Italian dishes that you’ve never heard of but should definitely try

We all know that Italy has invented some of the best food on earth, from pasta to pizza and risotto to tiramisu, everything from Italy tastes good. But what about those dishes that haven’t made it into our food consciousnesses yet? Read on as we explore some lesser known but thoroughly delicious Italian dishes that you should be trying.

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Pecora in cappotto con fregola

This is a mutton stew made with fregola and topped with potato. It hails from Sardinia where it is enjoyed on the Festa di Sant’Elia. The mutton is stewed with stale bread, pecorino, mint and small pastini such as fregola and then wrapped in a covering of potato and onions. ‘Pecora in cappotto’ literally translates as ‘mutton with a coat’. It’s the closest to a Lancashire hotpot that you’ll find in Italy, but with arguably more elegant flavouring.


Italy isn’t famous for its casseroles in the same way that France, Ireland or England are. In Italy a pork casserole has long been considered ‘Cucina povera’, which means cuisine of the poor. It was popular after WWII when folk were encouraged to make use of all the pig. This means it may well include trotters, rind and even the pig’s head, stewed with plenty of vegetables to make for a hearty meal.

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Cuculli Genovesi

These Genovese fritters, or balls, are a popular aperitif and are made from chickpea flour and pine nuts, although some recipes use potatoes in place of chickpea flour. Flavoured with marjoram, rolled into balls and fried in olive oil, these crispy treats are popular with all.

Baccala mantecato

This salt cod paste can be served as a pate. Cured cod from Norway is combined with slow-cooked onions and cornflour and poached in milk before being whipped into a paste and served on polenta bread or crispbread. Another delicious aperitif.


These golden croquettes made with arborio rice and mozzarella cheese are another wonderful aperitif. You can even find these in an Italian restaurant in Dublin at

Forget paninis and cappuccinos, there’s a whole world of undiscovered Italian cuisine out there just waiting to be tried. Most of these dishes can be made at home too, so there’s no need to board a plane to try them.

Richard Anderson


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