When thinking about Italian food, the first things that come up to mind are often pizza and pasta. Although these delicious culinary creations can be enjoyed all year-round, most Italians traditionally eat seasonal meals that do not necessarily involve the usual suspects. The hot summer months see an increase in the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables, and every region has its own basket of typical summer recipes and flavors.

 

Seasonal Summer Products

One of the joys for foodies who visit Italy in different seasons, is to go to the local market and admire the selection of food produce on display as it rotates month after month.

Among the vegetables, summer is the season for fresh onions (May-August), courgettes/zucchini (May-August), cucumbers (June-August), tomatoes (June-September), aubergines (July-September), peppers (July-September) and tomatoes (June-September).

Among fruits, you can indulge with strawberries (May – June), peaches (June – September), apricots (July – August), water melons (July – August) and lemons (June – July, although they also grow in March-April and October-November).

 

How are these fresh ingredients used in regional summer recipes?

We have selected three dishes from northern, central and southern Italy to give you an idea of local traditions and creativity! These summer recipes were listed in the “World Recipes” collection by Expo Milano.

 

Recipe 1 (Northern Italy): Zucchini & Rice Tart

This recipe combines a typical dish from Liguria, the Torta di Riso (or rice pie) with another typical product from northern Italy, rice from Piedmont’s Po Valley (Carnaroli or Arborio types).

Liguria summer recipe: rice & courgette pie

Rice & courgette pie (source: worldrecipes.expo2015.org)

 

Ingredients for 6 portions

  • 200 grams of white wheat all-purpose flour
  • 100 grams of warm water
  • 25 grams of olive oil
  • 5 grams of table salt
  • 500 grams of summer zucchini
  • 1 shallot
  • 300 grams of green peas
  • 300 grams of Swiss chard
  • 80 grams of Carnaroli rice
  • 2 teaspoons of table salt

Preparation

Blend together the flour with the warm water. Add the oil slowly and create a “ball” of dough. Leave it in fridge or out for about 30 minutes.

Divide the dough in two parts: one will cover a pan and the second one will cover the whole pie.

Aside, boil the chards in one pan; sauté the zucchini with shallot in a second pan; and cook the peas in a third pan. When all vegetables are done, mix them together and add them in the pan covered with the dough. Note that vegetables don’t need to be well done because they will be cooking in the oven too.

Spread the raw grains of rice all over the tart and then cover the whole pie with the remaining dough. Finally, bake for 40 minutes at 180 C°.

 

Recipe 2 (Central Italy): Bronzino’s Panzanella

Panzanella is a typical tomato & bread salad from Tuscany. While tomatoes are an essential part of the dish that we eat today, the early descriptions of panzanella from the Sixteenth century do not mention this ingredient, which had just been introduced in Europe from the Americas. The most popular ancient recipe is that of Florentine painter Agnolo di Cosimo di Mariano (1503-1572), known as Bronzino. Besides painting, he loved poetry and left verses such as the Ode to the Onions!

Summer recipe: ancient Bronzino panzanella from Tuscany

Bronzino Panzanella (source: worldrecipes.expo2015.org)

 

Ingredients for 4 portions

  • 500 grams of stale toasted bread
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 bunch of purslane
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 1 bunch of arugula
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch of whole salt

Preparation

Soak the slices of stale bread in fresh water for 10 minutes. Squeeze the bread well eliminating all the water, then break up the bread using the tip of your fingers and place in a large bowl.

Slice the onions finely, peel and slice the cucumbers. Wash the arugula, the basil and the purslane, dry well and chop coarsely. Add all the vegetables to the bread and season with oil, salt, pepper and vinegar. Mix well and leave to rest for half an hour before serving.

 

Recipe 3 (Southern Italy): Paccheri with fresh tomatoes & ricotta

We can’t resist the temptation to include a pasta-based recipe! Moving onto southern Italy, in the sunny region of Campania we find the traditional paccheri. The name derives from the ancient Greek founders of Parthenope (now part of modern Naples), translating loosely as “hand full” given the large tube-shaped pasta. This pasta belongs to the Neapolitan tradition, and the most authentic paccheri are those that are bronze-extruded and air-dried in the town of Gragnano. This recipe includes one of Itlay’s best summer gifts, fresh tomatoes, and the delicious ricotta cheese that is typical from the southern regions of the Bel Paese.

Summer recipes: paccheri with ricotta cheese and tomatoes

Paccheri with ricotta & tomatoes (source: worldrecipes.expo2015.org)

 

Ingredients for 6 portions

  • 420 grams of paccheri pasta
  • 500 grams of tomatoes
  • 150 grams of ricotta
  • 8 anchovies in oil
  • 30 grams of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 gram of red hot chili pepper
  • 3 grams of table salt

Preparation

Bring the water to boil in a fairly big pot.

Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and fry the garlic until it becomes golden, then remove it from the pan and turn off the heat. Add the anchovies and break them up with a wooden spoon.

Wash the tomatoes, cut them in half and remove the seeds. Then cut them into cubes and add them to the pan. Turn on the heat and cook them until they have become soft.
Add a good pinch of salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta for 14 minutes.

Transfer the drained pasta to the pan, turn on the heat and stir-fry the pasta for a couple of minutes. Serve into the plates and season with spoonfuls of ricotta cheese previously smoothed and the finely ground chili.

 

Foodie Experiences in Italy

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