The southernmost region of the Italian peninsula, the “toe of the boot Calabria is one of Italy’s poorest but most fertile regions with an inventive food culture primarily based on locally grown crops and seafood. Ingredients like eggplants, olives, artichokes, peppers, and tomatoes have come to define what Americans know as Italian food, in large part because of the migration of Calabrese and other southern Italians to the United States in the early 1900’s. Calabria is flanked by the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas, and fish is a staple of the region’s diet. Pork is also cured to extend its shelf life, as in the famed Calabrese spicy soppressata and capocollo. Peperoncino, chili flakes, are a staple of many dishes, and are often found on tables as seasoning along with salt and pepper.
Caciocavallo and Pecorino Crotonese are Calabria’s most famous cheeses, caciocavallo often being served “alla griglia.”Calabria’s pecorino, from the town of Crotone, is used as a grating cheese to accompany many of the regional pasta dishes, such as “Rigatoni alla pastora,” rigatoni pasta with sausage, ricotta, and Pecorino Crotonese. Though eaten nearly everywhere in Italy, pasta is particularly abundant in Calabria, where it is a staple of nearly every meal. The variety of figs grown here, the Dottato di Cosenza, form the basis for several delicious sweets, among them “fichi al cioccolato” chocolate-covered roasted figs, and “fichi ripieni,”, dried figs stuffed with nuts. Liquirizia, licorice, also traditionally made here from liquorice root, is made into both a candy and a digestif, “Liquore di Liquirizia.”