consists of ladyfingers biscuits soaked in coffee and covered with cream.
The mascarpone cream, egg and sugar compote is usually flavoured with liqueur.
The last layer of the dessert is entirely covered with sugar-free cocoa.

6. The Italian nougat


Nougat by Ra_Boe – Wikimedia Commons

Italian nougat is a solid dessert created especially during the Christmas holidays.

The nougat is usually composed of egg white, honey and sugar. And stuffed with dried fruit such as almonds, walnuts, peanuts or toasted hazelnuts.

There are many variations also some details with orange cover or pistachios. But above all, there is the chocolate variant. The favourite of adults and children.

7. Panelle from Palermo


Panelle by Dedda71 – Wikimedia Commons

Panelle are tasty rectangular or round pancakes typical of the city of Palermo. You will find them in the street food kiosk all around the city. These chickpea flour pancakes are usually served in sandwiches covered with sesame seeds. I prefer them freshly baked with a few drops of lemon!

8. The Parmigiana


Parmigiana by Schellenberg – Wikimedia Commons

Parmigiana is a dish contested between Campania, Emilia Romagna and Sicily. It is precisely in Sicily that the name of this “parmiciana” dish originates.

Parmiciana” in the dialect indicates the overlapping wooden strips of the shutters. In fact, in this dish, the aubergines are placed alternately with the other ingredients. The other ingredients that make it up are tomato sauce, cheese and basil.

Some grandmothers prefer to fry the aubergines before using them. My grandmother instead puts mozzarella pieces between one layer and another. The pan with the parmesan must stay in the oven before tasting!

9. The Neapolitan Casatiello (pie)


Casatiello pie by Franciop – Wikimedia Commons

It is a traditional Neapolitan dish used especially during the Easter period.This dish looks a lot like a salty pie. It contains salami with pecorino cheese together with a sprinkling of black pepper.Outside it is nicely decorated with eggs that remain caged in the dough during cooking.If you are on a diet, do not even try! Because it is delicious but high in calories, unfortunately!

10. The Neapolitan pastiera cake


Pastiera by Mattia Luigi Nappi – Wikimedia Commons


The pastiera is a typical dessert of the Neapolitan tradition. This dessert is usually prepared during the Easter holidays. But sometimes grandmothers prepare it also throughout the year.

The main ingredients of this dessert are:
1. shortcrust pastry filled with ricotta
2. macerated wheat and candied fruit
3. eggs and orange blossom aroma;

Once in Naples, you will also find several variations. The most famous contains inside a lot of dark chocolate chips.