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Regional Italian Spotlight: Calabria

In this series, we look more closely at a lesser-known region of Italy in every issue. As consumers continue to clamor for authentic, regional foods from Italy, it pays to be a step ahead! This month, we travel to southern Italy and to the region of Calabria.

Located on the “toe” of the Italian boot, Calabria is a rugged coastal region dotted with ruins from ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine civilizations. With a centuries-long history of enduring and surviving foreign invasions, the Calabrians are resourceful people. Although the coast was fairly uninhabitable due to natural disasters and those marine invasions, fish such as swordfish and tuna was and is still caught and eaten regularly. Even in the mountainous terrain, terraces have been carved out to grow citrus and olive trees at lower elevations. Another aspect of Calabrian resourcefulness shows up in a great tradition of preserving foods, including anchovies, veggies, tuna, olives, and mushrooms.

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Calabria is sheep country, and sheep’s milk cheeses are generally more common. You’ll also find more pork than lamb on the Calabrian table, especially in spicy cured meats like sopressata, n’duja, guanciale with red pepper, and capocollo. It’s the region’s famous Calabrian chilies that give these and many other Calabrian dishes their heat.

The iconic Jasper’s restaurant in Kansas City and Chef Jasper Mirabile, Jr. menus a Bucatini ala Calabrese that truly celebrates Calabrian chilies and n’duja, and garnishes with a sheeps’ milk cheese. You see a Calabrian-style celebration of seafood at Ristorante Agostino in Chicago, as in their Mezzanelli Seppie e Piselle—a southern pasta shape with cuttlefish and peas.

Featured dish: Casarecce with capocollo, red onion, and Calabrese chilies.

This dish from our Chef Lorenzo Boni celebrates the charcuterie and famous chilies of Calabria, and combines them with an iconic pasta shape from their southern neighbor, Sicily. It’s simple and bright, with a touch of bread crumbs for texture contrast.

Buon Appetito!

Here are a few of our other favorite Calabrian dishes:

Bucatini ala Calabrese

Orecchiette with Calabrian Chili Sauce, Parmesan, Mint, and Basil