Discovering Umbrian food was a massive highlight of our week in Umbria with Our Whole Village. Everybody knows Italian food is like, but food in Umbria has its own specialities and local flavours. We dined incredibly well during our week and have the expanded waistlines to show for it. So a look at the food, recipes, classic dishes and regional specialities of Umbria in central Italy.
The Food of Umbria
I will never look at shop bought pasta the same way again after trying fresh, home-made tagliatelle and ravioli at our farmhouse cookery class, all arranged through Our Whole Village. Freshly made pasta is a million miles, in terms of flavour and texture, from the pasta most of us normally consume.
Umbrian food has Etruscan roots and is very rustic, relying heavily on the ingredients found in the area. Umbria has rich soil, forests, abundant farmlands and lakes, the produce is sensational and dishes rely on simplicity and seasonal availability. A dish will typically highlight a single, quality, ingredient. It’s peasant food, but peasant food done well is the best food there is, I think.
Everything starts with the basics, grains, good olive oil and the herbs that grow so abundantly in the Umbrian hills. Add to this Umbria’s star ingredients as their seasons come around and you’ve got some outstanding local dishes.
Truffles are Found in Umbria
Truffles, both black and white, are found wild in the area. We were luck enough to go on a truffle hunting expedition with dogs, a unique experience with rich rewards.
We sampled truffles on pasta and risotto, in cured meats and in cheeses, always used in great abundance and always delicious.
Autumn and winter in Umbria is the time to visit for truffle festivals and markets, but the kitchen diamonds are available all year round.
Umbrian Meat Dishes
Pork and wild boar were the kings of the table during our stay, but lamb and other game are also big favourites in the region.
Umbria has a long history in the arts of butchery, cured meats are a specialty and local top quality meats are produced with pride. Wild boar from the woods is so popular and abundant that whole shops are dedicated to boar products..
Wild boar salami with fennel or with truffles were part of our antipasti and were a hit with adults and children.
Porchetta, although not exclusively Umbrian, is the street food of the region. Whole, boned slow roasted pigs, stuffed Umbrian-style with offal and herbs, typically including wild fennel and garlic is sold from vans at roadsides and in markets across Umbria.
We tried it in a panino on the streets of Gubbio. It comes heavily salted, it’s not what your doctor would recommend, but it tastes pretty good.
The Perugina chocolate factory, founded in 1907 is international popular and famous for Baci chocolate, made with ground hazelnuts and dark chocolate. Unfortunately Nestle now owns the factory, but there is a museum featuring the original machinery used for the production of Perugina chocolate. Perugia holds the Eurochocolate chocolate fair every October.
Umbria has great growing conditions and wine production in the region goes back to ancient times.
I’m no wine expert, but the wines we sampled, many from traditional Umbrian grapes, were really rather nice. You can read up on the Wines of Umbria here.
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In just a week we saw some fabulous Umbrian dishes, dining opportunities were very much built into our trip. The dishes were all about simplicity and showcasing a particular ingredient to fully highlight it’s flavour. We enjoyed rustic bean soups, creamy courgette gazpacho and fresh tasty salads as well as the specialities mentioned here. It’s hearty peasant food at its finest, you could never go hungry in Umbria.